Shak’s Hope Foundation providing sickle cell awareness
As part of an ongoing commitment to raise awareness and serve those living with sickle cell disease in Jamaica, Shak’s Hope Foundation, in association with the Sickle Cell Unit (SCU) at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), will be hosting two Easter treats for adults and children this year.
The first of the treats will be held at the Black River Hospital on Tuesday, April 19, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and the second will take place at the West Jamaica Conference Centre in Montego Bay, on Wednesday, April 20, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
The foundation is the brainchild of Shakira Aminah Martin, Miss Jamaica Universe 2011, who passed in August 2016 from sickle-sell complications. Her mother, Andrea Hall, is now the executive director of the Foundation and she has continued to advocate for the illness on her daughter’s behalf, to educate and encourage communities on sickle cell disease, and to encourage individuals to know their status.
“Shakira always spoke about how she wanted to provide ways to lift the spirit of others and help those living with this invisible disease. There is also a stigma that is attached to the illness because people can’t see the pain, like mental health, they really don’t believe it is there. So, where people may be compassionate about somebody in a wheelchair when they look at somebody that they claim doesn’t look sick, it is very difficult,” Hall said.
“The illness is ongoing, it is constant, and it’s painful. This is their life! So, they live in invisible silence, and they cry and they suffer. They can’t get jobs, because they are sick, and end up being poor. It breaks down the family, it breaks down the siblings and the parents. It is really tough,” Hall continued.
The objective of the foundation, Hall said, is to bring awareness by educating people, helping to prevent the spread of sickle cell, and improving the quality of life of those already living with it. The foundation is a non-profit charity focused on providing supportive and educational services to those with sickle cell anaemia patients in Jamaica and South Florida.
“Education and knowledge are fundamental in initiating behavioural change. That change can ultimately give way to progress. Let us continue our fight for a future where research and proper care can help minimise the impact the disease can have in our lifetime,” Hall said.
Hall lives her passion daily and continues her quest to ensure that people take to heart the onus of knowing their status. Sweaters, toys, books, toiletries, and many other items will be distributed at the event, while guests can also expect treats and refreshments from sponsors Burger King, KFC, National Bakery, St Mary’s Banana Chips, and Digicel.
“We have also asked people at the hospital to come over and talk to them about depression. I am also working on getting somebody to come from the disabilities office to see if there is anything that they can do to help them, and in the way that Shakira would want to really preserve her legacy,” Hall said.
Adults and children with sickle cell who wish to attend are asked to take their appointment cards to the event for their status to be verified.
Supporters are encouraged to contribute either their time or treasure to help the organisation support the patients in need of care, whether it be medical assistance, food, clothing, or other necessities of life.