Two voices amid a chorus of hope for kids with cancer

The voices of Xander and Emma can be heard in a new song titled We Are One. They are among more than 900,000 children who have recorded the chorus of the song, which was released on International Childhood Cancer Day on Feb 15.
The voices of Xander and Emma can be heard in a new song titled We Are One. They are among more than 900,000 children who have recorded the chorus of the song, which was released on International Childhood Cancer Day on Feb 15.PHOTO: CHILDREN'S CANCER FOUNDATION

Singapore duo part of global song project aimed at raising awareness of childhood cancer

Wearing matching blue uniforms and sharing an earpiece, Emma Tatyana Mohamed Rashied, eight, and Joseph Lord Xander Marques Dizon IV, 12, sat side by side in front of a webcam at their school last month, excited about a recording they were about to make.

The voices of Emma and Xander can now be heard in a new song called We Are One, written by Christophe Beck, the composer of the Disney hit song Frozen.

Dedicated to all children battling cancer, the song is part of the Child4Child project, a global initiative by Childhood Cancer International to raise awareness of childhood cancer. The Singapore duo had volunteered to sing. More than 900,000 children have sung and recorded the chorus of the song, which was released on International Childhood Cancer Day on Feb 15.

"I feel happy taking part in this project with children all around the world," said Emma, a Singaporean who was diagnosed with thoracic intra medullary spinal cord tumour last year and is undergoing treatment.

Xander, a Singapore permanent resident who was diagnosed with Burkitt's leukaemia last year and has been in remission for 10 months, said: "The lyrics are meaningful and tell children with cancer who are undergoing chemotherapy that we are one and not alone, and this gives me much strength."

International Childhood Cancer Day is different this year as the song is a global collaboration, said Ms Tan Lay Eng, senior executive of communications at the Children's Cancer Foundation (CCF), a Singapore voluntary welfare organisation.

Around 200 children are diagnosed with cancer in Singapore every year. The most common cancers are leukaemia and tumours affecting the central nervous system.

Events organised over the years to commemorate the day were on a national scale, including a flash mob and an art exhibition held at KK Women's and Children's and National University hospitals.

Ms Tan said: "Singing the song added a personal touch to the campaign and using social media allowed us to reach out to a greater audience."

The song is available on YouTube and can be downloaded from music streaming platforms Spotify, iTunes, SoundCloud and Deezer.

Emma's mother, who wanted to be known only as Farlinah and declined to give her age and occupation, said: "I've always encouraged Emma to speak her mind. This project has given her a voice to inspire other children who are going through a very difficult challenge, one they do not quite understand."

Both children cannot attend mainstream schools because their immune systems have been weakened by chemotherapy. They are being educated through a CCF programme, Place for Academic Learning & Support, which helps kids with cancer reintegrate into mainstream schools after treatment.

Despite facing these challenges at a tender age, the children and their families are optimistic.

Said Xander: "Recording the song has made me more confident and I hope to encourage other children with the same condition as me."

Correction note: An earlier version of this article stated that Emma and Xander are both Singapore permanent residents. Emma is in fact a Singaporean while Xander is a PR.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2016, with the headline 'Two voices amid a chorus of hope for kids with cancer'. Print Edition | Subscribe