Achala's battle against leukaemia

15 September 2018

Topics: health "refugee stories" refugees

Achala stands with her grandmother Praveena in India, where they live as refugees. Richard Wainwright/Act for Peace

Achala was eight years old when her legs suddenly stopped working.

It was terrifying for her – and for her grandmother Praveena who is raising her. The two live in a refugee camp in India, where it can be hard to access life-saving medical care.

With no way to make a living in the camp, Praveena is doing her best just to put food on the table for her granddaughter. When Achala got sick, she struggled to pay the bus fare to get her to the nearest hospital.

Praveena was worrying about how to pay for the first round of medicines when doctors gave her the devastating news: Achala had leukaemia and had to travel to Chennai to start lifesaving treatment.
It was always so cold. I took my blanket and slept on my grandmother’s lap. We took the journey again and again. I didn’t know if I was going to survive.
The treatments Achala needed were gruelling for her little body. She went through bone marrow transplants and lost her hair to chemotherapy.

Praveena kept borrowing money to cover the mounting expenses of Achala’s care.  But after a year, she was too far in debt to borrow any more.

She’d almost lost hope when she was put in touch with Act for Peace’s partner organisation in India: the Organisation for Eelam Refugee Rehabilitation (OfERR). 

With the support of kind people like you, vulnerable families like Achala have access to lifesaving care –from major surgeries to health screenings, home visits and counselling.

Today, Achala is back at school and told me how happy she is to be skipping rope with her friends again. 
When I grow up I want to become a doctor. While I was sick, these doctors helped me so much and cured me. So I want to cure children who are suffering like me. And I wish to take care of my grandma. She has done a lot for me, how can I stay without helping her?” 

Richard Wainwright/Act for Peace