Tuesday, January 8, 2008

WE COMMUNITY - Camp Jumoke: Everyone Loves the Child

By Krysta L. Celestine

Approximately 10,000 children in Canada have sickle cell anaemia. Another 45,000 could carry the trait. The disease, which is an inherited blood disorder that affects red blood cells, is not limited to, but is most common in people of African descent. In fact, one out of every ten people of African descent carries the gene. The symptoms, which include fatigue, abdominal pain, fever and vomiting, are excruciating, (in severe cases--deadly) and can make leading a normal life very difficult.

Camp Jumoke (the word “Jumoke” from the Yoruba language of Nigeria translates to “Everyone Loves the Child”) allows children with the disease to be children. Each year, the not-for-profit organization raises funds to send kids with sickle cell anaemia to summer camp, at no cost to their parents.

The organization was founded in 1994 by a group of doctors with the intent of “allowing kids to have a space to go and to be themselves and not worry about being sick or restricted”, says Donna Sobers, Communications Director at Camp Jumoke. “(Jumoke) allows kids to challenge themselves, enrich their lives, and (basically) give them a chance to do things that they wouldn’t normally do”.

Supervised by a team of volunteer medical staff, kids at the camp are in good hands. “Parents feel safe. If it’s too cold for the kids to swim, they won’t go”, says Sobers.

Each year, Camp Jumoke hosts two fundraisers: a bowl-a-thon, which is taking place on January 19th at Play Time Bowl, and a walk-a-thon. The annual walkathon which has attracted people of all ages from the GTA, surrounding areas and Ottawa, has been a resounding success since its inception in 1994. This spring, the walkathon takes place at Nathan Phillips Square, and promises to be as successful as previous years.

“We’re proud and passionate”, says Sobers, who boasts that the organization receives no outside assistance from the government. “The money comes from the supporters”. Currently, the organization is able to send 40 kids to camp every year, and Sobers hopes that membership will increase, but this can only be done with an increase in public support. The organization is always in need of volunteers and sponsors, and for as little as $17.50, you can change the life of one special child.

To find out how you can change the lives of children affected by this disease, contact Camp Jumoke at 416-410-2995. More information is available at http://www.jumoke.org/.

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