“Children with cancer are like candles in the wind who accept the possibility that they are in danger of being extinguished by a gust of wind from nowhere. And yet, as they flicker and dance to remain alive, their brilliance challenges the darkness and dazzles those of us who watch their light.” – Author Unknown.
This quote embodies the sentiment of those who had visited the Children’s Home of Hope late Thursday afternoon of 15 August 2019.
Four members of the 2019 Chariofare committee and 2 student volunteers, together with the Associate Dean of IMU Community Engagement, Prof Khoo Suan Phaik attended the Therapeutic Play session conducted at the Children’s Home of Hope, a beneficiary of the funds raised from the annual Chariofare event. As a half-way home for children receiving oncology treatment, the Children’s Home of Hope provides free accommodation for paediatric cancer patients as well as their caregiver(s) travelling from outside of Kuala Lumpur. The home is run by the National Cancer Society Malaysia (NCSM) which is the first non-profit cancer organisation in Malaysia that empower, educate and support those affected by cancer.
The Therapeutic Play sessions, conducted by a certified play therapist, are modeled to facilitate the exploration of both external and internal worlds by the children, in hopes to unlock their skills in various areas. The mediums used in the children’s play, such as sand, figurines, puppets, musical instruments and art materials, are utilised to overcome the children’s difficulty in conveying complex ideas and emotions verbally.
Seetha, the Play Therapist of NCSM notes that play therapy is important for children to re-enact their experiences through play. In her experience, she noticed that the children of Children’s Home of Hope loved to use the arts and craft medium in their sessions. The outcome from this type of medium play had been positive as the children would open up to chat about their art and eventually, reveal their suppressed emotions. The play also fired the children’s imagination as they begin to create stories with the characters painted –ultimately, enhancing their confidence and mental well-being. As the mid-August rain pelts down onto the windows, our IMU students brought with them art materials to join in the play session by crafting superhero capes with the children. White linen sheets were laid out for the children to design their own capes while the visiting Chariofare members explained that the capes created would symbolise how anyone can wear the cape and be their own superhero. The activity was aimed at demonstrating to the children that they are not defined or limited by their ailment.
|Lucas Ho Chee Jin, the president of Chariofare 2019 shared,|
|“One of the kids I interacted with was in remission for leukemia. People with his condition are generally weak and lethargic but he remained energetic and playful. It was heart-warming to witness his strength and unwavering spirit. Another thing that stood out for me was that the mere presence of our company and some toys were sufficient to make him happy and excited. This got me to empathize with the children’s struggles. I now understand that their illness deprives them of the freedom to play and leisure that children at their age would otherwise have access to.”|
That afternoon, time stood still for everyone involved in the play. They learned that sometimes, real superheroes live in the hearts of small children fighting big battles. There is also a divine irony in the encounter; in finding the children, our IMU students and staff found their best and truest selves. The Children’s Home of Hope has granted internship opportunities for our IMU students. With appreciation to their altruistic movement and gracious welcome, IMU Community Engagement reached out to support their needs for art and craft supplies with a heartfelt donation.
Written by Dr Goh Ni Kol and reviewed by Prof Khoo Suan Phaik.