RUN FOR LIFE: A wide cross-section of Jamaicans took part in Sunday's 5K to raise funds for kidney-disease patients.
More than 30 years after its inception, the Kidney Support Foundation of Jamaica keeps coming up with cool and resourceful ways to raise funds and bolster the fight locally against kidney disease. In the past, the not-for-profit organization attracted solid support for such events as its annual film premiere hosted by the Carib 5 Cinema in December, a Patient Day on the last Sunday in November, and a 5K Health Walk/Run every September in celebration of Kidney Month.
According to the KSFJ’s National Coordinator, Pamela Sutherland, the aim is always to do more. This past Sunday, the KSFJ joined forces with the Pharmaceutical Society of Jamaica to put on a special 5K Walk/Run, which culminated at the Hope Road-based Police Officers’ Club, pulling scores of participants representing various fitness clubs, corporate entities, and the public hospitals’ renal units. At the event, TALLAWAH spoke with Sutherland and long-standing foundation member Errol Sinclair about what it takes to win the fight against kidney disease.
TALLAWAH: At present, approximately how many Jamaicans are battling kidney disease?
Pamela Sutherland: In the public sector, there are five hospitals that provide services and treatment for kidney patients. At the moment, the Kingston Public Hospital has about 200 patients, and each of the other four across the island has about 100 patients each. So that’s roughly 600 patients in all, in the public sector, that we know of. There are quite a few private dialysis centres across Jamaica that provide treatment for those who can afford it.
TALLAWAH: Fundraising aside, what’s the foundation’s major objective when it comes to helping kidney-disease patients lead normal lives?
P.S.: Right now a lot of them are without jobs, and many of the ones who do have jobs cannot work five days per week because of their condition. But they have needs like everybody else. So one of the objectives we’ve been working on is stepping up our appeal to corporate Jamaica to help provide employment for them.
Errol Sinclair: I think [the foundation] has been doing a fine job since we started in the 70s, but we need more volunteers. And that’s part of our mission now – to attract more volunteers and to spread the message. Part of the thrust is to get the education out and to get Jamaicans to understand the lifestyle that promotes kidney well-being.
TALLAWAH: So an awareness campaign is crucial.
P.S.: Absolutely. When you’re dealing with kidney disease it is important to understand the history of those infected with the disease and to help those affected like family members and members of the community.
TALLAWAH: For [Sunday’s] 5K Walk/Run, you partnered with the Pharmaceutical Society and a few sponsors. What’s next?
P.S.: In addition to putting on more fund-raisers, we want to partner with some corporate Jamaica companies to ensure that patients are employed because many of them are employable. Those able to work should be allowed to get jobs. We also want to acquire more dialysis units so that for those who are straining to cover their medical expenses their lives can be made a bit easier.
TALLAWAH: Mr. Sinclair, I’ve heard that for Patient Day, your all-natural retreat spot Tapioca (along the St. Andrew/St. Ann border) has hosted get-togethers for adults and children to enjoy a day of authentic Jamaican cuisine, giveaways, and more.
E.S.: Many of them tend to complain that they feel depressed and stressed out, so the fun day is one way for them to lift their spirits. This year feels like a new beginning. We have a national coordinator now to hold the fort together. But raising money is still our main goal because we want to do as much as possible to help the patients live normal lives.
> GET INVOLVED: To learn more about the work of the Kidney Support Foundation of Jamaica, visit them at 22 Old Hope Road in St. Andrew, or contact them at 322-2905 or firstname.lastname@example.org.