Chevaughn and Noel Joseph’s paediatric cancer support group, the Just Because Foundation (JBF), came out of their experience of losing a child to cancer. When 3½-year-old Jabez “JB” Joseph was diagnosed in 2005 with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of childhood cancer, his parents, Chevaughn and Noel, worked tirelessly to help him defeat the disease. Tragically Jabez passed away two years later and in 2007 they launched the Just Because Foundation (JBF), “an incorporated, non-profit, Paediatric Cancer Support Organization” that “provides emotional, practical, and social support for families of children with cancer.”
Ten years on, JBF continues to work miracles in childhood cancer care and advocacy. From their experience, the Josephs realised their son’s response to treatment varied depending on the physical and emotional atmosphere of the treatment centre and the support services provided. They noted a marked environmental difference between hospitals abroad and those in Trinidad.
JBF resolved to set up facilities for paediatric cancer patients in Trinidad and Tobago to supplement medical treatment with emotional and other necessary family support. They have collaborated with the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) to establish the JBF Paediatric Specialty Unit (JBFPSU), a 21-bed unit at the Wendy Fitzwilliam Paediatric Hospital, Mt. Hope. The JBFPSU caters for children with cancer as well as children who are affected by other chronic non-communicable diseases. The Specialty Unit has recreation facilities and a family-friendly environment which has markedly improved patient well-being and reduced family stress.
JBF also operates an accommodation facility for paediatric cancer patients and their families who live in remote areas, and other islands. JBF’s Respite House offers temporary accommodation for up to three families at a time, as well as transport to Mt. Hope and access to emergency services.
The Foundation also runs a Siblings Club which “addresses the emotional needs of the brothers and sisters of children with cancer, and is a major facet of the foundation’s mission to provide holistic support for the families affected by this disease.” Support groups for the fathers of children with cancer as well as bereaved parents have also been established.
All these services are provided at no cost to affected families.
Apart from its direct patient interventions, JBF hopes to increase awareness of childhood cancers in the developing world, where cancer is often inaccurately thought to be a disease of the elderly. Along with medical doctors, social workers, psychologists, nutritionists, and non-medical family support workers, the foundation guides and educates parents.
To mark their 10th anniversary in August 2017, JBF collaborated with the Toronto-based Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) on another ground-breaking project. With significant support via the SickKids Caribbean Initiative (SCI), they hosted a two-day advocacy workshop that included participants from the several Caribbean countries, Canada and the USA, with the immediate goal of establishing a Caribbean Advocacy Network for Childhood Cancer and Inherited Blood Disorders.
Chevaughn and Noel Joseph are President and Vice-President, respectively, of the Foundation. Their work is applauded by doctors, as well as government agencies and non-governmental organisations. Their interventions have the potential to change the way Caribbean societies approach illness and medical care, with a focus on children.