This week, Hopecam received an application from a child with cancer in Nebraska. This brings the total number of states to 33 where Hopecam is providing technology and expertise to overcome the social isolation of children who are hospitalized and homebound as a result of their cancer treatment.
A little less than 2 years ago, Hopecam was primarily a grassroots effort helping an average of 25 children each year—most of whom lived in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. In 2013, Hopecam, under the leadership of newly hired Executive Director Susan Koehler began to put in place the infrastructure necessary so that children with cancer from across the United States could benefit from its much needed program. That year, Hopecam more than doubled the number of children helped to 58. In September 2013, Rachel Wheat joined Hopecam as Program Director. Wheat is bilingual. She brought Hopecam experience in program implementation and the ability to communicate with the large number of non-English speaking children applying for a Hopecam Connection.
Today, Hopecam is receiving 45 to 65 applications per month—a 10- fold increase in less than 18 months in the number of children served. 70% of the children helped attend schools eligible for Title 1 (low income) funding. 12% of the children live in homes without Internet access (which Hopecam provides at no cost).
Koehler explains the growth of Hopecam’s program this way: “When a child is diagnosed with cancer, they are separated from their school and friends. During the most frightening time in their life, they can’t be with their friends, one of their most important sources of support. Research shows that children and youth highly value social support and consider it an important component of managing their illness.
“When these supports are lacking, the effects of psychosocial problems are amplified. Internalizing behaviors such as depression and anxiety over fear of rejection by peers, social withdrawal, anger, frustration, self-blame and decreased sense of self-confidence are a few common psychosocial difficulties that children and adolescents experience as a result of a chronic illness such as cancer.
“By virtually connecting these children with their friends over Skype, Hopecam helps to decrease the loneliness and anxiety they experience during this frightening time.”
Hopecam gives each child a tablet computer on which they download Skype. If the family does not have Internet access, Hopecam provides that. Then staff works with the child’s school to persuade them to establish a regular Skype video chat with the child.
Hopecam is the only charity in the world that works directly with the schools of children with cancer to create a virtual link between the children and their classmates.
In November, Hopecam will hold “Give Hope! Get Connected!”—in Vienna, Virginia to help raise the money necessary to support its program expansion. It costs about $1200 to connect each child and Hopecam has a set a goal of raising $600,000 in the next 12 months so it never has to tell a child “no.”
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Roberta Lynn Woodgate, “The Importance of Being There: Perspectives of Social Support by Adolescents with Cancer,” Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing 23, no.3 (May-June 2006): 123-134. http://aphon.org/files/public/art4_perspectives_social_support.pdf
Lalita K. Suzuki and Pamela M. Kato, “Psychosocial Support for Patients in Pediatric Oncology: The Influences of Parents, Schools, Peers, and Technology,” Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing 20, no.4 (July- August 2003):159-174. https://www.center-school.org/pko/documents/influences.pdf