The idea was just to do simple volunteer work: recruit student volunteers and visit hospitals once a week. But opportunities began to open, and donations started to come in. “Oh dear, we must account for these,” reacted Girlie Garcia (now Lorenzo), co-founder of Kythe, the erstwhile volunteer group-turned-full blown non-profit.
She asked her father, the late Atty Ramon P Garcia of the Philippine Stock Exchange and Meralco, for guidance. “He told me to run it like a corporation but maintain the heart of an NGO,” she recalled.
Lorenzo started Kythe in 1992 together with fellow student Icar Castro. They were both taking up their master’s degree in psychology at the Ateneo de Manila and through their coursework, experienced their first interaction with paediatric cancer patients. They visited hospitals and spent time with these children, which did a lot of good not only for the patients but their families as well. They named their group Kythe, which is derived from a Scottish word that means “to manifest oneself thru simple sharing and togetherness”, which they picked up from an article of Fr Joseph Galdon, SJ. “Later on, we came across a book about it which says that angels communicate thru kything, no words needed,” Lorenzo adds.
By next year in 2022, 30 years would have passed. Time has shaped Kythe into a well-run, established foundation composed of trained professionals providing psychosocial support to over 18,000 children with cancer and other chronic illnesses and their families. Through the years, it can count 1,200 (and growing) volunteers and eight affiliate hospitals (soon to be nine).
Kythe is the only foundation in the Philippines that offers the American programme, Child Life Services (CLS), and is certified by the Association of Child Life Specialists in the US. The programme, Lorenzo explains, can be encapsulated in the acronym PETALS: Play with the children, Educate them about their medical condition, Tend to the emotional needs of their family, Assist the child during medical procedures especially if it is an invasive one, Lend financial and medical support, Support parental involvement to empower the parents.