Young people making a difference in the lives of children and teens with cancer

Published on October 09, 2017

Léa Moukanas, a French and Lebanese writer proud to call herself the youngest president of a non-profit organization in Europe, will be part of a special panel at the Quality of Life Conference on 16 October 2017 that will focus on patients and “Making the Shift from Curing to Preventing.”

Léa Moukanas

Can you tell us about Aïda’s mission and what inspired you to create the non-profit at the age of 15?

L.M.: Aïda is a network of young people helping other young people. Our mission is three-fold – helping improve the quality of life of children and teens with cancer, funding research on childhood cancer and raising awareness among teenagers. Today we have 300 volunteers under the age of 21 in France, and we are in the process of opening up branches in Canada, Lebanon, the UK and the US.

When my grandmother, Aïda, passed away suddenly from Leukemia three years ago, I knew I had to do something to honor her name. She had always been active in her community in Lebanon and encouraged me to give back through non-profit work. I founded Aïda three months after she died.

What is the biggest quality of life challenge for the patients you work with?

L.M.: Aïda’s goal is to improve the environment children and teenagers live in, and to do so, we give them access to things they’d have access to outside the hospital – because young people with cancer are first and foremost young people. We work with patients from birth up to the age of approximately 20, so the challenges vary depending on their age.

The main activity of kids is supposed to be playing and having fun. This is exactly what we do with them. From drawing, to theater, without forgetting exciting cooking sessions or music, the activities that Aïda’s volunteers propose allow these younger patients to express their creativity.

As for teens and young adults, they aspire to be recognized and connected within their environment. For us, it is the biggest quality of life challenge as it is a double whammy, facing both teenagers’ and young adults’ life challenges and dealing with cancer.

Could you provide an example of a quality of life initiative that is important to you?

L.M.: Aïda has joined forces with two other non-profits in France – “On est là” (We Are Here) and Cheer Up – to create an annual weekend retreat for teens and young adults with cancer. The initiative is called Highway to Health, and the goal is to take these patients out of the hospital so they can connect and share great moments together. Fifty young people attended the retreat this year. We are aiming for much more next year.

At the Quality of Life Conference, you’ll be taking part in a panel discussion that focuses on patients and “Making the Shift from Curing to Preventing.” Can you give us a glimpse into what you will talk about?

L.M.: In Europe, cancer affects one in 600 children before their 15th birthday. But to prevent cancer, we need to understand the causes. And they are very hard to pinpoint for childhood cancer. At Aïda, what we want most is to no longer be necessary. We hope research will make us completely redundant because researchers will have found effective treatments. We’re doing what we can to help fund research for childhood cancer as only 2-3% of government funding for cancer research goes to childhood cancer. Since Aïda was founded, we have donated EUR 100,000. Our goal is to keep doubling our donations every year.

 

Association Aïda

Learn more about Aïda: associationaida.org

 


Read Léa Moukanas' full biography.

Léa Moukanas will participate on the Panel Discussion focused on Patients: “Making the Shift from Curing to Preventing” that will take place on October 16, 2017, at 4:15 pm London Time.