Happy Feet Home is a daycare hospice, founded in August 2014 in Sion, Mumbai. Happy Feet Home is a first of its kind, non-profit trust, offering respite, and quality day care services to terminally ill, HIV or Thalassemia major children, from the weaker sections of the society who are under palliative care.
Life is meant to celebrate
“Terminally ill”: This term in itself is absolutely harrowing to even think about. We all associate it with grim sorrow and hopelessness, a state where one knows his/her fate and has limited time to live life to the fullest. To even think of this with regard to children is deeply disturbing. Imagine a little kid who has recently been diagnosed with a terminal disease such as HIV or thalassemia.
A constant reminder of the disease with regular medication and check-ups, biased views of society and so much else to cope with, and not much to look forward to in their life, they do not find enough reason to take good care of themselves or to live a carefree childhood with happiness and joy.
Happy Feet Home believes in changing their perception from feeling ‘different’, to feeling special. Their services revolve around providing a safe haven of happiness and healing.
Amongst the various facets of support Happy Feet Home provides healthy nutritious meals three times a day, bereavement support, and therapy, for these children using various art forms– music, movement, painting, storytelling, etc.
Moreover, they offer specialised counselling by professional counsellors, to the children, families, groups and also the caregivers working with them. They also help conduct routine health checks to prevent other illnesses as their immunity is low. They also try to sponsor medicines for those who cannot afford them and also have a full-time nurse as one of the staff members, to ensure immediate medical attention to any child, if needed.
Friends Like Family
Ms. Mansi Shah and Mr. Abhishek Tatiya along with their friends observed that there were limited options for children living with terminal illnesses.
They took it upon themselves to provide a safe and happy hospice. They encouraged them to dream, set goals in life, and remain happy. Having worked closely with terminally ill children and identifying the restricted time and opportunities that these children had, Happy Feet Home was formed to take up the mission to provide the children with a normal life.
Happy Feet Home has six full-time staff members, counsellors and part-time volunteers, serving over 350 underprivileged terminally ill children from age 8–21 years. Although Happy Feet Home began as a respite place for children, it has grown over the last five years and is gradually delving into all-round services.
Happy Feet Home has rapidly transformed itself, focusing majorly on life style management of these children. Happy Feet Home taps on the need of healthy nutrition, education, vocation, holistic development and motivation. This gives children much to look forward to in life and gives them confidence that they too are an integral part of society and have much to contribute.
For children who cannot travel to the hospice from Sion hospital, Happy Feet Home staff members arrange fun based activities for children who come for treatment or procedures in the hospital paediatric wards. This distracts the children from their pains and also gives respite to the parents or guardians. Parents are relieved to see their children looking forward to going to hospital and interacting with other children with similar health issues.
This also relieves them that they are not alone. A few hours of fun and play lightens the mood and helps forget the needles and transfusions. The anxious waiting for hours is painful, so little fun and games lightens the atmosphere and moods.
It is heartening to note that Happy Feet Home with the help of various donors and corporates goes an extra mile to fulfil various dreams of these children. For instance, Makrand Surve, who has deep interest in photography received a camera. Amol Dhokde who has passion for music and( can play the piano without any tutoring), and singing got admission to a well renowned Suresh Wadkar's Ajivasan Music Academy. and there are many such examples.
Amol another student who wished to pursue a career in the field of travel and tourism which seemed far-fetched for him. With assistance from, Happy Feet Home, he got enrolled to one of the best colleges in Mumbai offering this course. This also provided him an opportunity to visit the United States of America for two months to study this subject further.
Children who had not travelled or never seen an airplane had their travel dreams fulfilled by Air Vistara. They sponsored 17 children from Happy Feet Home to travel to Delhi and visit the Kingdom of Dreams. This was such a huge step for these children. One can only imagine how happy and excited they might have been, to take their mind away from their daily struggles to a different place filled with joy which is surreal.
Two miraculous cases helped by Happy Feet Home: Avinash, 14 years, when he came to Happy Feet Home, was weighing 19 kgs and kept having diarrhoea and vomiting. He was so weak that he would keep lying, dull and lethargic. Being orphaned, no one in his close family cared for him. He was hospitalized for nearly 6-7 months. Happy Feet Home is his only home and family. After proper nutrition and care for a year ,he now weighs 33 kgs and is living a happy healthy life doing odd jobs.
Another case of a girl 12 years old. When she came to Happy Feet Home, she had a viral load in her blood which had 3.5 million viruses in each ml of blood and her chances of survival seemed bleak, but after less than a year of proper medication, nutritious food good care, the blood virus is down to 49 only in each ml of blood.
The entire team of Happy Feet Home welcomed us with smiling faces and jumpy feet! The children were all enthusiastic to share the news of celebrating five years of Happy Feet Home Foundation on 17th August 2019 and were all working and practicing to give a rocking performances in dance, rap and much more.
Each child, as a form of gratitude had prepared something of their own, and shared their story of struggle through a different form of art. What we loved to see is how each kid was given the freedom to pursue whatever it that he/she wanted with no questions asked.
The children come in all week days after their regular school till early evening. Although they couldn’t help but express how if given a choice, they would stay here all day, all week!
This non-profit foundation is funded by Give India, individual donors, crowd funding, and corporate donors. Happy Feet Home has also formed a partnership with KARO Charitable Trust who take care of all nutritional requirements and also with American School of Bombay who help the children in acquiring vocational skills for a holistic development.
Happy Feet home counts its success when a child is confident and considers himself independent of taking charge of his own life, and does not need to come any more to Happy Feet Home.
Happy Feet Home has now completed five years. Over the years it has evolved into a unique organisation. Working towards making the beneficiaries realize their potential and finding a goal in life to look forward to. They are working with all beneficiaries to wake up to their tomorrow not with anger or frustration but with hope and happiness…. Truly a cause worth supporting.