Parish Project 2006
Becca's Letter from Uganda
August 2006 - The Importance of Play
In recent months various people from the UK have kindly donated toys to the hospital. I would like to thank you for these and for your prayers. I thought it’d be nice to give you a broader view of how toys are being used here and how play therapy is developing.
We continue to try and spend an hour each day playing with the children on the Paediatric ward who are no longer acutely ill, but are still recovering. News of play therapy has spread though and we often get kids coming from other parts of the hospital including quite a few children from about 5-14 who are in hospital to attend to their relatives. This means that instead of going to school and playing like we’d expect them to do at their age, they are cooking, cleaning clothes, emptying out catheters, looking after babies etc – so I think it’s only fair that they get some fun too.
In many ways play therapy is aimed at the malnourished children. Play is a main component in the treatment of these children. This was not being done before but, having seen the success of daily play sessions, initially 3, and now all 5 of the nurses working with the malnourished children want to be part of it.
The malnourished children are often in hospital for long, long periods of time and receive very little stimulation. They can often develop developmental delays. On top of this children with disabilities are often more prone to becoming malnourished. It’s amazing to work with these children. At first they generally just watch and don’t participate much, or are too tired to be able to participate, but after a session or two with a lot of attention given, they start joining in little by little and smiling, and then you can’t stop them, they’re the first ones there and they love it. Each session is different depending on which children are there – but we’ve got a great bunch of kids at the moment, their eyes light up when we come onto the ward.
It’s great to see the children’s excitement as we arrive and now the kids have got used to us they often run to get the toys they like. Of course, we do get the kids crying when we leave and take the toys away, but this usually stops when they realise that we’ll be back again tomorrow. We provide the kids a time of fun with toys that they just don’t have - most kids don’t even have a teddy. Sometimes the toys go missing, about half the time we find them again; this is hard as we do try to trust people, but it’s little different from the UK where toys are taken from doctors’ waiting rooms too.
We don’t use any soft toys in the play therapy and to prevent the spread of infection we wash the toys daily between each session. However we do use soft toys to give to children to keep. This is really helpful as, if we are doing physio with a specific child, we can give them a toy that they can continue to use to help the parents carry out the physio when we are not there. We also use them to give to children who have gone through really difficult things for example:
- Helen is a 9 year old girl with sickle cell anaemia. When I first saw this girl the doctors were all surprised that she had survived. She presented as someone who had suffered from a stroke and was unable to sit without support. By the time she left hospital she’d made incredible progress and left us being able to walk. Unfortunately due to her disease, she will die young and quite possibly could suffer from a stroke again.
- Janet was a really sweet 12 year old girl. She had typhoid and had to undergo 2 major operations. Unfortunately she was severely anaemic and the disease continued to affect her gut. She sadly did not survive. However after her first operation we were able to give her a cuddly rabbit, much to her delight, and she often would play with if or cuddle it.
So thanks again
- Please continue to pray for the involvement and training of the nurses – we’re really seeing them getting excited and joining in, which is great. Please pray that this continues
- Please pray particularly for the malnourished children at the moment. The hospital has a dairy, which provides milk for the children - a really important part of their treatment. Unfortunately the cows have got a virus at the moment so no milk is being provided but, praise God, they’ve found another source of milk and someone to pay for it for the next week or two. But please also pray that our herd will recover quickly.
- Our paediatric consultant has not been around very much lately as his mother is very ill. This is a great loss for the hospital as he is such a great doctor, gentle, kind, caring and has an incredible amount of knowledge. Please pray especially for him and his mother and also for the hospital and children as they continue without him.