Operation Santa Claus

Hong Kong cancer carers spread belief in the joy of living

Manulife insurance staff drop in at care centre to provide some seasonal warmth and understand the struggles of patients

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 December, 2016, 4:31pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 December, 2016, 6:26pm

At Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre, patients can eventually take on the role of a carer.

That was the case for one patient, nicknamed Grace, who said she had “rediscovered many reasons to be grateful and to celebrate life regardless of circumstances” over the past six years at the centre.

“When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I was able to turn to Maggie’s and receive timely support from its professional team,” she said.

The centre made her feel like she was not alone while on the road to recovery.

Hong Kong police officers pull together for Operation Santa Claus in a day of fun and games

Built around the belief that people should not “lose the joy of living in the fear of dying”, Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre has been providing free practical, emotional and psychosocial support for those with cancer and their families around the world for two decades.

This Christmas for the 13th time, Canadian insurance company Manulife partnered with Operation Santa Claus (OSC), the annual charity campaign organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK, to support the centre’s work.

A group of Manulife employees paid a visit to patients at the centre in Tuen Mun earlier this month. Chief executive officer Guy Mills explained that the long-lasting participation in the charity campaign was motivated by the company’s interest in causes related to the health and wellness of people.

“In the past 13 years, the OSC programme has shown a strong community spirit,” Mills said. “It provided concrete support to the underprivileged and enabled us to continue to bring seasonal warmth to those in need.”

He said that by supporting and getting involved with Maggie’s Centre, Manulife hoped to raise public awareness and lend a hand to those affected by cancer so that “they can live with, through and beyond cancer”.

Manulife encouraged staff members to take part and understand the patients’ struggles.

“We want our employees to make a meaningful difference to the lives of people affected by cancer,” Mills said.

Over the past year alone, Maggie’s Centre organised more than 20,000 visits for cancer patients and their families and friends, and more than 3,800 sessions were conducted by the centre’s multidisciplinary team.

Manulife volunteer Agnes Cheng said the best part of her visit was seeing the smiling faces of the patients. “It was a pleasure to do what I could to make those people feel happy and warm in this festive season,” she added.

Operation Santa Claus connecting the Hong Kong community with a good cause

“Cancer is a top killer in Hong Kong. Emotional and social support are important and can help patients and their families learn to cope with the challenges of the treatment’s stress.”

After her recovery, Grace joined Maggie’s Befrienders Programme to learn some effective communication skills and share her experience with newly diagnosed peer patients.

She explained that when her father was recently diagnosed with cancer, he refused surgery.

“He would neither open up to my mother nor myself about his feelings or fears,” Grace said, defining him as “a typical, stern Chinese father”.

“But then Fai, one of the Maggie’s Befrienders and a colorectal cancer survivor himself, approached my father and shared with him his cancer experience. Being able to talk with someone of similar age, background and cancer experience made a huge difference to him. And after a few visits, my father started considering treatment options.”

Grace said the people should be more aware of the fact that cancer caregivers often experience as much stress and anxiety as patients do. “But caregivers might not seek help. In fact, they might not even be aware that they should or could receive support.”

For this reason, she said, Maggie’s Centre created a warm and welcoming space where people could seek advice from the professional team, meet people who share similar experiences, take part in a programme that strengthens their body and mind, or “simply sit quietly with a cup of tea”.

Through Operation Santa Claus, Manulife has also supported the Senior Citizen Home Safety Association, Diabetes Hong Kong, Alzheimer’s Disease Association, Helping Hand, Little Life Warrior Society and the Children’s Thalassaemia Foundation among other causes over the years.