This profile was prepared when Elzbieta Pomaska-Skrzypczak was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1995.
The New Idea
Elzbieta Pomaska-Skrzypczak is changing the definition of cancer care for Polish children. To enable them to have as normal a childhood as possible even while undergoing treatment, she has created centers that augment the technical resources provided by the medical profession, and stand in dramatic contrast to the reluctance of many Poles to deal with the realities of the disease. The centers are staffed by mental health and social workers who provide counseling for the families, and they create a warm, supportive, hospitable environment for the children and their families during the stress and ordeal of cancer treatment. Children have access to play and educational activities while waiting for or recovering from treatments; parents have a place to relax and secure accommodations if they live far from the hospitals. Such a resource is new in Poland. Part of cancer care, from Elzbieta's perspective, is to help the child continue to grow into his or her life and resist the isolation that cancer often imposes in many countries, including Poland. She has developed an innovative education program in her centers, which is based on real-life learning; and she has built ties to the growing Polish business community to support this invigorating approach to children who are typically sheltered from the outside world because of their delicate physical condition. In keeping with the vision of her project, Elzbieta continues to help the children reenter society once they have been cured or go into remission. Her program provides a comprehensive after-care system of workshops, weekend camps and counseling to ease the transition back to a more normal life.