By Jomanah Altajali
A wise man by the name of Albus Dumbledore once said, “Though we may come from different countries and speak in different tongues, our hearts beat as one”
KACCH (Kuwait Association for Care of Children in Hospital) is an organization in which people – regardless of their gender, religious beliefs, and ethnicity – come together to help brighten up the days of hospitalized children, children who awaken to that numbing hospital smell, and are sentenced to daily checkups and close scrutiny. We, the members of KACCH, make it our mission to add color to the dreary childhood that they have been subjected to. We make a silent oath to always keep our word and open our hearts. We believe in making every child feel needed, wanted, and worthy.
Being a KACCH member means volunteering our time to engage in playful activities with the children. Whether this means building blocks or doing jigsaw puzzles, we are willing to do whatever puts a smile on their faces. Once, I brought out a box of paints and the little boy I was with pointed at my face rather than the paper canvas; next thing you know, he was Da Vinci and I was his Mona Lisa, but more colorful, with a green moustache and an open lipped smile. That kid was the quietest one in the room before I finally got through to him. When the first set of teeth started to peek at me, eventually forming a smile, I felt on top of the world. I truly felt what it meant to be alive and measure time by memory rather than days; I felt that I had a purpose other than seeing to my own needs and accomplishing goals with the mindset of only seeking self gain.
So how does finger-painting or playing dress up effect the child? Through my experience, I‘ve noticed that their steps turn from gloomy drag into lively bounce, as if a huge burden has been taken off their tiny shoulders. These children dread the minute they have to speak to the man dressed in white wearing the shiny tag with “Doctor” on his chest. The kids will look forward to play time so much that they will tolerate their checkups better than the ones pre-play. Being a KACCH member makes you a big deal to the children and their parents. You are a huge, bright part of their lives and the children look forward to your coming and playing with them. True happiness is usually etched upon their little faces.
Most parents are extremely pleased and grateful for a KACCH member’s presence around their kids. Unlike the parents of many healthy children, these parents don’t have the luxury to spend all of their available time with their child – so a KACCH member is there, ready and willing to fill that empty spot when the parents might be at work or are otherwise unable to spend visiting hours with their child. The children we play with see us as role models, observing our actions and learning from them. They use a KACCH member’s character as guidelines to their own personalities. The children’s progress during each playtime session is gradual, but tangible. Every session they tend to open up more and more, and even if they don’t just spread their wings and turn into a social butterfly, there is still ongoing improvement. We know that some kids are just naturally shy and soft-spoken, so no session is considered wasted, even if the child is still quiet afterwards.
KACCH is great for both the volunteer and the patient, for it marks both with a beautiful tattoo as a reminder of their time together. KACCH members change the lives of children. That may be a powerful statement, but it is one that I am willing to make with unwavering confidence. Without the presence of a KACCH member in the children’s lives, their outlook on the world would most likely be bleak and tedious, for there wouldn’t be anyone to show them that there truly is some good out there. So I urge anyone, from tentative to sure, who is driven towards making a difference, to join us at KACCH – try one session, and give these kids a shot, you will not be disappointed.