|Hope springs eternal: Young patients attend a Hope class. The programme, the first of its kind in Viet Nam, gives students the chance to escape the stale air of the ward and enjoy something new everyday. Along with regular school subjects, students learn life skills. — VNS Photos Thai Ha
|Reading matters: As well as professionally trained teachers, Hope classes are also staffed with volunteers from the Solart and Tan Viet centre.
Ha Noi's National Hospital of Paediatrics has launched a programme called "Hope", which provides young patients with a formal education, in an informal environment, and a welcome distraction from their misery. Thai Ha
On the campus of Ha Noi's National Hospital of Paediatrics, a new class has begun that is geared to lifting the spirits of children who suffer from severe illnesses. In accordance with its name, Hope aims to give children more than medical attention.
The class is special, from its name to the destinies of its students. There are no daily uniforms, just exhausted faces and bald heads due to chemotherapy. In the room's wooden wardrobe, colourful papercases are placed in order; each one marked with the ward where each student receives treatment.
The diseases themselves are not mentioned, since they carry such a heavy meaning from the time children first hear them.
Class starts at 10.30am. It is this time when all doctor exams are finished for the morning. Unfortunately, the number of students often varies depending on the outcome of these examinations.
The 50sqm classroom may be full of students one day, but only five or six show up the next. According to the teacher, lots of students don't attend class due to the changing weather worsening their illnesses.
There are times when students have to say good-bye to their friends while they are still in class. These are times that no one can believe that the previous day they were all with each other learning to dance and sing.
The class roster, which bears the name of each student, also contains the ward names where those children are treated. Many come from the haematology, neuropathology, cardiovascular and kidney wards. Most of these diseases require a long treatment time, making it impossible for the patients to attend the class.
"I have to be hospitalised every month so I miss many class hours. When I don't attend class, I miss my friends so much. But I am very happy when I can return and learn what my friends have been taught. I love literature best," says Tran Thi Thanh Huyen, 12, living in the northern province of Vinh Phuc and receiving treatment in the hospital's kidney ward for more than half a year.
Standing outside the classroom door is Nguyen Thi Tinh, mother of nine-year-old Nguyen Tan Hung, who comes from the northern province of Phu Tho. With eyes full of emotion, she says in a choked voice, "Since my child was infected with a blood disease, my family has grown poorer and poorer. I had to carry my child here four times to get treatment. My family also owes VND50 million to the local bank. It was such a hardship and painful process but I still nurture a hope that his illnesses will be cured so he can come back to us. I felt happy when Hope was opened at the centre of the hospital because it enables children to access knowledge, get in touch with other friends, and ease their pain somehow," she says.
Hope is the first of its kind in Viet Nam, where patients are able to get out of the stale hospital air and enjoy something new everyday. In this class, besides the dedicated teachers, there are also volunteers from the Solart and Tan Viet centre. Along with regular school subjects, students also receive life skills education.
Hoang Van Quang, head of the hospital's Administration Board, once suffered from a kidney disease. Graduating from the University of Fine Arts, he passes his love of life to children at the hospital everyday.
"I teach students to draw. Their work encourages me to move on and fight my own disease," he says.
Nguyen Thanh Liem, director of the hospital, says he is very pleased with the work that doctors are doing. "Many children can not attend school as their poor health prohibits it. This is a good idea and I hope that the class will bring knowledge to the children as well as release stress and pain during treatment," says Liem.
The establishment of "Hope" is indeed a gift. It's a simple principle: patients and teachers give hope and the desire to live with each other to make their own lives even better. — VNS