For the last few months we've averaged 60-70 kids on our pediatric service (including malnutrition and neonatology) and another 20+ kids on the surgery service on any given day. One thing I've lamented about the situation for these kids is that they didn't have any stimulating activities available to them. The kids with leg fractures, for example, stay in traction for 4-6 weeks. They feel pretty well but have nothing to do but lie in bed until their bones heal. And one consequence of severe malnutrition is apathy. The most malnourished kids just lie still with no interest or energy to interact with the world around them. Emotional and sensory stimulation (i.e. play therapy) is one of the necessary steps in the treatment plan for them recommended by the World Health Organization - arguably just as important as feeding them, keeping them warm, and treating their infections.
What I've always loved about children's hospitals is the way they go out of their way to make kids feel welcome and cared for. I remember being a 10 year old in the hospital myself and being amazed to find a playroom with so many crafts and toys and activities to help pass the long hours.
Well, I'm excited to announce that we now have Child Life at Kibuye!
Susan and Judith (in the above 2 pictures) visit the 6 different hospital rooms with pediatric patients every afternoon and spend hours going to each bedside to provide attention and care. They provide educational play for all ages, and the kids just light up when they enter the room. It's made my job easier as the patients are less afraid of foreigners now - even scary ones with stethoscopes! And the malnourished and orthopedic patients have especially benefitted from this special attention and love.
So what is "Child Life?" I'm happy to report that this description from the Boston Children's Hospital webpage actually describes what Judith and Susan are doing with our patients here in Burundi:
But, we have a special added component to our child life program that Boston Children's probably doesn't have. Because who understands child life better than children themselves?! The missionary kids regularly participate in coming to the hospital to play with the inpatients or give eggs to the kids in the outpatient malnutrition program. And of course all the patients and parents love to see them coming!
Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14