28 January, 2017.
We were invited to the BS Koirala Memorial Cancer Hospital to support the social worker, Samir, working with young patients who are receiving treatment in the children’s ward.
The BS Cancer Hospital is one of a few hospitals in Nepal offering specialist cancer care. Social work, the arts in health, and many other services for patients and carers are not yet integrated into cancer (and other) care here yet. Often it is just one person, alone, such as a social worker, trying to provide the services that families have traditionally been called upon to give. However, we know that when faced with a life-threatening illness, the community needs to assist a patient and their family and others in their circle. This hospital is located in a busy town and provides cancer care to people from a wide district – so families are not always able to be at the hospital providing the additional care needed.
We followed a project I did last year at the Peter Mac Cancer Centre in Melbourne, creating postcard sized artworks that we hung closely together on a wall. The results were impressive and delightful. Afterwards I showed the children some postcards from Peter Mac and they were very happy that their own work was equally as good; they also enjoyed seeing photos of children creating art at that hospital.
The children’s ward has about ten beds. Patients usually spent quite a lot of their ‘down time’ on their beds – drawing, talking, watching videos and reading etc. Today we invited people to leave the ward and come out into a communal space to create our artworks. As each work was completed we put them up on a bright green wall and created our Art Gallery … two English words everyone soon learned.
Art helps people feel calm and relaxed at a time of immense anxiety. It is wonderful to witness parents, grandparents, nursing staff joining with the young patients and them all feeling the benefits of creating together. It was hard for some people to stop. Time and time again I see that people find it hard to resist the art table!
It can be very difficult to establish an arts project in a hospital when the decision-makers are not familiar with the many benefits it can provide. So we encourage staff to participate, to come and see and take notice of all that is happening around the art table, with people’s sense of engagement, their feelings of calm and relaxation and interaction with the work and other people. Today the nursing staff was immediately interested and joined in wholeheartedly, we met paediatric doctor on duty who was keen about having the art available; staff came down from another ward upstairs and everyone could see how engaged and interested people were. . – and how much they were enjoying themselves – a big success in what is an extremely emotionally difficult and worrying time.
This was a fun and rewarding morning at the hospital.
This is an Artists in Community International Project created during MakeDoTell 2017. It was made possible by the generosity of our many supporters who donate the funds required for us to provide our skills and services in India and Nepal. A big thanks to our colleague Asmita Rajbanshi, a social worker, who joined us to support this project.