Centre for critically ill kids opens new site

As a three-year-old recovering from leukaemia, Damien cannot go to a pre-school. But he has friends and fun just like any other pre-schooler.

Since February, Damien has been attending Arc Children’s Centre in the morning from Monday to Friday, with approval from his doctor.

It is a charity daycare centre, designed for children with cancer and other critical illnesses, which officially opened its new premises yesterday.

Founded by Ms Geraldine Lee, 62, and Ms Ronita Paul, 67, in 2011, the centre prioritises cleanliness and hygiene to provide a safe space for children with compromised immune systems to play and learn.

Damien has made friends and learnt how to do yoga. The centre has given him and his parents the emotional and social support needed to cope with his illness, said his mother Rebecca Sit. “It’s like a form of support group. The children are all going through the same thing, and my husband and I also get to meet other parents,” said the 37-year-old.

“It also gives me a window of respite after being a caregiver during his seven months of intensive chemotherapy, when even arranging for a haircut was impossible. But when Damien goes to Arc, I know that he is in a safe environment.”

The opening of the new premises at 77 Lorong Limau, near Whampoa, was officiated by its patron Tan Choo Leng, the wife of Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.

Compared with its former 2,200 sq ft premises in Kim Keat Road, the new centre is more than double the size at 5,000 sq ft. Its facilities include a sensory room for the children to relax in, a play area with slides and a climbing wall, and a kitchen to prepare meals for the children.

Activities and programmes are designed to cater to the needs of each child, said Ms Lee. “For example, for something as simple as walking, a child may not be able to do it properly because of the long hours spent lying in a hospital bed. So once, we had a parent who is a physiotherapist come in to help the child.”

The centre also takes in siblings of the sick children. It is currently serving 50 children and 23 of their siblings. They were referred to Arc by doctors mainly from National University Hospital and KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

Fees are $10 a day, but can be reduced for those who cannot afford them.

The centre, which runs entirely on donations, raised more than $600,000 during a charity gala lunch held in June. ESM Goh, who was at the event, raised $36,199 by auctioning off his own set of three bicentennial $20 commemorative notes.

Such fund raisers are led by volunteers, such as Ms Sharon Yee, 39, whose seven-year-old nephew died of acute lymphocytic leukaemia in 2012.

“When these kids get ill, it’s not just about them getting well, we also have to take care of their emotional well-being. This will give them the strength and motivation to fight it together,” said the banker.