July, 2020

Saving sick kids

By Desi Today News Desk

Childhood diseases can have many serious consequences and have the capability to remaining life-long burdens on the affected children and their families. Childhood Cancers and Childhood Rare Diseases are two of the most threatening and complex illnesses that affect many children throughout Canada and the rest of the world. A multitude of research foundations and institutes are working hard to help children heal by finding treatments. But unfortunately there is lack of awareness in society about such institutes. With a focus to bring these life-saving efforts to light, a group of dedicated youth joined hands few years ago and founded Lifestream Sick Kids Awareness Society.

A not-for-profit organization, Lifestream’s goal is to raise awareness and gather support for a variety of research and healthcare institutes that work towards improving the lives of children battling illness.

Karanvir Gill

Karanvir Gill, co-founder and president of Lifestream, says his inspiration to form this organization came from the various volunteer and educational experiences her had gained over the years from working with and learning about children with various illnesses. “Additionally, I wanted to build an organization that would help create a strong network of youth in BC who are engaged in helping promote altruism throughout their communities. Every day incidents related to small minority criminal youth living in the Lower mainland of BC always make headlines of the newspapers. Unfortunately the emphasis on the reputable contributions made by the dedicated youth is missed. As an organization, we wanted to not only gain support from communities for children battling illness, but also empower our youth to take on leadership initiatives to go out in their communities and spread awareness and collect support.”

The support of the community increases the confidence of all youth volunteers, and further sparks our youth to prevail as positive role models, he feels.

Completely operated by university and high school students, Lifestream emphasizes on fundraising for research and healthcare institutes that specialize in pediatric illnesses, these include: BC Children’s Hospital, Childhood Cancer Canada, and many more. “We try to fundraise through fun and engaging ways that we feel our volunteers and the community supporters can enjoy equally. In the past we have done raffle prizes for donations, offered food cooked by the volunteers, and even included interactive games. Another organization that we strongly support is Canadian Blood Services,” Gill says.

Since many children suffer from blood related disorder and require blood transfusions throughout their lifetime, Lifestream volunteers go out to numerous community events and sign up blood donors. One of their major initiatives was providing information about the blood donation process in Punjabi. “We have messaging printed in Punjabi to specifically help educate people who may have difficulty understanding English, but would like to learn more about blood donation, and how it can help others,” informs Gill.

Alongside collection donations and signing up blood donors, Lifetream spreads awareness about the various diseases affecting children, and tell people about how the support offered by them actually helps advance research for finding new cures for these diseases. Blood diseases in children, childhood cancers, rare diseases are some major diseases that they spread awareness. “We highlight the research advances made at BC Children’s Hospital. One area of research we like to tell people about is the advancements made in pharmacogenomics in labs at BC Children’s Hospital,” Gill says.

Pharmacogenomics is the study of how genes affect a person’s response to drugs. The advanced information provided by pharmacogenomics really helps doctors choose the right medication and treatments for children by choosing treatment options that minimize the possible side effects. “It was through the studies of pharmacogenomics that researchers understood the variability of side effects, such as cardiotoxicity, that occur from chemotherapy in children. Pharmacogenomics is a rapidly growing field of study in many parts of the world, and we like to let our donors know that BC Children’s Hospital is the lead for pharmacogenomic research in all of Canada, and that their donations are being spent on world leading research and health care equipment for the children of BC.”

Some of the most common childhood diseases include cancers such as leukemia, blood disorders such as thalassemia, rare disorder such as neuroblastoma, and a variety of mental health disorders. “Although most of these diseases do not have many preventative factors and are largely based off genetics, we like to spread the awareness to promote empathy towards people and potentially spark altruistic behaviour. Some disorders that can be largely prevented and treated with community involvement are mental health disorders in children,” Gill informs.

Mental health disorders, most common in children, include ADHD, anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Gill says, while some of these illnesses may be linked to genetic predispositions, others are largely contributed to social interactions and community acceptance. Our aim is to try and reduce the stigma around these illnesses as much as possible. “Research shows that these mental illnesses are strongly linked to higher instances of suicide and self-harm in youth. Therefore, we feel it is imperative to spread awareness about the mental health disorders to help improve the social acceptance around these illnesses in youth, as we feel the awareness about mental health disorders in youth is very low, especially in the South Asian community of the Lower mainland,” he adds.

So far, Lifestream has made a tremendous difference in our community. “Along with spreading awareness of many childhood illnesses through various communities, we have signed up over hundreds of blood donors for Canadian Blood Services, and raised over a thousand dollars in donations through its close to 50 events done in the past year. Most of our events have been small community events, which included participation in Sikh Nagar Kirtans, sports tournaments, various community festivals, farmers’ markets, and others. Our team currently consists of close to 50 volunteers who have become prominent role models in their communities through their noble works,” he says.

Gill’s message to the community is to always try their best to support the disadvantages, and especially try to support the youth in your communities trying to step up and make change. “In the end, I would just like to thank everyone who has supported the various causes to helping sick children, and I hope you can continue on supporting in the future.”

He would also like everyone reading this article to please consider donating blood if they are eligible to Canadian Blood Services, as one donation can help save up to 3 lives, and it won’t cost you a cent.

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