Holly Sands meets one Dubai mum who decided to use her tragic loss to help others
Every parent fears losing their child. Even worse is the feeling of utter helplessness when you know your child is dying, and there is nothing you can do to prevent it. Dubai resident and mother Candice Watson knows the anguish all too well, having lost her much-loved daughter, Tiana, in May 2006. But rather than become resigned to despair, Candice decided to set up a charity in her daughter’s name. The Tiana Honey Watson Fund promotes research into rare metabolic disorders, including the mitochondria disorder complex 1 that Tiana developed, for which this is currently no cure or treatment.
On Friday March 1, a black-tie dinner, dance and auction will be held in the gardens of the Grand Hyatt Dubai, hosted by Dubai One’s Tom Urquhart, as part of Candice’s continuing effort to raise awareness. The organisation helps kids around the world, whether by funding specialist hospital wings or giving a child with a terminal illness the chance to go on their dream holiday.
Born in 2003, Tiana was every bit the healthy baby her parents had hoped for until the age of six months, when Candice became concerned that her daughter wasn’t developing properly. Soon, due to the nature of the disorder’s impact on her muscles, she began to lose her grasp on the words and movements she had learned. ‘At the time, the disease wasn’t something that we knew a lot about, but now they’re putting about 70 percent of cot deaths down to it, and they’re linking it with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. I’d already started the charity before she died, when we found out what it was, and since then we’ve been doing events to help raise awareness.’ Candice was living at home in England when her daughter died, where the fund helped build a new wing in a children’s hospital. However, she believes the issue of raising awareness is even more important in Dubai. She has found only one medical professional specialising in metabolic disorders in the city, but many, many more parents of children who are afflicted. ‘There’s not really much said about it here – there are no charities for it – but I know there are children that have it.’
In time, she hopes to be able to reach out to enough families to set up a support group in the emirate, but for now she offers her support and shares her experiences with people who get in touch. ‘The condition isn’t so well-known here, so I want to increase awareness, and I want to be able to help those children. It’s a UK-based organisation, but we’re helping people all over the world.’
After losing Tiana, Candice found a reason to keep going in her son, Toby, who she describes as her anchor. ‘He went through all of that as well – he was so close to his sister – but I think it has made him stronger. He now wants to be a paediatric cardiologist.’ She has also since had a third child, a daughter, Jasmine, who she describes as ‘so strong-willed, she’s like me in a two-and-a-half-year-old’. But it’s a battle of wills she’s happy to have. ‘In my view, Tiana was so ill, I think someone “up there” said, “Do you know what? This one’s going to be as strong as they come,” and she is – she’s as strong as an ox.’ If you want to support the event, tickets for the T-Charmed Gala are Dhs850 for Time Out readers (mention this article when booking), or Dhs1,000 otherwise. Friday March 1, 6pm-11pm. Grand Hyatt Dubai, Oud Metha, www.tcharmed.org.uk, firstname.lastname@example.org (052 864 9368).
Children’s charities in Dubai
All 4 Down Syndrome A Dubai organisation that aims to support families of kids with DS, as well as raise awareness among the public and in schools, and bring care in the region up to an international standard. They need volunteers with skills in music, drama, dance and IT. www.all4downsyndrome.com
Riding for the Disabled This programme uses interaction with horses as a therapy for students with special needs, promoting physical, cognitive and emotional development. The organisation is constantly in need of volunteers –without them, the children are unable to ride. www.rdad.ae
The Little Wings Foundation An independent non-profit organisation dedicated to providing medical help to kids with musculoskeletal deformities in the Middle East and North Africa. Funding is essential to ensure the group can keep helping children. www.thelittlewingsfoundation.org