Rabat: Kids of the Asthma Ward

Trip Start Sep 19, 2010
Trip End Oct 26, 2010

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

There was never a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep. 

 Ralph Waldo Emerson  
Day three of work and it feels like I have been here a year. In a good way.

Each day at 9am, five of us - KR, Maryam, Frank, Cindy and Adele - take a short ride to the children's hospital where we go through a small gate and across a bustling lobby towards the back of the hospital. This is one of only two public children's hospitals in the country, the other in Casablanca, so it is always busy and crowded. There are kids with all kinds of ailments here, but we work with the kids in the asthma ward mainly.

The hallways are busy with kids, parents, doctors in their white coats and occasionally you'll see female members of the army helping the nurses.  The halls are narrow and pretty dark, with a weird light green paint and bizarre and slightly creepy posters of white children playing in gardens. As we walk to our play area, the small rooms on the left are filled with kids and their moms. Here anyway, there is no such thing as a private room. There's easily three kids to a room, with a mom on each clinical hospital bed as well. If the families do not have family nearby or money to stay elsewhere, they stay at the hospital with the kids. And it's not like our hospital with TVs, remote controls, video games, room service and windows. These rooms are small, dark and have glass petitions between each.  Tight quarters with NO privacy and no escape in many cases. Frankly, it is "clean," but it also has the odd look of an orphanage. 

These children are not wealthy, but they are also not the poor that you think of when you think of African poor.  Public health care is free here, but it's all about access and what they have; it's not exactly Johns Hopkins. Walking down the halls and looking in rooms I'm probably not supposed to be looking in, does make you wonder what year it is. Things look dank, tired and out-dated. You can see in the doctor's attention that the best that can be given is, but you can also see that they do not have what we have
There are two halls and our playroom is in the middle. It's locked unless we are there, and it's only open for three hours a day, from 9am-noon, where we are there.  The head nurse may open it before we arrive, if not, we search her out. Yesterday the kids were waiting outside the door and it took us about 15 minutes to find her.  When we finally did, the kids were so excited they basically beat down the door.  They are thrilled to see us and run down the hall for hugs. I've only known them for three days!

We bring supplies in each day from the resource room stocked with toys, games, arts & crafts and books supplied by volunteers. The kids tear into whatever we put out and jump around on the slide, see-saw, cars and playhouse like monkeys.  Coloring book are a huge hit so is the memory board game and building blocks. Everything is missing several pieces, markers barely work, and pencils have no erasers, but they don't care. Most of the kids speak Arabic, some French, and few smarties bust out some English to the surprise of all of us.  
A few kids stand out and are just the sweetest. Wiem is an older girl, about 11 and kinda runs the place.  She is gorgeous and smart and speaks a bit of English. There are two other younger girls that rarely leave my side and will cross a room to bring me a drawing that says I Love You. My favorite little boy is a spaz, Zacharia. He is the cutest thing ever and doesn't want to miss out on anything. He'll bounce from a puzzle to a car to the slide to the coloring book - spending 1.4 seconds on each. Rinse and repeat. We are good pals and I will give him whatever he wants. They certainly have love from their parents, but like any child, they just want your attention and special friendship. You'd never know these kids have asthma, only by the ports in their hands or arms.  

Really bonding with some kids is my goal.  I'd love to get to know their moms and learn their stories, but it may be more difficult than I thought. There is much appreciation from the mothers, but they are not allowed in the playroom and they do not speak English, so it will be challenging. And the women in general in this country are very private and closed off. Moms either wait in the hall and watch through the glass, or hopefully take some time to take a shower or walk.  

Best I can do for now is let them drop off their child safely and exchange a look to say, "I got him, go relax."  
Pics: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=292819&id=633950714&l=51a1d05cb5
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Auntie on

Kristin, this is probably your most powerful piece yet. My heart goes out to these families. What courage and love these women have for their children. And the children are just kids being kids regardless of where they are or what their circumstances might be. Again, I so admire what you and your colleagues are doing. xoxoxox

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