Hospitals can seem unfriendly and even frightening to children. As the treatment of childhood cancer is a lengthy process and requires regular attendance at hospitals, children and their parents spend a substantial amount of time in the ward. CHOC aims to make treatment centres more child friendly and welcoming and uses trained, dedicated volunteers to organised structured play with children, talk to parents and occasionally assist professional staff. The ward comforts and facilities programme comprises:
MAINTENANCE, REFURBISHMENT & DECORATION
The wards in the state-funded academic hospitals can seem clinical and unfriendly places. CHOC endeavours to make the wards more welcoming to children and their families through colourful and cheerful décor. These efforts contribute towards children feeling more at home during the difficult and often painful periods of treatment.
TELEVISIONS, GAMES & TOYS
Keeping a child stimulated and occupied during long periods when they are in hospital, either for treatment or due to not being well enough to go home, can be a challenge. Having a variety of appropriate activities such as toys, games, televisions and DVD players available substantially alleviates boredom and stimulates children educationally. CHOC staff and volunteers ensure that children have access to age-appropriate recreational activities and items suitable to their condition (they may be confined to bed or have a drip installed) and that equipment is maintained and replaced when necessary.
Parents often spend long periods in hospital with their children and it is preferable that they are able to continue with many of their parenting roles and maintain a semblance of normal life. In some instances for example, children may not feel like eating hospital food and their parents may prefer to prepare their favourite meals. CHOC provides basic cooking/kitchen facilities in the hospitals. Such comforts often include a laundry, rest/relaxation/discussion areas and comfortable chairs in wards. Parents are then better able to provide for their children’s special needs and relax in reasonable comfort at hospitals as well as meet with other parents of children with cancer.
VOLUNTEER PROGRAMME IN HOSPITALS
The Medical staff in treatment centres in South Africa is largely under-resourced and work under pressure. They have little time to sit with the children to occupy, stimulate or entertain them. CHOC provides carefully selected and trained volunteers who fill this role and are able to spend quality time with young cancer patients as well as to interact with their parents. In this way, the volunteers are able to take the load off professional staff. There are established processes for the recruitment, training and support of volunteers so that they are fully equipped to cope with the difficult role of supporting children and parents during treatment.