Wednesday was another volunteering day. I met Jen and Kym at Sarah Fox Children’s Convalescent Hospital in Athlone. The stated objective is “to provide expert nursing and medical care in a homely and loving environment for children and infants who are recovering from acute medical and surgical conditions…these children are unable to return to their own homes for social or medical reasons.” That last part seems to be the key…it feels more like a medical foster home than a hospital. And the conditions seem more chronic than acute. Parents aren’t really around, so Kym and Jen (& other workers and volunteers) are so important in providing the TLC all the little sweethearts there need.
Jen and Kym are stationed in the baby room, and as the pictures show, they are very happy there and are making a big impact. The main conditions treated at the hospital are TB, HIV, and kwashiorkor & marasmus (i.e., diseases subsequent to malnutrition). I saw a baby this morning that looked like fetal alcohol effects might be present too. You’ll have to ask Kym and Jen to tell you about the babies’ personalities and who their favorites are (it happens…Kym is holding Tyana and Jen is holding Phelokazi). In my short two hours there this morning, I grew quite fond of Fatima, who was born July 5, 2011…I think the feeling was mutual.
The babies are delayed in their growth, motor skills, language, etc. As I sat there, I wondered who they are able to form attachments with and how this is affecting their emotional development. I often reflected on our daughter’s orphanage in China and the similarities…not much crying despite a room full of babies, very basic facilities, “staff” as caregivers. They are safe and looked after, but it is far from an ideal or even a “normal” setting that babies deserve. It was sad and happy all at the same time…bittersweet, I guess.
We have talked in class about having the mindset of what can I do at this time for this one. I truly observed that being lived out at Sarah Fox with every peek-a-boo game played, every dropped toy retrieved, every nappy changed, every nose wiped, every smile shared, every hug given. All six of these young women are doing great things – you would be as proud of them as I am if you were here and saw them in action!