Student News

Be4Cause: Inauguration of Playroom at CHU Children’s Cancer Center // Founded by Ryan Safiry

Ryan Safiry – August 10, 2018

Two weeks after having successfully completed my project at the CHU Hospital in Marrakech, Morocco, with the goal of building a playroom for the children diagnosed with cancer, I can say that I am very proud of the outcome. Having been able to decipher the needs of these little patients, and being dedicated to brightening the lives of ill children, the room has transformed from a broken down and bland space to a colorful and airy area, setting the tone for a happy and exciting mood while taking into account differences in age and taste with creative design, dynamic colors, and fun decor. I called the playroom “le Jardin des Anges”, which means “The Garden of Angels.”

Thankfully, I was ready to officially open the door of this little haven with the aim of giving comfort and hope to these children. With toys and crafts, this will be an ideal place for imagination, and for children to dream and escape. To celebrate, I prepared by decorating the playroom with paper flowers, and set up a large table that contained snacks, juice, soda and lots of desserts.

As children started flowing in with their parents and caregivers, I felt their quiet sense of initial shyness. However, through the excitement of starting to play with some of the toys and games, everyone began to seem to have more and more fun as the party continued. A day of rich emotion, conversations, and sharing with staff and parents, allowing the discovery of the premise and explaining the genesis of this project and its deployment was enriching for all. I had the joy of inaugurating my playroom with the presence of children, parents, hospital staff, and local officials. The opportunity to address a message, thank everyone for their support, and to celebrate in a warm and friendly atmosphere around a party was a heart-warming success. Creating a structure and source of entertainment for these disadvantaged children in accordance with the values that are important to me was my inspiration; I worked on this project with all my energy despite the obstacles that marked my course. I was delighted to meet and converse with each child, and I particularly enjoyed meeting one young boy, Ahmed, who constantly had the brightest smile on his face. We played with the building blocks and had a small discussion about his favorite Super Heroes. The children had an unforgettable time and played for a couple of hours before enjoying their treats. Regardless of the children and their families’ sorrowful experiences, they all remained hopeful and optimistic about what their futures hold.

Saving the best for last, I offered each child a chance to choose a teddy bear that would be their companion during their treatment in the hospital that they could keep overnight in their rooms. I helped each child to choose a name for their new buddy. It was fascinating to see the children smiling and hugging their new friends. This was indeed my contentment! To give, comfort, and support these young patients going through hard times, ensure an environment conducive to their physical and emotional well-beings, and to keep the flame of hope alive. I believe that putting a smile on the faces of these seriously sick children and giving them reassurance would help them cope with their treatment. The party was a huge success, and everyone loved the room and the food.

In the days following this inaugural gathering, I also commenced my two-week educative program for the children in the Oncology Department. Every day during this period, we would meet in the morning in the playroom to begin the program. We would start with refreshments and snacks, talking and engaging in positive conversation to start our days. Then, we would begin by playing games, such as bowling, ring toss, various board games we had available, or telling stories using stuffed animals. After lunch, I would teach the children nursery rhymes in French (such as “Frère Jacques”, “Le facteur n’est pas passé” or “Sur le pond d’Avignon”). We would then move onto our art activities area where the children would paint and color. At the end of the week, we framed their masterpieces in a photo-book style and used stickers to highlight their names. We also used designed pages to trace their handprints to finalize their artwork. I loved watching the children use their imaginations to create their own designs and pictures in their own unique ways. At the end of each day, we would have one more play period where we would use play-doh to help them relax, express their emotions and relieve their stress; most of these children had never seen play-doh before. They loved to examine how it moves and feels, and were fascinated by the material. Their curiosity lead them to make new discoveries while learning new skills. Despite spending an incredibly memorable time with these wonderful children, the most sorrowful part of the program was when I had to say goodbye.

I wanted to make a difference, and this journey was an amazing opportunity to do so. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all those who contributed to this achievement and who made it possible: and there are many! First of all, I would like to thank the CSGC for their financial support, the officials of the hospital who received me with great kindness and allowed me to fully understand the needs of children battling cancer, and especially the entirety of the Oncology team for their confidence granted and to have believed in my project; thank you for this wonderful facility from the CHU Hospital which helped frame my ideal. Thank you to the store “Mr. Bricolage” for assisting me with my purchases. Foremost, I thank my mom for her fabulous support.