Children living with cancer will now gain more strength to fight the disease. This is after they were introduced to the newly launched Kids Kicking Cancer programme at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Rondebosch last Wednesday.Various local health stakeholders, as well as parents of the benefiting children, gathered at the hospital to experience for the first time what this programme has to offer.The programme aims to encourage patients to deal with pain in a positive way. The programme has been launched in four hospitals nationwide, with Tygerberg hospital being the other.Dr Craig Nossel, director of Kids Kicking Cancer, explains: “The programme is designed to empower and uplift children who are suffering from a variety of diseases, causing them significant pain and discomfort, (by)using martial arts techniques. Through the practice of these techniques, the programme is able to bring about a sense of power, peace and newfound purpose into their young, yet challenging lives.”The initiative was founded by Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg, a black belt karate instructor and clinical assistant professor of paediatrics, after losing his two-year-old daughter to leukaemia in 1999.Goldberg says he knows the emotional impact of dealing with a sick child has on the immediate family, and after losing his daughter, he wanted to help others deal with pain in a positive way and he could only use what he loved the most to make a difference, which is martial arts. He says they have since partnered with different volunteers who have made a name for themselves in martial arts in different countries to drive the programme. In South Africa, they work with Moses Masupa who is based in Pretoria and Ilze van der Merwe in Cape Town.Van der Merwe offers sessions at the Red Cross hospital on a weekly basis and says at the moment she is working with 15 patients and is hoping to see the numbers growing.Alan Davidson, the associate professor and head of paediatric haematology and oncology at the hospital, has welcomed the initiative and said they are glad to be among the first beneficiaries in the country.Parents were impressed and expressed their gratitude towards the organisation.Lethile Bolana, the father Monalisa Fabane, 8, says it is a relief for him to see the growing support towards children living with cancer. “Dealing with cancer is painful and emotionally draining and every bit of help goes a long way,” he says.His son was diagnosed with brain cancer earlier this year and has been on chemotherapy ever since.Monalisa has already started attending sessions and he says they have helped him feel better.“I like it because it helps me to not think about a lot of things and know how to cope with pain. I think I will now be able to go to school like other children; maybe I will not be sick again.”Monalisa left school in Grade 1 as he had to stay at the hospital for three months during the early stages of chemotherapy.Faith Makholwa, also a parent says: “I have had a very scary and frustrating journey with cancer ... Programmes like this keep us going. We really appreciate this and it is an honour to be the first to benefit. My son is enjoying the programme.” Her son is Sive Makholwa, 7.