Miles of smiles brings hope

2016-08-23 06:00
 Photo: supplied Debbie Riggien with Tshepang Sithole, a little one she is assisting.

Photo: supplied Debbie Riggien with Tshepang Sithole, a little one she is assisting.

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WORKING a full-time job and still finding time to run the Rainbow and Smiles organisation in Durban, Debbie Riggien’s life can be described as a commitment to philanthropy.

The 45-year-old says that her life changed dramatically when her daughter Emma-liegh was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood cancer in 2009.

“When she went into remission I promised I would give back and support other parents, and children with cancer. During our hospital stays I was often lonely and needed someone to talk to, so I started volunteering for Rainbows and Smiles in January 2015 and have loved every minute of supporting the children,” she said.

Rainbows and Smiles is a small NPO that was started in 2008 by Bonita Suckling after her son, Jed Brady Thomas, was diagnosed with brain cancer at age three.

Suckling saw what families went through while in treatment and realised there was a need she could fulfill since she had lived the journey herself.

However, Jed died on 11 July, 2011 after a brave three-year fight - he was initially given six months.

Riggien said that with the organisation they assist families that are fighting childhood (0 to 16 years) cancer with emotional and financial support.

“We will pay medical bills, buy food vouchers, pay for petrol, etc., because when cancer strikes usually the mother cannot work any longer as the child requires 24/7 care. We also spoil children while in treatment and support moms after a child had died.

“We also have a programme where we spoil the ‘forgotten’ siblings because when a child has cancer understandably the parent’s attention is focused on the sick child.

“Our main focus is on hope and giving children smiles during treatment. We deliver activity sets and toys to them whil on treatment and afterwards. Our mission is to provide assistance in the form of emotional social, financial support to families and caregivers.”

She said her greatest role models are children who are fighting cancer.

“They are the bravest little heros. I draw my inspiration from the smiles on the children’s faces when I arrive at the hospital and it makes it all worth it.”

Her message is to never look down on anyone.

“Remember to be kind and smile because you never know what others are going through. Give what you would like to receive, lift others up and make people feel special.”

For more information on
Rainbow and Smile, contact
Riggien on

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