For you are a Kenyan Child   2 comments

 

Before leaving for Kenya, my mother Donata Lux gave me a children’s book by Kelly Cunnane entitled “For you are a Kenyan Child”.  She thought I might find someone in Kenya who would like to have it.  I flipped through the story and while it was a nice book, I didn’t put much thought into it at the time.  I decided to slide it into my luggage at the last minute.

One of the first places I visited in Moi Hospital was the Sally Test Center for Children.  The center is run by Sarah Ellen Mamlin and is made possible by financial support from a close friend of Sarah Ellen’s named Sally Test.  The center is a wonderful oasis of happiness in the otherwise dreary pediatric wards.  Children who are well enough to join in group activities come to the center every day for teaching sessions, games, songs, food, and an escape from their treatments for a short while.  The staff of the Sally Test Center also help care for children who are orphaned or abandoned by their parents by searching for long term placement.  Even children who cannot leave their beds benefit from the center.  The staff pushes a toy cart down the halls of the wards daily loaning toys and books to the sick children.  I realized that while my mother had never heard of the Sally Test Center, she had sent the book for them.

I spoke with Sarah Ellen and her assistants Patricia and Helen about a possible project to help bring the book to life for the children.  The book, “For you are a Kenyan Child”, repeats the title phrase after describing a typical activity in the life of a Kenyan child.  There are few books specifically about Kenyans and seeing a story about their lives can be empowering for these sick children.  Many of the children we see in the hospital have little or no concept of the world outside of their town or village.  None of them had heard of Indiana (one child thought it was in Japan) although they had all heard of the United States.  I sent a message to my elementary school art teacher and family friend Ruth Simmons who eagerly accepted the challenge to start a collaboration between her children at Mary Castle Elementary School and the Children of Sally Test.  All of the pieces were in place.

Blank pieces of paper were prepared with short phrases written on them leaving room for the children to add something specific to their lives.  A favorite food.  A game they play with their friends.  A family chore.  The children would then color an illustration for their page that could now be added to their books.  Each child was photographed with their work of art and the images were sent electronically between the two groups of children.  The tag lines read either, “For you are a Kenyan Child” or “For you are a Hoosier Child”.

   
The Children of the Sally Test Center

The Children of Mary Castle Elemen
tary

Children in both Indiana and Eldoret learned a great deal about each other that made them unique but also much that they had in common.  Hoosiers had never heard of uji for breakfast or washed cows to help their families.  Kenyans did not know what a pop tart was or how to play baseball.  Both liked pancakes, although Kenyans call them chapati.  Both liked soccer and swing sets.  Both now had a connection to children half way around the world and knew a bit more about them then they did before.  The pages in Kenya were collected and added to the back of their copy of the book.  The hope is that this project will be repeated in the future as new children enter the Sally Test Center and Ruth Simmons’ art class.

The activities in the Sally Test Center are more than just distractions from time on the wards.  The center is more than day care.  On many occasions on rounds, a child that was struggling with their illness and seemingly losing hope would come join in the play or singing and a new strength would be rekindled in them.  You can see it in their eyes.  This is as much a treatment as anything we prescribe in their charts.

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2 responses to “For you are a Kenyan Child

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  1. What a great project, Dr. Lux! Let\’s hope that it continues in the future.

  2. You once again bring tears to my eyes. So glad you are there and so glad you are sharing!

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