A large heart to aid little ones fuels Golden Butterflies

 This 58-year-old dedicates her life to raising awareness on kids’ palliative care

Published: 25th September 2022 05:31 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th September 2022 05:31 AM   |  A+A-

58-year-old Stella Matthew founded Golden Butterflies NGO | R Satish Babu

Express News Service

CHENNAI: The children in Golden Butterflies listen with rapt attention as a 14-year-old girl shares her struggles and stories of several cycles of chemotherapy in her victorious fight against cancer. The word ‘grit’ flits in the mind of Stella Matthew and lingers. After all, this brave girl and the other youngsters in the room are among the many that Stella helps battle daunting conditions. 

For the past four years, the 58-year-old Bengaluru native — now a resident of Chennai — has dedicated her life to serving underprivileged children suffering from chronic, advanced or incurable diseases. She was first introduced to social work during her school days through a programme called ‘Young Youth Movement’, where students would help run errands for the elderly.

The seeds of philanthropy sunk deeper in her mind as she watched her mother, a trainer for family planning. The constant inner call to do good for society led Stella to quit her well-paying profession in the hospitality industry and become a grief counsellor.

After being involved in social work for more than 30 years, Stella wanted to start something on her own. “I wanted to foray into something that many people did not touch upon. After consulting with social workers in the city, I found gaps in paediatric palliative care.”

In February 2018, the urge to fill in these gaps led to the formation of Golden Butterflies NGO. The organisation actively supports young patients and provides financial help to caregivers in Chennai, surrounding districts, and India. “I aim to raise awareness about children’s palliative care in the healthcare sector and society,” Stella explains.

The organisation’s ‘GB-Hear For You Programme,’ that provides counselling to patients and families along with a bi-monthly caregiver support programme, changed the lives of many little patients. The NGO also conducts art recreational activities, and provides non-formal education to patients and their siblings. Stella is also an ardent advocate of child palliative care among the general public and provides free training workshops for college students, nurses and doctors.

Quoting estimates from medical journal The Lancet, she says, “Around 2.5 million children with palliative conditions die every year worldwide without getting proper care, of which 98% are from developing countries. Kids with life-limiting and life-threatening diseases like HIV/AIDS or severe cerebral palsy have evolving medical, psychological, financial, social, spiritual needs.”

Despite the suffering, it is the grit of patients that constantly surprises the counsellor. “We had a 7-year-old girl who had acute leukaemia, and her condition was terminal. She was with us for four months before she passed away, but the smile and glow on her face were infectious. She would constantly ask the nurses to take care of her sister once she is gone,” the social worker tears up.

As little patients navigate the confusing realm of their illness, Stella firmly believes they need love, laughter, acceptance,  to help them cope. Their families, who put up brave faces, also need support. Golden Butterflies welcomes them with open arms, and continues to provide a warm supportive space. 


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