More than 500 children and their parents celebrated the end of 2015 with a fun-filled picnic specially organised by staff of the FAM-CRU (formerly KID-CRU) research unit at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of Stellenbosch University.
The event was held at the Dutch Reformed Church in De la Haye, Bellville and the celebrations included gifts being exchanged, jumping castles, plenty of food and music. The children and their parents each received a gift and food parcel to take home.
“The FAM-CRU team’s artistry was evident in the happy, brightly painted children’s faces,” said Prof Mark Cotton, the Director of the unit.
Staff members form close bonds with the patients and their parents, with whom they have shared a journey over many years. “We see the patients regularly and build good relations with them,” says Anita Janse van Rensburg, a project manager at FAM-CRU. “We therefore decided to spoil them with a year-end party.”
Planning began in 2014 and committee members worked non-stop throughout the year to raise the necessary funds. They managed to raise just over R60 000 with ‘white elephant’ sales, two fêtes, a regular tuck shop and Friday afternoon food sales.
Learners from Pinehurst Primary entertained the audience with a choir performance. Their Grade 7 class donated R4 000 towards the event, as well as gifts including colouring books, balls and puzzles.
The original Children’s Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Unit (KID-CRU) unit officially opened in September 2003, although the first trial had already begun in December 2002.
“Our focus has always been HIV-affected children and their families,” said Cotton. “In January 2014, we also began trials for adults, thus we changed our name to FAM-CRU (Family Clinical Research Unit).” This expansion was made possible with a new affiliation to the NIH-sponsored AIDS Clinical Trial Group (ACTG) in the United States.
“Children who enrolled in studies from 2005 are still in our care and are now participating in our adult research studies,” said Cotton.
“During the event, some of us reflected on the long journey from the 1990’s, when no treatment was available and contrasted our memories to the many happy, hopeful and healthy faces of the children and their parents at the picnic,” Cotton remarked with a hint of nostalgia.