The money raised through our various events, particularly the annual Hike & Bike Challenge, goes directly to charities and NGOs working worldwide to treat and support young people affected by burns and scalds. Below you can read about some of the projects that we have supported financially in recent years for the Phoenix Burns Project.
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Burn prevention and safety awareness
The Phoenix Burns Project significantly expanded its burn prevention activities during 2017/18, with the aim of continuing to increase awareness and safety education over the coming years. The emphasis is on training school children, teachers and parents on various aspects of burn prevention.
Action for Burns & Children is committed to helping to fund these vital activities.
The Shack Safety Project is a community-based project to promote fire safety among dwellers of informal settlements.
Click here to show the terrifying speed a shack fire takes hold.
The Phoenix team has created two full-size demonstration shacks, with one showing typical unsafe practices and the other illustrating safe practices.
The shacks consist of just two walls and are designed to be easily collapsible and transportable. They are displayed at various locations around Cape Town, such as community centres, and are used to support safety presentations delivered by trained speakers drawn from those communities.
The shacks are also being used in a programme specifically aimed at junior schools. Children who complete the programme receive a Fire Safety Officer badge.
Phoenix is hoping to buy more equipment to support mobile safety presentations at schools and other venues in the future. It is hoped the scheme can be extended across South Africa, and possibly further afield across sub-Saharan Africa.
Safety messages are also being taken to children in schools to address the root causes of burn injury at source. An innovative education programme created by Phoenix is presented by burn survivors at schools in communities at risk of burn injury.
More than a thousand children have attended so far and are acting as burn prevention ambassadors in their schools and communities.
The work in schools is supplemented with adult interventions aimed mostly at young mothers, to teach them safe practices in the use of electrical appliances, paraffin stoves, and lamps.
Exchange programmes to share information and best practice
Action for Burns & Children has been instrumental in helping to set up exchange programmes and workshops designed to share information between organisations and individuals involved in the treatment of burns and scalds and in delivering health and safety information.
In January 2017 a joint workshop was held in Cape Town involving the European Burns Association and the Phoenix Burns Project.
The event brought together doctors, carers, safety campaigners and experts from a variety of fields to discuss ways to improve outcomes for burn victims and to reduce the number of accidents.
After the event Dr Roux Martinez, Senior Burns Surgeon at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital Cape Town, said: “The workshop was a most enjoyable and worthwhile couple of days covering a broad area of disciplines. The knowledge sharing was invaluable to us and many useful contacts were made. It was particularly good for our people to be exposed to what other Burns Units in Europe are doing as well as giving affirmation that what our own PAM (clinical) colleagues undertake on a daily basis is on a par with their colleagues abroad.”
A new laser for the Red Cross Children’s Hospital
Action for Burns & Children has been working hard for many years to provide the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town with a specialist laser for treating burns. In 2017, as a result of the annual fundraising challenge, the hike and bike teams presented the new Lumenis M22 laser.
The equipment offers hope to children with devastating burn scars that could not previously be treated effectively. The laser treatment procedure is relatively painless and delivers almost immediate benefits.
The Lumenis M22 complements the existing Ultrapulse CO2 laser by allowing treatments to begin much earlier, with improved long-term outcomes.
The intense light beam of the Ultrapulse laser, used typically a year after the burn, vaporizes parts of the burn scar, creating tiny wells in the scar in which new healing occurs. This reduces the hardness, thickness, redness and itchiness of the burn scars.
The Ultrapulse laser targets water in the tissue whereas the new M22 laser targets haemoglobin in the blood. Early scars are highly vascular, which means they are rich in tiny blood vessels. The M22 laser energy is deposited in these early vascular scars, destroying the blood vessels in the scar without causing damage to the surrounding tissue.
The benefit of the M22 laser is that it can be used much earlier than the Ultrapulse laser, from as early as 4-6 weeks after the burn. It reduces the problematic burn scratching that causes intense frustration, sleep deprivation and requires multiple medications to control. This laser also offers new hope to children with vascular malformations and disfiguring port wine stains, various eye conditions and dermatological conditions.
The treatments are relatively painless and can be done in adults without sedation. For children, deep sedation or general anaesthesia is preferred. The benefits of the laser treatment manifest quickly, with improved elasticity experienced immediately, and the improvement continues for months to follow as the new collagens and elastin are formed.
This laser is now providing life-changing treatment to thousands of children. Staff at the hospital report that for the first time, children are asking to come back to the unit for more treatment! The two lasers now offer the full range of laser scar treatment capabilities, making the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital the only burns unit in Africa to offer this life-changing therapy.
The teams at the hospital have extended their gratitude to everyone who has taken part in the challenges to help raise the money for this much-needed equipment.
Improving conditions at the hospital
Our donations to The Phoenix Burns Project have improved the quality of life for staff and patients in the burn unit at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. Projects supported have included redecorating and furnishing the ward recreation room for parents as well as the therapy room, where art therapy and psychosocial counselling is provided. A new interactive games system was introduced to encourage children to reach their physiotherapy goals through the medium of interactive virtual reality computer games.
Toys donated by participants on the hike and bike challenge have provided much comfort and joy to the young patients. For many of them, these are the only toys they have and are therefore much cherished. Art materials have also been provided to support art therapy sessions.
Funding essential equipment and travel for burns victims
Donations have also gone to support the everyday needs of patients. For example, every burn patient at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town is issued with a colourful hat to protect his or her facial burn scars from sun damage. Over 1,000 of these hats are issued annually. Wheelchairs are provided to children who lose limbs and are unable to walk after suffering a major burn.
Funds are also used to assist patients to travel to and from the Red Cross Hospital, which serves as a national referral centre for major burns.
Helping families to rebuild
Shack fires are very common in South African informal settlements. Most families affected by such fires lose all their possessions. When such a family arrives at the burn unit with a child, Phoenix provides a Fire Recovery Kit that contains household essentials, food, blankets and toiletries. This allows the family to support their child at the bedside by relieving them of concerns as to where to get daily essentials.
Caring for abandoned children
Sadly, some severely disfigured burn survivors are abandoned in the burn unit as a result of parental poverty or drug and alcohol addictions. For these children, Phoenix works in partnership with the St Joseph’s Home for Chronically Ill Children and the Paarl School for Disabled Children, to ensure that they are educated and accommodated in a supportive and nurturing environment.
The care of these children, supported under the Phoenix Education Fund, is one of the major uses of donor funding.
In South Africa, where disability support is severely lacking, a proper education is the only hope for these children with major burn injuries to have a hope of becoming independent and economically active citizens when they grow up.
During the 2016 Hike/Bike event the participants visited St Joseph’s Home and presented a set of musical instruments. These instruments have become the cornerstone of a music-teaching programme at the Home, which is much enjoyed by the children.
Helping to treat emotional scars and psychological wounds
The Burn Counselling and Awareness Project is an in-hospital initiative developed in response to a request from a social worker in the burn unit. Many of the children treated at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town were burnt as a result of very difficult socioeconomic conditions experienced by the inhabitants of informal settlements. Often, there are unspoken feelings of guilt and anger that the children and their care-givers find difficult to express in a formal counselling setting.
The project provides a miniature informal settlement, complete with furniture, pets and dolls, with which the children can express themselves through play. This also provides an opportunity to train children and their care-givers in issues of burn prevention and fire safety.