On 22 November, 2019, Air Mauritius and its partners gathered at the Paediatric Oncology Ward of the Charlotte Maxeke hospital, to celebrate the opening of the Reach for a Dream ‘Travel Dream Room’.
Led by Carla da Silva (Air Mauritius Regional Manager: South America and Africa), the team of Dream Makers cut the red ribbon, officially opening the Dream Room.
Da Silva saluted the Travel Dream Room’s co-sponsors for their support: the Board of Airline Representatives of South Africa (BARSA); Flight Centre; Club Travel; Tourvest Travel Services; Travelstart; and XL Travel. “Air Mauritius has the most incredible partners in travel. Their budgets are stretched, but they have provided the money to sponsor this Dream Room and have made the time to make it happen,” she said. She pointed out that when a child is diagnosed with chronic illness, the whole family suffers. The Reach for a Dream Foundation, through its work, provides the whole family with care, while also providing support to the doctors and nurses who carry out their life-saving work.
Julia Sotirianakos, Reach For a Dream Foundation CEO, explained that the original vision for this project was the creation of a single Dream Room within the ward. But it was thanks to the support of the Travel Dream Room sponsors that the Reach for a Dream Foundation was able to secure not just a single room within the Paediatric Oncology Ward, but the entire Ward. And the transformation has been worthy of the finest fairy-tale.
A fairy-tale transformation with a powerful purpose
The walls of the ward have been repainted, and now boast vibrant murals and decals. The once faded hospital-issue chairs have received a make-over and are now soft and comfortable. Superhero characters smile out from their new homes on the ward windows, a reminder of the power of courage and care.
A tree of life, dressed in twinkling fairy lights, has turned the waiting area into a wonderland, where little people and adults alike can feel at rest.
At the heart of the re-vamped ward is a Dream Room, where the children who receive treatment in the oncology ward can escape for a bit, to a place filled with colour, adventure and play. Lego bricks tumble across a kiddies table, inviting small hands to imagine and create. Craft kits are waiting to be opened and plundered. And a brightly coloured mobile spins, playing in the breeze that dances in through the Room’s tall windows.
Morne du Preez, MD of Tourvest Travel Solutions, said that the Reach for a Dream Foundation makes it possible for families to enjoy special moments together, even in the face of chronic illness. The oncologists who work in the Paediatric Oncology ward every day are thrilled – their ward looks welcoming and beautiful. For the families who frequent the ward, the Reach for a Dream transformation is a heart-warming reprieve from an otherwise dispiriting experience. “When the Reach for a Dream Foundation came up with the Dream Room concept, we didn’t have a space for it. But they came up with a plan for this room that metamorphosed and grew into a whole clinic,” explains Professor Janet Poole, the Principal Specialist at the Paediatric Oncology Ward (and now the proud custodian of the Dream Room).
Reach for a Dream Chairman, Mervyn Serebro noted that this Travel Dream Room is a wonderful example of how people can make a significant difference, simply by holding hands. He acknowledged the role that Carla da Silva played, in inviting the Air Mauritius partners to collaborate; the result has been phenomenal.
The magic ingredient: Collaboration
BARSA CEO, June Crawford noted the tremendous impact that collaboration can have. The sentiment was echoed by Marco Ciocchetti, CEO of XL Travel: “When we get together, we make great things happen”.
This is the ninth Dream Room that has been launched successfully by the Reach for a Dream Foundation, with the support of sponsors, since the Foundation announced the initiative in 2018. The goal is to open 50 such Dream Rooms at hospitals across the country, providing chronically ill children and their families with sanctuary. Andrew Stark, Flight Centre MD, thanked the Reach for a Dream Foundation for its exceptional work. “Heroes help others. It’s all about helping those who can’t help themselves,” he said.
The Dream Rooms are individually conceptualised by Mandi Fine and her team at the Fine Group. “This is my dream job,” said Fine. She explained that each Dream Room is very carefully planned so that it meets the needs of the patients, their families and the doctors it will serve. This Travel Dream Room was the product of nearly six months of planning and work, and required a financial investment of over R400 000 (provided in equal portion by the sponsors).
Kanaleno Makhetho, CEO of Club Travel Corporate, pointed out that the Travel Dream Room was an excellent opportunity to partner with industry competitors to do something good, to show kindness and love to patients and their families.
Air Mauritius Ambassador (and also a Reach for a Dream Ambassador) Jonathan Boynton-Lee, remarked that big corporations have a responsibility to give back. He noted the significance of the Travel Dream Room sponsors, leading by example. “I love that we’re helping kids’ dreams come true,” he added.
“When you see the smiles on the faces of the children, you understand: it’s all about dreams,” said da Silva. “Children are our future leaders. We must invest in them.”
Air Mauritius is the national carrier of the Republic of Mauritius. Created in 1967, it currently operates a fleet of two A350-900, one A330neo, three A340-300, two A330-200, two A319-100 and three ATR72-500. Air Mauritius presently flies to twenty-two destinations in Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa and the Indian Ocean.
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