Of all the children we have worked with, the ones we met on Wednesday touched us most deeply.
We forget, sometimes as adults who read, how much we use books to escape. When times are hard, we reach for a book. Books and stories give us another place to go when the place we are in becomes unbearable for a while.
We began with a book set to be an absolute favourite with all children – ‘Don’t open this book!’ by Andy Lee. It appeals to the sense of humour all children share just because it is so opposite to the message they expect to hear. (And leads naturally to the message they were anticipating!)
Primrose led some very gentle introductory activities where the children had a chance to speak about what animal they would be (everything from a leopard to a butterfly) and what they would do if they were (run free, fly free).
A natural follow-on seemed to be ‘Fly Eagle, fly,’ by Christopher Gregorowski, which was listened to and absorbed with great attention. Primrose read a story in Zulu emphasising the importance of the illustrations and the beautiful sounds a language makes, even when it is not the one you speak at home.
Another favourite book, ‘In my heart’, by Jo Witek, was shared and discussed. This book, subtitled ‘a book of feelings’ shows cut-out hearts in different shapes and colours that encourage free discussion of the way children feel on different days.
We left with a deep and absolute admiration for the teachers and medical staff who work with our hurt, ill and injured children, humbled by the dedication it takes to confront such suffering and wishing we could do more to help. We can.
The school already has a CBN toolbox, kindly donated by Rotary Newlands and we (Primrose Mrwebi and Lesley Beake) gave a workshop on using the box to the staff there during October. Would we, they asked, be prepared to give another – to the children this time?
Wednesday was, we hope, the beginning of a partnership. We are already looking for other ways of reaching out to the children in the school – all of them there with serious conditions that require long stays in hospital. If any child needs books, they do.