Imagine finding out a child in your family has cancer. Maybe you’ve been through it before, or you know someone who has-- cancer affects people everywhere. Now imagine you live in a remote village in Myanmar, living on only enough money for food and necessities and now you have to find a way to get your child treatment for a life-threatening disease. Unfortunately, for a lot of the families Art from the Heart met on our trip, they don’t have to imagine.
In Myanmar, there are only 2 places that treat children with cancer. According to worlchildcancer.org, of those who have access to the resources to get diagnosed, families have to travel an average of 11 hours to get to a hospital that will help them. And even of the families which make it to a hospital in either Mandalay or Yangon, many cannot afford to stay long enough for proper treatment due to the financial burden. Since the beginning of the year, it has been our mission to do something to help the children at Yangon Children’s Hospital.
To find out exactly what they needed, the Art from the Heart leadership team met with Dr. Myo, the head doctor at Yangon Children’s Hospital. She told us that they would most likely use donations for meals for the children and their families. Most of them struggle to pay for medical costs, so not worrying about meals would take a huge burden off their shoulders. It was noon. As Dr. Myo led us down the hallway, we passed what seemed to be a hundred parents lining up with plates to get their lunch for the day. Seeing the children sitting silently on their beds as they waited for their food was heartbreaking, some of them looking longingly out of windows. Dr. Myo explained to us how not all of them would even have the energy to get out of bed and play when we visited.
At the beginning of the semester, we set out immediately to begin fundraising, selling valentine’s cards in front of the lobby every lunch time for over a week. It seemed we were cutting up card paper and had members bringing in newly-made cards every day! There was no doubt, after all the lunch periods spent selling and the school nights spent painting cards and baking cookies that it was worth it—we made 2 lakh by February 14!
Our group decided to use some of the money to gift coloring books for the 60 patients in the cancer ward. That way, even the ones that couldn’t get out of bed would have something to do when we visited. There was no need for us to go out and buy coloring books—we had enough talented artists in our group to make our own! As some members worked on animal and cartoon sketches, the rest of the members continued to raise money, utilizing our last week before the trip to sell food.
Over 20 of us came to the hospital on March 31st—a Saturday--, along with Mr. Neal and Mrs. Bennett as our chaperones. We brought fruit, snacks, some books and toys to donate and of course, a coloring book and set of crayons for each kid. It was a busy day at the hospital—Dr. Myo set us up in a room with tables, and attended to the patients upstairs for the next two hours. The kids slowly came to join us, taking spots at tables. They all looked like normal kids, except one of them came in in a wheelchair, and most of them had bandages around their hands. They colored in their books, played with play dough, and later on we played some games, like pictionary. Some of them were shy, focusing on coloring in the lines and making their pictures the most beautiful, while others were eager to strike up conversations with us as they molded animals out of the play dough. We didn’t come there to cure them of their illnesses, but in the two hours that we were there, we got to talk to them and make them laugh and have fun, and hopefully forget about their illnesses for a while.