By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
THE tragic loss of a family member to bacterial meningitis is the driving force behind a Bahamian woman’s decision to start a new organisation to create awareness of the disease.
Andrea Aranha lost her niece, London Percentie, to the disease last November.
London was just seven years old when she contracted bacterial meningitis, which is caused by the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.
She died from meningitis related complications just a few days after she was diagnosed.
After the unexpected death of her niece, Ms Aranha said she knew that she had to do something to help people who find themselves similarly affected.
Ms Aranha’s The London Bridge Foundation, named in honour of her niece, will launch with a family fun day in Harbour Island on July 5.
During the event, paediatrician and neonatologist Dr Carlos Thomas will host three-hour children’s health segment.
Guests will also be educated about meningitis and other illnesses, treatment of the whole child, prevention methods, the importance of medical check-ups and effects of vaccinations.
Meningitis is a relatively rare infection that affects the delicate membranes, called meninges (men-in’-jeez). Bacterial meningitis can be contagious among people in close contact. Viral meningitis tends to be less severe, and most people recover completely.
The purpose of the foundation, Ms Aranha said, is to raise awareness, not just about meningitis, but other common children’s illnesses as well as prevention.
Additionally, the group has created programmes for the children of the community to be a part of, which will be introduced in phases. Some of those programmes include a gifted child programme, kids choral and a drama club.
During the launch of the foundation, parents will have an opportunity to sign up their children for the first-phase programmes.
“When London became ill, our community came together like no one had ever seen on Harbour Island. We wanted to keep that spirit of love and togetherness alive,” Ms Aranha said.
“It is almost divine that persons in the community of Harbour Island were thinking the same thing; that we have to honour this little girl’s life in a way that would benefit others. One of the members created a social group to advertise a business. It was around the time that London fell ill. The ladies in the group were so concerned and provided overwhelming support to the family. For a time, that social group became all about London. When she passed, this social group wanted to do something to support the family. On the evening after the home-going service, they presented the immediate family with a gift. And even then felt led to do more. With that, London’s Bridge Children Foundation was born.
“London’s story has inspired many people. It even inspired the name of the foundation. Her short life bridged relationships that were broken, brought the unlikeliest of people together and connected an entire community,” she told Tribune Woman.
Ms Aranha said the executive team of London Bridge has a number of goals, including the establishment of a home that will be called London’s House.
“This will be a child friendly place for children to study, get help with homework and projects. It will be a safe haven for them. We plan to have a computer room, study hall and an arts and craft area. It sounds quite ambitious, but we believe it can be done,” she said.
“My hope is that the programmes that we implement and the resources that we provide will increase awareness of diseases that are most prevalent in children and improve the overall health and socialisation of the youth in our community,” she said.