By Gabriel Urgoiti
It always amazes me to hear children’s insight and understanding of issues that affect them. The problem is that adults seldom listen to what children have to say – and more often than not, they make assumptions about what the children need and what they want.
Sick children are no different. They have the right to know as much as possible about matters that affect them, to understand and to be involved with their illness and the health care provided to them. They need information about the hospital environment and what is expected; their health condition; diagnostic procedures and treatment options; possible outcomes of these treatments; degree of likely pain and discomfort, and above all to be able to ask questions and be reassured of the support and care they will receive from their parents, caregivers and health workers.
It is for this reason that Children’s Radio at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital (RXH) is being established. Imagine a radio mainly run by the children in the hospital providing them with the opportunity to connect with other children by sharing opinions, asking questions, telling stories, sharing entertainment and creating vibrant networks. These are just some of the opportunities to be gained.
Qaqamba and the author in the hospital classroom.
You already know the children who took part in the inaugural hospital workshop – Qaqamba (9) Mujahid (7) Kauther (8), Iyad (9) and Nonkhanyiso (15). All are veterans of RXH. They have experienced a lot in their young lives, from accidents to chronic illnesses. Each of them has been admitted to the hospital many times and continues to return for treatment and check-ups.
Our workshop took place each morning from 10:00 to 12:30 in the small hospital primary school on E Floor. Here we worked every day. However we had to be very flexible to accommodate the different needs of each child such as medical follow-ups, changing oxygen tubes, going for chemotherapy, taking medicines, getting injections and changing tracheotomy tubes.
Working on self portraits.
The first five days included a variety of activities such as drawing and painting, listening and talking, games and story telling. Each child developed a “life book” where they drew or painted self-portraits, as well as depicting important people in their life, the things they like and dislike doing, and ‘a day in my life’ in hospital. They also mapped the hospital by walking around and describing the areas of the hospital they knew well.
These processes helped to develop the necessary trust, team spirit and life skills to help the children to begin sharing their stories. Early during the workshop we introduced the audio equipment so that the children could familiarize themselves with the technical aspects of recording sound.
During the last five days the children focused on developing their stories that later become their radio programmes. They looked at their life books to remind themselves of their stories and decided what they wanted to tell and whom they wanted to interview.
Fun and games: Mujahid, Qaqamba & Kauther.
As a team we had a rewarding time with lots of fun. We managed to learn a lot and also to open ourselves up and to share experiences. We all became good friends and I believe that the learning and the laughing opportunities also contributed to the healing process.
Feedback Session: Mujahid (foreground) and Qaqamba listen back to their finished programmes.
On Saturday January 24, we invited the children, their parents and caregivers to listen to the radio programmes and to view all the photos that were taken during the workshop. It was a very special moment. Looking at the faces and body language of the children and their parents while they listened to the programmes was deeply rewarding. A good few tears were shed by those in the room.
In reflecting on the workshop and the objectives we set ourselves, we are confident that RXH radio can make a big impact on healthcare workers, hospital managements, parents and of course children themselves. Listen for yourself to the voices of our five ‘reporters’ and see what you think.