Chronically ill youngsters at St George’s Hospital in Tooting raised £1500 for children with brain tumours through bake sales.
After hospital-bound youngsters made and sold banana sandwiches during Fairtrade Fortnight last year, the project developed and now every Friday morning, the café class begins with learning how to cook the treats which are then presented and sold by the students on the hospital wards.
To mark brain tumour awareness month, last Friday students of the Wandsworth Hospital and Home Tuition Service (HHTS) who run the pop-up café handed a gigantic cheque to St George’s paediatric neurosciences department.
Penny Vukcevic, the teacher who introduced the café class into St George’s hospital school, explained why she felt it a necessary addition to the standard curriculum taught by HHTS.
She said: “It’s a distraction from their pains and their troubles, it gets them all helping.”
Today, Thursday March 29, is Wear A Hat Day with fundraisers taking place all over the UK, and HHTS students at St George’s wore handmade Easter-themed hats last Friday as they sold their chocolate nests.
One child was in charge of the till and the money, whilst the other children enchanted passers-by with their excellent people skills and some of the customers, including a few regulars, gave £20 and refused to take any of the cakes, whilst others buy the cakes to give to the children.
Since the café opened last year, the actual amount raised is £1800, the other £300 having gone to various other charities, including Macmillan Cancer Support.
The classes are highly multidisciplinary, drawing on multiple topics, from current affairs to maths, whilst sharpening a whole host of skills including cooking, sales, and social skills.
After the 2017 general election, the students were asked to ice doughnuts with the colours of the main political parties, which then had to be arranged into the correct ratio of seats won.
“The children love these sessions, and very often it’s the session they want to come to most,” Mrs Vukcevic said.
“They need their spirits lifted.”
HHTS allows young people who are chronically ill or have mental health issues, alongside young parents and pregnant women, to continue receiving an education when in hospital.
Mrs Vukcevic, who has worked at HHTS for fifteen years, noticed that many of the children coming in had brain tumours.
She said: “In the classroom, we always get children who have had brain tumours.
“They go through a great ordeal having brain operations.”
Mrs Vukcevic, 62, remembered one particular student who had received 13 operations on her benign tumour, saying: “I thought, my goodness me, how much has she suffered, and she’s always chirpy and happy.
“I’ve always been upset with children with brain tumours.”
Both Mrs Vukcevic and Anna D’Olier, the assistant head teacher of HHTS, want the funds raised to be specifically for children with benign brain tumours.
Explaining why, Mrs D’Olier, 37, said: “Benign brain tumours can be devastating; they can leave massive impairments.”
Mrs Vukcevic added that the damaging effects that benign brain tumours can have on children are little heard of, while there is often more support and funding from charities and hospices for children with cancer, including those who have malignant brain tumours.
Mrs Vukcevic’s ambitions for the café class don’t stop there, with her next big move being to find a celebrity chef to come in and run the session.
The school’s fundraising success comes just weeks after it received a Unicef Rights Respecting Silver Award across both its sites (the other being at Springfield Hospital, Essex), which focuses on putting the child’s rights – such as the right a child has to a home or an education – at the centre of the education system.