By Karen Wilson on the Winter 2021/2022 Edition
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Here in México some of those heroes are children who have won the fight against cancer with the help of the humble plastic cap or lid found on containers of all sizes and shapes that are used to package a variety of products.
Through the work of a volunteer organization called the Asociación Mexicana de Ayuda a Niños con Cáncer (AMANC), the Mexican Association to Help Children With Cancer, the revenue derived from recycling hard plastic caps to produce new products has been instrumental in saving lives.
The money goes to a family with a child who is a cancer patient to pay for the child’s medications and medical bills. AMANC not only saves the lives of many children, but it also benefits the environment through recycling of disposable hard plastic.
In Mexico, cancer is the leading cause of death in patients between the ages of 5 and 14, with over 5,000 new pediatric cases every year. In the Manzanillo area, one of those young heroes who has overcome cancer with help from AMANC is a seven-year old girl named Jennifer.
She started chemotherapy at age three, and received treatments for the next three years. Now she is in the five-year monitoring phase, clear of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Her treatments are finished, but she will be checked every two months for the next five years.
More than two years ago Jennifer’s teacher reached out to the local community for help. Residents of Vida del Mar and others responded by putting a lid collection program together that has been providing assistance ever since. As well, in 2021, residents brought lids they had collected when they returned to México.
While Jennifer no longer has chemo treatments, she still has her treatment port cleaned and kept clear, should she have a relapse.
Plastic caps continue to pay for her follow-up appointments and any further treatment, if necessary. The hospital where Jennifer has been treated and is now monitored is in Colima, so transportation costs are also covered for her.
When finally her needs are met, other children will be identified for treatment as the program expands. Donations of plastic caps of all kinds will again help battle the disease.
AMANC was founded in 1982 by María de Guadalupe Alejandre, who established the objective of helping all families who suffered from the illness of their children. The work of the Asociación for nearly 40 years has provided support to children un-der 21 years of age who are diagnosed with cancer.
With a 0% treatment abandonment rate, AMANC covers the basic needs of patients and their family members so that they continue to receive the medical care required. AMANC aims to ensure that no child or adolescent suffering from cancer needs to stop treatment due to lack of financial resources.
In October 2015 the non-profit Banco de Tapitas (Bank of Caps) began as a movement founded by young Mexicans, students and professionals from Tecnológico de Monterrey, Universidad Tecmilenio, Universidad del Valle de México and Universidad Iberoamericana with the intention of supporting the fight against childhood cancer through recycling plastic. Banco de Tapitas now has four locations in México – Mexico City, Puebla, Queretaro and Guadalajara.
Plastic caps and lids collected by Banco de Tapitas are sorted, then ground into pellets, flakes and granules which are then sold to manufacturers that make a variety of plastic products such as chairs, plant pots, other containers, kitchen utensils, playground equipment, etc. See https://www.bancodetapitas.org Revenue generated from selling the plastic is credited to the AMANC program to support patients.
Jennifer’s case is a life-saving success story here in México. You can be part of the solution for future stories like hers simply by saving plastic. Those plastic caps with which we are so familiar are usually considered to be trash, but in the AMANC program they represent cash for saving children’s lives.