Tag Archives: Mary’s Cancer Kiddies

Becak Terus: Rickshawing from Aceh to Jakarta for a Good Cause

Back in 2013, I interviewed a man brave – and some might even say crazy – enough to run from Bali to Jakarta on a mission to raise money and awareness for children’s cancer charity, Mary’s Cancer Kiddies. This year, Thompson plans to ride, and sometimes pull, a becak from Banda Aceh in north-west Sumatra all the way to Indonesia’s capital city of Jakarta.

If you haven’t met Scott Thompson, I can only describe him as a humble and altruistic Scottsman with a fire inside him to help others. I met to discuss his upcoming physical and mental challenge, which plans to commence at the end of the month: a rickshaw ride that will take him from Banda Aceh to North Sumatra, through Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, Lampung, and finally across the Sunda Straits to Java and into Jakarta via Banten.

Scott Thompson's rickshaw ride will take him from Banda Aceh all the way to Jakarta.
Scott Thompson’s rickshaw ride will take him from Banda Aceh all the way to Jakarta.

The journey is estimated to take approximately 18 days and hopes to be in the Guinness Book of World Records with the longest rickshaw ride ever taken. The previous record was set by fellow UK citizen, Tim Moss, who completed a 1,000-mile (1,609.34km) ride across the length and breadth of Great Britain.

Thompson’s Banda Aceh- to Jakarta-ride of 2,600km – which is the distance from London to Rome – will not be a smooth one, by any stretch of the imagination. Between the Riau border and Palembang is what Thompson calls “the valley of a thousand hills”, which speaks for itself, really. To conquer the many large hills he’s soon to face, Thompson has built a special harness, which he will use to pull his 80kg becak. According to his calculations, the elevation climb will be equivalent to starting at sea level, climbing to the top of Mount Everest, returning back to the sun-lounger on the beach, and then repeating the summit climb three more times.

Thompson’s becak is certainly out of the ordinary – it’s been souped-up to ensure stability and longevity. With a Sram groupset and a specially-designed frame in place, including disc brakes set in parallel and a Volkswagen steering damper, this becak has been carefully prepared for the long journey it’s about to take. Other additions include water holder, music station, GPS, sandwich box, and, representing Indonesia, the vehicle has been painted red and white and flies the nation’s flag.

After Thompson’s triumphant run from Bali to Jakarta in 2012, rumours circulated about a shift in his internal organs. “It’s not true,” Thompson says, reassuring that he’s in tip-top shape. “In order to make it in time on this trip, I’ll probably be riding 12 hours a day,” he explains. “The most dangerous thing to avoid is dehydration.”

Thompson will be followed the whole stretch of the way by a support car, which may double-up as a bed if there are no losmen in certain areas where he will stop for rest. This will also help to deter any trouble-makers in the area from getting in the way, which has been a concern in this area.

The recent forest fires and haze enveloping Sumatra is also a worry for Thompson and his team, not to mention his loving wife, Laura. Thompson’s mentality is to just tackle it day by day and see what happens. “If the mind is strong, the body will follow,” he says, determined to ride until the end.

IMG_0575So, what drives a man to take on such physically exerting and dangerous challenges? In Thompson’s case, it’s helping others, as well as inspiring athletes to come up with ways of raising money for worthy causes. “Hopefully I can inspire younger athletes to do whatever they can to help build a bridge and reach out,” he says.

With a multitude of sponsors behind him, Thompson has already raised Rp.3 billion which will go to children’s charities Yayasan Cinta Anak Bangsa (YCAB), Mary’s Cancer Kiddies (MCK) and Puspita Foundation, and residential, vocational training programme for adult men and women with mobility disabilities, Wisma Cheshire.

There is probably no man better prepared to take on the job. With his rigorous training schedule, planning and determination, it looks as though Thompson will be riding his rickshaw into BSD City three weeks after he embarks from Aceh, and he will have helped many Indonesian people in need at the same time. Becak terus!

Fans can keep up-to-date with Thompson’s journey at www.becakterus.com , where his GPS will track his exact whereabouts on the map. If you would like to help him raise more money than his previous run from Bali to Jakarta for charities, please visit: kitabisa.com/becakterus

Helping the Kiddies in Need

Mary’s Cancer Kiddies (MCK), a charity providing financial support for the treatment of children with cancer in Jakarta, was propelled into the spotlight when Scott Thompson, a Scottish expat working in Jakarta, ran from Bali to Jakarta to raise money in their name. Thompson successfully ran this great distance of 1,250km—with the children’s faces, no doubt, as his inspiration—making it clear that this charity was one worth going the distance for.

This noble cause was originally started in 2003 by Australian then-expat and journalist, Mary Binks. On a visit to Dr. Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital (RSCM), Mary met cancer-suffering children in the non-infectious ward and was appalled that the families could not afford even the most basic diagnostic procedures. She promised then and there to pay for some of the tests required, eventually realizing that the issue was far bigger than just finding money for a few scans. “I would need to start raising serious money on a grand scale to help as many children and their families as possible. And so the idea of MCK was born,” Mary tells me. Mary’s philosophy is that “a life not lived helping others is a life not lived.”

