Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Hostels for Hope: Easing the Burden for Women with Cancer

February 02, 2017

Sarah* is a 46-year-old mother of five and a cervical cancer survivor living in Tanzania. Survival wasn’t easy. She had to travel over 300 miles from her village to one of only two treatment facilities in the entire country; once she got there, she had no place to stay. Like Sarah, many of the over 10,000 Tanzanian women diagnosed with cervical or breast cancer each year face two major challenges – how to pay for transportation to the capital, Dar es Salaam, and where to stay for the duration of their treatment. For some women, the challenge is too great and they have no choice but to stay home and die. Others, like Sarah, make the difficult trip to the hospital, and struggle to survive through the treatment. Many sleep on the hospital grounds, or on the street, while being treated.

We at Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon believe that no woman should die of cervical or breast cancer, no matter where she lives. So we decided it was time for the women of Tanzania to have “homes away from home” near the country’s only two cancer treatment centers that could save their lives. We partnered with the American Cancer Society, the Bush Institute, HKS, Inc., Southern Methodist University, and T-MARC Tanzania to sponsor the Hostels for Hope competition.

We challenged professional and student architects around the world to use fresh thinking, sustainable materials, and resourceful ingenuity to design safe, comfortable lodgings for women undergoing cancer treatments. And they responded! We received nearly 100 designs, and an esteemed jury chose six winners who will be announced on World Cancer Day, February 4, in Tanzania. The top two designs will be adapted according to the needs of the hospitals, and our hope is that they will be built in the coming year.

Women like Sarah face enough obstacles to survival when they receive a cancer diagnosis. As she explained, “When I got the diagnosis, I was so worried and confused. I had never gone to Dar es Salaam before, I didn’t know how to start my journey and I had no money to cover transport and other costs.” With Hostels for Hope – which are modeled after the American Cancer Society’s US-based Hope Lodges – Tanzanian women will not have to sleep on the ground outside their treatment centers but will instead have a comfortable place to sleep as they go through treatment.

We applaud the architects who embraced our challenge, and our hope is that others will help us to go from design to reality. Every woman who makes the long, uncertain trek to the hospital deserves a safe, comfortable place to sleep once she arrives. On this World Cancer Day, we reaffirm the right of women to protect and treat themselves from cancer.

NOTE: We will post the six top winners of the Hostels for Hope competition here on February 4.


*Sarah is not her real name
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