Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Going barefoot for a noble cause

By Our Staff Reporter
The Hindu, 12 January 2005

CHENNAI, JAN. 11. A renewed commitment to a pioneering social reformer's dream, an innovative theatre group's series of shows and corporates walking the talk `barefoot', will bring to Chennai a string of fun and fund-raising programmes for a noble cause.

When the Palliative Care Unit of the Cancer Institute set up in 1954 by India's first woman medical graduate Dr. Muthulakshmy Reddy badly needed financial support, the EVAM theatre group stepped in to help by organising fund-raising plays. They found willing partners in a string of corporates and thus was born the `Go barefoot for a cause' campaign.

The partners include The Park, Royal Sundaram and Citibank. Besides, 10 colleges and 75 business organisations have agreed to partner in the programmes.

The schedule of events is as follows: `Barefoot in The Park' soundtrack launch at Landmark, Spencer's Plaza on January 15. The `Sing barefoot for a cause' edition at the same venue will have young college bands showcase their skills on January 15, 16 and 23. A special concert has been scheduled at Unwind Centre.

One of the highlights is the `Walk barefoot for a cause' rally on January 21, which will set out from The Park with the aim of raising awareness and collecting funds for the cause. In solidarity, more than 100 volunteers across the city will go barefoot the whole day in their respective spaces, ranging from corporate offices to college classrooms. The following day will have screenings of the Jane Fonda-starrer movie, `Barefoot in the Park' at The Park. The movie will also be shown on January 29 and 30.

EVAM's play, `Barefoot in the Park', will be staged on February 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 19 and 20.

"The programmes fit in with the belief of our 14-month-old group that entertainment can be the means to build community participation and theatre a medium for spreading awareness," said Karthik Kumar of EVAM. The group had earlier worked with Cancer Institute during the previous fund-raising campaign, `Iruvathu varai iruvathu'.

A range of merchandise ranging from stickers (Rs. 10) to badges (Rs. 50) and T-shirts (Rs. 150) will also go up for sale as part of the campaign.

Ravi Kannan, Head of Surgical Oncology, Cancer Institute, said palliative care was a low-budget but extremely crucial component of physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual support to terminally ill patients.

An estimated one lakh patients from all over India visit the Institute every year. Of this, around 65 per cent required palliative care. In spite of the great pressure on resources and dwindling international funding — once its mainstay — the Institute has grown from a cottage hospital with 12 beds and two doctors to have a research centre, Centre of Preventive Oncology, College of Oncology Sciences, Hereditary Cancer Clinic and Sanctuary — a patient counselling cell.

The message that oncologists seek to disseminate is "There is a life worth living after cancer."

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