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Building a community of support in the fight against cancer

Special Interest Programme / Partner story

Photo by Diva Plavalaguna from Pexels

ESCA CancerSupport (ESCA CS) was founded in 2000 in Geneva. The organisation has its roots in the lived experience of non-Swiss people living in the area and experiencing cancer while navigating the added challenges of a foreign language, an unfamiliar health system, and being far away from family and loved ones.

Today, the organisation offers professional counselling, peer support, art therapy, mindfulness, yoga, Pilates and gym classes, workshops, and more. ESCA CS support groups include groups for breast cancer, prostate cancer, and bereavement, as well as a group for teenagers. “When my father died of cancer, ESCA CancerSupport was a great support,” says Alex Pica, a Portuguese woman living in Geneva who benefitted from counselling following her loss. “I really appreciated having this outlet to express my grief.”

Oak’s first programme grant to ESCA CS was made in 2018 to uplift the group’s outreach and PR Campaign in order to reach a larger audience. The number of cancer patients in Switzerland rises each year, and ESCA CS hoped to support this growing population in social and professional reintegration, along with other services.

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of ESCA CancerSupport, the organisation opened a new centre in Grand-Saconnex, Geneva, where a range of its services could be held on the same premises. As the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the team adapted to the circumstances and provided its services virtually throughout 2020 and 2021. This online format also allowed the association to cater for patients and families who live in other parts of Switzerland. The organisation is now looking to expand and improve its online reach.

Working toward its vision that no one should face cancer alone, ESCA CS aims to more than double the number of people it serves with quality counselling and support services over the next three years. Starting in 2022, ESCA CS has offered new services, such as coaching on work and cancer, as well as targeted support for caregivers. The team also aims to build expertise and capacities around sexuality and cancer, as well as provide increased support around nutrition for cancer patients.

ESCA CS will keep developing its large pool of volunteers who work alongside the staff, who provide many of its key services. The organisation will also step up its fundraising efforts, with the goal of providing support for a much larger number of people in the coming years. Key to this are the partnerships with local organisations, healthcare establishments, companies, and foundations who share the goal of improving lives and ensuring that no one faces cancer alone.

Oak’s grants to ESCA CS fall under our Special Interest Programme (SIP), which reflects the Trustees’ interests in making dynamic, diverse, large, innovative, and challenging grants. You can read more about the SIP programme here. You can find out more about ECSA CS here.