Mary felt very strongly from the beginning that her organisation would not just be about money, but also about being there with the child until the very end: “It’s incredibly difficult to watch a seven-year-old die; a child who should be riding a bike or kicking a football not knowing what the inside of a hospital even looks like. It’s an experience that stays with you for the rest of your life…”

Julie van Laarhoven of MCK. Photo by Jim Kaunang
Julie van Laarhoven of MCK. Photo by Jim Kaunang

In 1999, now-MCK Chairwoman Julie van Laarhoven moved to Indonesia with her husband, meeting Mary at a playgroup in 2003, where she felt compelled to support Mary’s cause. “I was with the International English Service Church and our life group felt strongly that we wanted to do something to help and so we raised money to pay for chemotherapy for the children,” Julie explains. “When Mary started, she would meet the children and their families and would write these beautiful profiles, spending time to hear their hearts. This made it difficult for sponsors to say no to such a desperate situations to help the children get medical treatment.”

When Mary moved to Israel and then eventually home to Australia, Julie and a team of five passionate volunteers — including two Indonesian dentists — have continued to keep up the amazing work for the children. “It was heart-wrenching leaving MCK, the patients and their families,” Mary explains, “but Julie and a succession of extremely wonderful volunteers transformed MCK into an organisation more far-reaching than I could have imagined.”

Today, MCK works together with six doctors, sending them money every month to help cover the costs of cancer treatment, as well as other illnesses, for children and premature babies at RSCM and Rumah Sakit Kanker Dharmais (RSKD). “The doctors are our ears and our eyes and we’ve worked with the same team since the beginning,” Julie explains.

Meetings between MCK volunteers and doctors take place on a monthly basis, which has established very solid relationships, and doctors find it extremely helpful to know that there is money available, ready to be used for children’s treatment when needed. The doctors spend the money on low-income families only, and there is utmost trust between them and MCK volunteers. Monthly reports are produced by the doctors, including invoices and receipts, keeping everything transparent.

On top of providing financial support for treatment through MCK also provides prosthetic eyes for children who have retinoblastoma, a very aggressive type of cancer, which usually requires surgery and removal of the affected eye. Julie also personally emotional and spiritual support on her visits to the hospital. “Sometimes I bring other women from my prayer group and we ask parents if we can pray for their children in the hospitals, regardless of their religion. We are always received positively,” Julie explains.

In 2014, the Badan Penyelenggara Jaminan Sosial Kesehatan (BPJS) system came into effect, providing healthcare for Indonesian families. Through this system, however, not everything is always covered, especially when it comes to cancer, as MCK quickly learned. There is a list of all medicines covered by BPJS, but there is a cap on the amount that the government will cover per medication, per patient. Low-income families who aren’t able to cover the remaining costs will be supported by MCK. A downside Julie has seen in the new system is that it often takes time for families to apply for BPJS and get the correct paperwork together, which can contribute to the child’s situation worsening. Since its arrival, however, Julie has seen more and more private hospitals opening their doors to the system – a very encouraging development.


Photo by Jim Kaunang
Photo by Jim Kaunang

Working with sick children must be extremely hard, so what keeps the MCK team going? “There was a boy named Bayu. He had a tumour the size of a football on his eye socket. He came from a little village in Riau that doesn’t even have electricity and their family somehow managed to bring him over to Jakarta. I would go to Cipto and sit with his mum and dad while he underwent treatment and surgery. After Bayu was cancer-free, his mum would call me every couple of months to thank me for helping him. You can’t put that feeling into words and that’s what keeps me going,” Julie answers as her eyes tear up with emotion.

It is a shame that the government has never acknowledged this organisation’s hard work and efforts to support the children of Indonesia and Julie’s message to them would be to continue to improve the BPJS system because — although not perfect yet — it certainly does help.

Mary dreams that all Indonesian children have the same opportunities to live as children in developed countries have, hoping that Indonesian babies will no longer be abandoned at hospitals when a mother can’t afford the care. “My adopted son had to be abandoned at a Jakarta hospital 15 years ago because his birth parents couldn’t afford the emergency caesarean that saved both his and his birth mother’s lives,” says Mary.

The work of MCK is done solely through their generous sponsors. “We really appreciate our donors and it’s because of their generosity and commitment to raising funds for the cancer kiddies that we’ve been able to continue,” Julie says gratefully.

Last year, Mary’s Cancer Kiddies helped an amazing 807 children, including 163 babies.

When asked what inspires Julie to keep going, she replied, “When you visit the children in hospital, there’s just so much fear on the parent’s faces. They’re so afraid because they don’t understand much about cancer, and they are worried because of how much treatment will cost. As a mother you’d do anything to help your child. It doesn’t matter what it costs.”

If you’d like to help volunteer or donate to this worthy cause, please visit www.Maryscancerkiddies.org