One reason we were invited to the BP Koirala Memorial Cancer Hospital in Bharatpur was to offer some guidance and ideas on addressing the psychosocial needs of the children receiving treatment there.
The illness itself, together with the treatment, is gruelling for young patients. The need to be able to express about it, as well as other aspects of their lives. They probably will need some adult guidance to do that. They see their parents’ distress and that needs to be processed too.
Importantly, they are first and foremost children whose job it is to play, to learn, to be creative; to be social, cheeky and explore and challenge boundaries, to grow and develop – just as other young people their age are doing.
I showed the children and their parents some Nepali village art works depicting stories of everyday life, then invited them to use these as inspiration to tell something of their own stories. Who’s in their family? Where do they live? What do they do? What happens ‘here’? or at School? I did not guide them on what to express about – it was totally up to them.
One small boy was captivated by the painting and absorbed in trying to copy it; he diligently tried to capture the house, the garden and tree – carefully studying it before putting his own marks on the paper. Another painted his home. Most just wanted to paint.
Patients and their family members find it thoroughly enjoyable to explore the paints and colours together, and also as part of a group with other people experiencing a similar thing. They discover that painting has the capacity to lower tension and reduce anxiety; it gives them time to share and talk, or alternatively, some time away from thinking about cancer and treatment.
Because of their illness we don’t ask or expect anything of the children, but we do to guide and encourage them in their art making, especially when they run out of ideas or steam and need a re-start.
When parents and children are creating together they are enjoying a ‘normal’ experience, so often missing when a child is undergoing treatment. Many said they found the morning relaxing – and given what they are going through – that must be very welcome.
This project is part of Artists in Community International’s project Make Do Tell. With performing artist Alex Pinder, I provide arts and health, and arts education programs and training in Nepal and India each year to support vulnerable communities. Make Do Tell is partly funded through the generous donations of our many supporters and is partly self funded. We are always in need of financial support to keep this program going. Please consider pledging you support via our website www.artistsincommunity.me. Thanks!