Monday, October 12, 2009

Upopolis-An inspiring online social network for sick kids

Written by Adam Kertesz

Move over, Facebook.

I came across this inspiring story this weekend and I felt I had to share it with you. The article can be found here, but I'll give you the short version of it.

A few years ago, Christina Papaevangelou, now 23, tragically lost her close friend Katy to cancer. Throughout Katy's long stay at Toronto's Sick Kids Hospital, Katy became very disconnected from her world- losing contact with her friends, family, and school mates. She repeatedly experessed her wish for a laptop so she can remain in contact with everyone- especially once she became too ill to walk to the computer room in the hospital.

Katy lost her battle in 2004, and Christina and her father, wanting to give back, thought the solution was easy- set up a fund that will help provide laptops to child patients in the hospital. Not so fast, they were told, as " children's hospitals can't offer open wireless access to the Internet because there are fears of cyberpredators and concerns the kids would be accessing inappropriate material. "

"Those two explanations lit my fire," recalls [Basile] Papaevangelou, who co-founded Kids Health Links Foundation with [daughter]Christina in 2004.

Fast forward to today. With the help of Telus, and donated laptops by Toshiba Canada, was born.

According to the info on the site's home page:

Upopolis™ is a private social utility that connects young hospital patients to their family, friends and school network .

Kids can use Upopolis to:
-Build a profile, create a blog and stay in touch with people they know
-Learn more about their conditions and treatment with kid-friendly medical information
-Keep up with schoolwork while they’re away from class
-Look up kids around them in hospital and share their experiences

According to the article, "the network is safe and secure because only children registered with the hospital can use it and only the contacts they've invited can communicate with them through Upopolis."

It's a truly incredible and inspiring story of two individuals who wanted to give back in a way that went beyond simply sending money and often not having any idea where that money is going. Upopolis is currently up and running in children's hospitals in Vancouver, Halifax and Ottawa and it will launch at Toronto's Sick Kids Hospital on December 9th. One of the planned features in the future includes a web cam that will allow the child to follow their teachers in a virtual classroom, right from their hospital bed!

I hope this inspiring story put a smile on your face on a weekend that is all about being grateful, and giving back.

1 comment:

  1. Seeing Upopolis grow and spread across Canada always brings a smile to my face. Seeing it come home to roost at Sick Kids is even more special.
    Glad to read that the story behind and the reality of Upopolis is inspiring you to share the story.
    Warm regards,
    Glyn Ganong (Katy's Mom)


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