Guest Post: Amanda Mandie – Part Two

Welcome to Part Two, of our inspiring interview with Amanda Mandie, Executive Director at Koala Kids Foundation.

Every single thing we do is to deliver happiness and provide happy moments for these children. If they are happy, you know the parents are happy. This happiness flows on to health care workers because their job is difficult as it is, but can be made so much easier by working with happy children.*

We decided a couple of years ago, not long after we took on our mantra, that the only photographs we would promote or post, would be of happy children. Happy children may have bald heads or nasogastric tubes and big black rings under their eyes. But we see the happiness; the wellness, in a child. 

We avoid the sickness so that we can deliver happiness, because as volunteers, we can’t get caught up in their sadness; in their sickness. The parents worry enough, suffering more anxiety than we can imagine.

We’re really proud of how we’ve grown and matured. We remained under the auspices of Koala Foundation. When Koala merged with another cancer paediatric support organisation called Children’s Cancer Foundation, we became a program of CCF until July 2015, when we sought independence and became Koala Kids Foundation and launched our fabulous new logo.

Our mantra has been proven right. We’ve got the most wonderful testimonials from staff, children, and young people, as we also support teenagers and young adults from fifteen to twenty-five.

During that growth period, Melbourne and Australian authors and illustrators, gave their time and would come into the Royal Children’s Hospital’s and Monash Children’s Hospital’s Children’s Cancer Centres and read to the children, then engage them in activities around the theme of their book.

Sometimes it was poetry, or illustration; sometimes it was graffiti. There was always a story or something that went with it.

One very special and long-time volunteer is Glenda Strong. Glenda has a rich background career in education with a passion for literacy. She used to be the head of the Royal Children’s Hospital’s Education Institute. It was that collaboration that started the story-telling and we want to bring story-telling time back.

At Monash Children’s we have reactivated our volunteer program on a Monday morning. During school holidays, we’d love to be able to provide the sessions we do, to the children at home via Zoom.

This year, the children have gone back to school, but sadly, so many with cancer are not allowed to attend school, as they’re immune-compromised. You can’t risk the child getting something as simple as a cold. Currently, the most common cancer amongst children is called Acute Lymphoblastic Lymphoma and there’s about a 98.6% survival rate in comparison to zero in 1960.

They’re still struggling with brain tumours and rare cancers. There are about 800 children diagnosed in Australia each year with cancer who remain in treatment. Some of them are lucky to need only six months’ treatment. The other extreme is that they are treated for life, and tragically, their lives are cut short.

Our main aim is to provide LIVE interactive connections with kids and kids’ lit creators, either via Zoom or in person.

We feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to potentially connect with writers through our long-term relationships with some of Australia’s leading children’s publishers. Through our contacts there, we hope to establish some, and re-establish other relationships. Often, authors are able to donate books, other times, not. Perhaps they can donate an appearance.

We would be delighted if each month, one author can agree to donate their time to provide us with a Zoom activity; a Zoom story-telling and activity with children, and/or a pre-recorded story-telling time with their book. They can then suggest activities that children can do and maybe donate one or two live appearances to actually read with the children in the hospitals.

I’d love them to do a Zoom; to film a pre-record quite separate, exclusively for our Koala Kids children with cancer; as part of our happy base, where families with children with cancer safely store their information, so we can provide them with regular activities and offer them therapeutic items. Or in the hospitals under our care, so that we can post that on our website, available exclusively for our families, not to the public.

The thing that we’re looking forward to is to providing new books, toys and games to replace those that have been thrown out in the hospitals. We’re waiting for such time as they can start sharing things again, when we can provide all new little libraries to all the paediatric units that we support.

*We also work very closely and support: Ronald McDonald Houses, where families of children with cancer and other acute illnesses, come to stay from regional Victoria and interstate, and hospitals in regional Victoria and Tasmania.

In all, we support twenty-six units, paediatric units and adult hospitals because the fifteen-to-twenty-five-year-olds are included as well.


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June 14, 2021 at 12:32PM Anastasia Gonis