The healing power of play on Filipino children with cancer

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A child needs as much caring and play there are in the world. No matter how big or small a gesture can be, children acknowledge what a sincere person can offer.

According to a journal based on the Importance of Play During Hospitalization of Children, published by the US National Library of Medicine, play either in the form of therapeutic play, or as in the form of play therapy, is proven to be of high therapeutic value for ill children, thus, contributing to both their physical and emotional well-being and to their recovery.

Play therapy has been considered as one of the means that assist the child’s acceptance of his/her disease, encouraging them to freely express anxiety, work through feelings, and possibly achieve a sense of mastery or control over frightening situations.

Moreover, this type of therapy diminishes a child’s tendency to have negative feelings about their hospitalization because they’re occupied with something else.

A study conducted by international doctor Amjed Abojedi, known for his research design and statistical analysis, suggested play techniques that further strengthen the well-being of children with cancer.

Visual Arts: Painting, drawing, sculpture objects, masks and dolls. These techniques enable children to express their conscious and unconscious concerns about their disease.

Structured art therapy: Asking the child to draw specific themes, such as the “color-feeling wheel”.

The structured aspect of these drawings allows interpretation of the drawings within the context of the individual’s reality.

Visual imagery: The child may be asked to imagine being in a favorite room or place, in a flower garden, watching some kind of sport activity, or animals, TV or movies (pain management).

Writing: A form of therapy that lets the patients tell stories through poetry, personal memoires, testimonials, or diaries. This provides emotional relief, a sense of control and freedom.

Life map drawing: To understand the fears and concerns that the child experienced in the past or in current time.

Storytelling: For chemotherapy preparation, and giving information about chemotherapy session, discussing the changes that will happen after that.

Meanwhile, here in the Philippines, a foundation that advocates psychosocial health of sick children also believes in the importance of play. Kythe Foundation is a Philippine-based nonstock, nonprofit organization founded by Maria Carmen Castro and Maria Fatima Garcia-Lorenzo, two Psychology graduate students from Ateneo de Manila University in 1992. Both share the passion for sharing and belief in togetherness as instruments for healing and growth.

The birth of Kythe’s flagship “Child Life Program” in 2003 promoted change by advocating “psychosocial health as part of the holistic care”. Their efforts were recognized with the elusive People Power Award from former President Corazon Aquino.

Ten years later Kythe levelled up with an evidence-based practice through their study, titled “Addressing the Psychosocial Needs of the Hospitalized Child: The Role of the Child Life Program”. This had observed that there was a decrease in anxiety among children who underwent the program.

“Make Room”, the most recent campaign of the Kythe Foundation in collaboration with EON, is an that tackles the significant role of a lending hand to someone in need.

On August 25 Kythe and EON gathered friends from the media and volunteers to immerse and play with their child beneficiaries at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center in Quezon City.

“This program was designed to uplift the spirits of the children by providing moral and emotional support,” said Fatima Garcia-Lorenzo, cofounder of Kythe. “To the kids, the hospital isn’t just a place to heal, but also to play, learn, love and grow.”

The afternoon was filled with storytelling and fun activities, bringing parents, their children and the guests closer together. The exercising of play and drawing became important parts evident in the children’s responses.

Kythe also guides families by informing them about basic access to medicine and treatment, and providing counseling and bereavement support.

Interested volunteers will be entertained by simply sending an e-mail to info@kythe.org or sign up on their web site, kythe.org.



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