When our friends in Mexico heard that Rene had neuroblastoma they quietly put together a fundraiser for him among friends and their extended families who knew him. When they told us what they had done and that they wanted to send us the money, we were moved and grateful, yet we felt that we were blessed with so much wealth here in Canada, we didn't want the money to come up here from Mexico.
Together, we made a plan. Half of the money was to be spent on books in Spanish for Rene, which are very difficult to get here in Canada and the other half was to be spent on a child in Mexico dealing with a major health issue.
Our dear, dear friends took on the challenge of finding a helpful way to give the money to someone -- which is not as easily done in Mexico as it is in Canada. Partly because it's harder to research charity organizations and partly because a face-to-face contact is necessary to be sure that the organization delivers what they promise.
They made the commitment and spent the time... and chose to donate to an organization called ProBruno, located in Cuernavaca, Morelos. Cuernavaca was our home town for eight years and the place where Rene's umbilical cord was buried -- a tradition in some parts of Mexico that seals the connection between a person and his or her birth place.
Cuernavaca is the capital of Morelos and the home of the state children's hospital, Hospital del Niño Morelense. Children come from around Morelos to receive treatment for many ailments, including cancer. The hospital cannot give children bone marrow transplants, so along with children from all over Mexico, they are referred to the National Pediatric Institute in Mexico city where they must wait for their chance to use the limited facilities -- most never get their chance. This is a stark difference from the situation in British Columbia where transplants are standard parts of various cancer treatments and where all children who need them receive them.
You can see the web site here: www.probruno.com.mx
Since many of you can't read in Spanish, here is a translation of the mission statement:
The Pro Bruno Association, was formed in honour of a beautiful baby named Bruno, who with great love, happiness, and bravery came to teach us what our mission is. He, like many children faced cancer y fought for more than a year. He left us with our hands full of hope and love to give to whoever most needs it. Due to the fact that he faced a difficult road, we met many wonderful people who united to form an association to raise funds and support children who need it. The Pro Bruno Association raises funds to help children in treatments, tests, and bone marrow transplants to beat cancer. The Pro Bruno Association runs the Casa Bruno (Bruno House) that provides accommodation for families and where psychological and occupational therapies are available to help deal with the emotions and difficulties of treatment. A team of of volunteers supports the families y children from the beginning of treatment.
It was to Casa Bruno (Bruno House) that our friends made their donation. They visited the house and were impressed with it's clean, safe environment. Here is what my friend had to say about it.
"[We] went there yesterday and we thought it was the right place. We visited "Casa Bruno" where people from all over the state (or even other states) can stay when they come to get chemotherapy to "Hospital del Niño". Something like Ronald's house... but a LITTLE different. Everything they have in the house is used, beds, clothes, toys... but really clean. These families used to stay outside of the hospital, but now they can stay here. They also offer them food, clothes (especially jackets and raincoats..they are used but in good conditions) and transportation to the hospital and back.
"We talked to the mom who founded it (Bruno's mom) and they are really doing a great job..."
Just as my friend says, it does sound like Casa Bruno provides much of what we receive at the Ronald McDonald House -- and we sure are grateful we can stay there! This experience would be so very much more difficult without it. I remember seeing people sleeping on benches outside of the hospitals in Mexico and my heart always went out to them, yet I never imagined I would some day stay at Ronald McDonald House.
Here is a quote from the ProBruno web site that touched my heart. It is written by Erika Quiroz and I hope that my translation does her words justice. It makes me cry to read it, but I think that it is valuable to share -- especially at this time when Rene is undergoing a transplant. She specifically addresses transplants in her touching mission.
"The Pro Bruno Association was formed in the name of my beautiful little one, named Bruno, who faced a fight against cancer and finally died: today only his smile and his life teachings remain for us.
"As the mother of this warrior baby I have formed this nonprofit organization to support families that face the difficulty of transplant. Many times, even though the little one has already come out of surgery, gone through chemotherapy, and fought against radiation, there is no transplant unit in the hospital where he or she is being treated. Only one in ten children receive a transplant due to the delicate and costly process.
"The National Pediatric Institute in Mexico city receives cases from all of the different states, including Morelos, that don't have their own transplant center. Many patients die during the wait time because they don't have the funds necessary to do a treatment in a private hospital -- the cost of which is between one and two million pesos! My unstoppable mission is to fight to get resources to help all children in Morelos who urgently need a transplant. I invite you to join in. We need your donations, your energy, and your commitment.
"As Bruno's mom I lived the experience of cancer and as much as I am able I will try to help the families and patients that, with unflagging bravery, never give up no matter how great the challenges they face."
Luis and I are very pleased that our experience has opened our hearts and minds, together with those of our friends, to the ability to help others in Cuernavaca. We are so grateful to our friends for their generous expenditure of time and money. We are also grateful beyond words for the support of each and every one of you who have given of yourselves to make it possible for the three of us to be over here in Vancouver TOGETHER. It was thanks to the strength of your unflagging support that we honestly could tell our friends in Mexico, "We are so fine. We really, really have everything we need. Please find a way to make that money help someone in Mexico."