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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Back to life

Back to Life is a Social Action Project started by young Active Citizens from Lahore. And they could not have chosen a more apt title for the project. This group of young individuals chose to work in an area that is often overlooked by others: young children suffering from various stages of cancer. It takes a certain amount of empathy to think about and feel for ill children – tucked away in some ward of a hospital, out of sight, but not out of reach.

The young people who decided to work with these children are mostly students or young professionals. But they decided to take time out from their busy schedules and break their normal routines because they felt that children are important…and unoriginal as it may sound, the truth is that children are the future – suffering from a terminal disease or not.

The Children’s Hospital in Lahore has an entire wing dedicated to an oncology ward which is divided into sections corresponding roughly to the ages of the children that it houses. The group of young people wanted to cheer up these children and replace their boredom with fun and educational activities – what one group member, Usman refers to as ‘Edutainment’ – a combination of education and entertainment; and so they decided to tailor their activities according to the ages of the children.

For the younger children the group plays cartoons and animated films that are projected on the walls of their ward. According to another group member the children wait all week for the weekend when they get to watch cartoons, and laugh, applaud, and cheer together. For these children the group members were able to secure colouring books and colouring pencils free of cost from different NGOs as well.

The older, more mature children proved to be more of a challenge for the group, but they were able to capture their attention through regular visits. The group members not only tutor the kids in material that other children their age learn in school, but do it in such a fun and engaging manner that a bond has formed between them.

The connections that these young Active Citizens and hospitalized children have formed also has a down side: the group members have to accept the fact that the children they are working with are being treated for different forms of cancer – which is a potentially fatal disease. According to one member of the group sometimes they come to the hospital only to find out that a child has passed away; this can be a jarring lesson in the facts of life for the sick and healthy alike. But what keeps them going is the knowledge that for however short a time they have succeeded in bringing joy and laughter in the life of a child.

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