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ACS SOURCE Program Champion dies in Ethiopian Airlines crash

Bella Jaboma was known for her compassion for children with cancer

Bella Jaboma (second from left above), a volunteer leader with the Kenyan civil society organization Hope For Cancer Kids and American Cancer Society Strengthening Organizations for a United response to the Cancer Epidemic (SOURCE) Program Champion, passed away March 10 after Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 crashed shortly after takeoff. Bella was on her way home from a conference in Egypt, where she shared successes and best practices for serving pediatric cancer patients in Kenya.

Bella volunteered countless hours with Hope For Cancer Kids, providing clinical, psychosocial, and financial support to pediatric cancer patients undergoing treatment at Nairobi’s Kenyatta National Hospital. Her colleagues recall that she was constantly in communication with the young patients, their caregivers, doctors, and the national health insurance fund to ensure every child received quality treatment and care.

Members of the American Cancer Society’s Global Cancer Control team had the distinct honor of working with Bella through our SOURCE Program, which provides organizational assessment, training, and technical assistance aimed at strengthening nonprofit organizations’ ability to deliver on their mission and improve operational efficiency. As the SOURCE Program Champion for Hope For Cancer Kids, Bella led her organization in setting up the policies, systems and processes, moving the organization forward with stronger programs and more efficiency than it had before. 

Our team had the pleasure of working with Bella on other projects, including a cancer advocacy workshop co-organized by the Kenyan Network of Cancer Organizations and the American Cancer Society last March. Bella’s enthusiasm was unforgettable. Her contributions were always well articulated and thoughtful, and she always had a clear vision of how to proceed from an idea to implementation.

“Bella was a force for good within the Kenyan cancer community and the SOURCE Program,” said Sally Cowal, SVP, global cancer control. “Her warm, dedicated spirit will be sorely missed, but I know her legacy of compassion for children with cancer will be felt each and every day.”

Bella’s gentle, calm spirit, and infectious smile endeared her to pediatric cancer patients, and she treated each patient as if they were members of her own family. Her loss will not only be felt at Hope For Cancer Kids, but within the wider cancer community. Many of Bella’s colleagues have shared their memories of her. We are including them below, so that her memory will continue to live in the years to come.

  • "Bella is a friend I met at SOURCE but she became more than a friend. Yesterday I was talking to an oncologist in in a remote regional hospital. I told her Bella had passed on and she almost collapsed on the other end of the phone. I had introduced her to Bella about a year ago when she was having problems with kids whose parents cannot pay medical bills. She knew of how long Bella spent daily talking to the kids and their caregivers. The doctor could not believe we're mourning someone she knows so well through her work, but had never met in person. Shine on, Bella." - Josephine Sitawa, SOURCE Program Champion, Breast Cancer Kenya
  • "Bella was never loud in meetings. She had a gentle, quiet, calm spirit and the most infectious big smile that made her eyes sparkle. Her passion for nutritional therapy in immune-suppressed patients was so real. She came alive and was very vibrant while discussing nutrition and anything to do with kids. I will never forget her ever-present help when patients were dealing with national health insurance registration. I will miss her greatly." - Elizabeth Mbuthia, SOURCE Program Champion, Women for Cancer Early Detection and Treatment
  • "I am still in the denial phase of mourning. Being a focused and hard-working champion, she always reminded me of assignments I needed to work on, meetings we needed to attend. I had a challenge with my tracker and she helped me with a smile. She was ambitious, hardworking and always smiling." - Dr. Asaph Kinyanjui, SOURCE Program Champion, Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA)
  • "The way Bella kept us aware of all H4CK events was amazing. It showed how passionate she was about what she did.  Her compassion for kids with cancer spoke loudly for someone with a quiet and humble spirit. May God raise another champion to continue the cause and keep the fire burning." - Petronilla Maina, SOURCE Champion, Hope Beyond Cancer Trust
  • "Bella was a great advocate for children diagnosed with childhood cancers. She worked tirelessly and gave completely of herself, on a voluntary basis with no salary to ensure every child she came across that had cancer was enrolled into the National Health Insurance Fund and into Kenyatta hospital for treatment. She followed up with the families as if the children were her own to ensure the kids got access to quality treatment and care. A very young girl with the biggest heart in the world." - Jessica Kilonzo, Steps Ahead Consulting (SOURCE Program Implementing Partner)
  • "Bella, you were a charismatic young lady who was dedicated to her work, full of compassion for the children you worked with and their families.  You were stubborn and made sure you got what you wanted for children suffering from cancer; you tirelessly extended your love to them. Bella, you will be missed by many, your smile will forever remain with us. Your legacy lives forever. Rest in peace our dear friend." - Dr. Zipporah Ali, MD, Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association

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