It is often said that people’s resilience and humanity are regularly tested during times tough times like the one we face right now due to the COVID-19 epidemic. While the COVID-19 situation has been a great bother to most of us, it has also helped to bring the best out of us through individual and communal initiatives that seek to support various vulnerable groups. According to WHO, the people living with cancer are part of the community that is at higher risk of COVID-19. Being cognizant of this fact, Muthoni Mate, a cancer survivor, and founder of Cancer Café – a patient support organization under the umbrella of Kenyan Network of Cancer Organizations have created an initiative known as “BONGA POINT CHALLENGE” to raise resources to support over people living with cancer and their families.
The focus of the “BONGA POINT CHALLENGE” is to support the nutritional needs of the people living with cancer, which is significantly essential at this time the coronavirus threatens to strike at any time. Muthoni recognizes that food is a crucial part of wellness for cancer survivorship since it is not realistic to take medicine without proper nutrition. She says that while everyone worries about getting medicine, it is equally essential to ensure that the patients access goo nutrition to help the keep well. Muthoni highlights that cancer patients have not been able to focus on getting themselves adequate food, thus putting them at risk of lacking essential nutritional benefits.
Therefore, she created an innovative fundraising idea, “BONGA CHALLENGE,” that allows people to channel their SAFARICOM Bonga points to a shared pool, which is then converted to funds for the purchase of food items. According to Muthoni, an initiative that was intended to support 35 cancer patients has been able to support 140 families and cancer patients. As of the 26th of May, they were able to raise up to 427447 points.
According to a post that was made on KHUSOKO;
“The Bonga For Good points has been used 100 percent to buy the fortified food. It is part of the care package,” she says, adding that they are able to convert M-Pesa contributions into Bonga Points to be able to add to the tally.
Muthoni says initially they had hoped to procure food from the local retail supermarkets because they are popular outlets for the Safaricom Bonga points. Fortunately, Safaricom made it possible for them to acquire fortified food from a food bank that was cheaper and more nutritious.
Thankfully, I always believe in serendipity. People are coming together for a right course at the right time,” she says after they were linked with KAPU Africa, a food bank whose mission of eradicating hunger & malnutrition in Africa through the collaboration of farmers and beneficiaries to provide food and essentially a warm meal to those in dire need of it.
The nutritionally dense food can feed about five people in a meal. A meal is Ksh 15.00 per person. And then you can feed more people. So, we can cater for the cancer patient.
“It is a benefit that I had never thought about,” says Muthoni.
On the other hand, Millicent says, “It is more of a supplement, it has immunity boosters, and the patients’ health has improved.”
Muthoni speaks of a patient who had neuropathy, where one loses nerve sensation as a side effect of cancer treatment, but she was now feeling ok.
The initiative has been supported considerably through collaboration with the National Cancer Institute of Kenya and Rotary Club Magharibi, who have supported running a Bonga point food drive to gather up Safaricom Bonga points and Mpesa from well-wishers. The collected funds and Bonga points are then used 100 percent to cater to the nutritional needs of cancer patients. The impact of this initiative has spread, and it has now attracted the KAPU Africa, who has currently supported CBO, such as Stoma World Kenya and Symbol of Hope Warriors, both members of KENCO, to provide food for cancer survivors and patients who are in need.