KIDS and volunteers from Kythe-Ateneo during the org’s biggest event, Kythe Flying.
Words by Stephen Tantoco
Pictures by Viktor Tejada
“Laughter is the best medicine.” That’s a statement that I used to find unbearably corny. Its sentimentality can verge on cloying and, for me, seemed too out of touch with the strikingly dark realities I saw around me everyday.
Imagine telling someone living in poverty or living without food that all their problems would be solved with a more positive attitude, a spring in their step, and a laugh in their voice. It seems degrading, almost insulting. To me, the whole concept seemed very naïve. But now, I guess I’ve realized that it wasn’t the concept that was naïve, it was me. Laughter does heal, but not in the way we think it does or the way we expect it to. And just because it doesn’t heal the way medicine does, doesn’t make it any less valuable.
Don’t believe me? Then let me tell you how I learned about this truth through my school organization: Kythe-Ateneo.
Kythe-Ateneo is the student arm of Kythe Foundation Inc., a non-stock, non-profit organization which, along with other affiliate organizations such as The Hope Project, UP Flyers, and Kythe A+, aims to improve the quality of life of pediatric patients through advocating and practicing the Child Life Program.
The Child Life Program, also known as the CLP, seeks to promote the normal growth and development of pediatric patients in the hospital setting. It aims to provide psychosocial support to these patients through structured activities and therapeutic play in order to alleviate their stress and anxiety in the hospital, and to make sure that they grow, develop, and experience a normal childhood despite being routinely confined in hospitals. The CLP was structured to complement the medical treatment that these children receive and turn the hospital into a place where children can grow and learn while undergoing treatments.
Kythe-Ateneo implements a variety of projects every year, all with the goal of improving the lives of our kids. We have large-scale advocacy projects such as Kythe Week and Kythe Flying, Kythe Community Day, and the recently concluded I Am Hope, where we prepare a day of games and activities for the kids to do outside of the hospital.
We hold fundraising efforts such as bazaars and rummage sales, the proceeds of which go towards providing equipment for our partner hospitals or funding more events for our kids. We have a biannual week-long Blood Drive for our partner hospitals, and a year-long hair donation program to collect hair to be later on turned into wigs for patients with alopecia.
Our members also go on weekly hospital visits to play and interact with our kids. All these programs, aimed towards advocating the CLP, also have a much larger aim to them: inspiring hope.
I have had some people question the motives of my organization. They usually ask me if we have any impact on these kids, if at all. I mean according to them we don’t in any concrete way get rid of these kids’ chronic illnesses. When we leave the hospital, our kids are still as sick as they were when we arrived. So what’s the point then if we don’t heal them anyway?
My response is usually this: curing and healing are two very different things but they are equally important. They both have the same goals in mind: to make a person whole again. Medicine does this by alleviating sicknesses, allowing them to live their lives more fully. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re healed. They have lost so much in the process of being cured and have been deprived of so many experiences which curing cannot give back to them. For children, they have lost the normal childhood that all kids have a right to experience. They have been deprived of it, through no fault of their own, and that can seriously impact how they grow and develop. On top of that, years of fighting a disease can wear down even the most steadfast of spirits. They may get better, but something would still be missing. That missing thing is what we try to fill in Kythe. And we do it with hope.
We help these kids feel like kids. We talk to them, play with them, and get to know them. We give as much as we can of ourselves to ensure that these kids can have the normal, happy childhood that they deserve. We help them realize hope that there is more to life than their illnesses. Through our hospital interactions, we provide an avenue for these kids to realize their own dignity and that there is always a new reason to smile.
I think that sentiment is something we tend to forget. In a world that can sometimes feel wrapped up in its own cynicism, we tend to get lost in it, feeling alone, abandoned, and without hope. Feeling broken. We may be cured, but not healed. And maybe what we need is a reminder. A reminder that we are all more than our misfortunes. That we all have our own dignity and worth that is worth celebrating and cultivating. That maybe we don’t have to look for reasons to smile, cause they’ve been in front of us all along.
Hope isn’t something you find, it’s something you see. And just like our kids, once you see it, you can’t help but smile.
Kythe – Ateneo
Room 213, Manuel V. Pangilinan Center for Student Leadership, Ateneo de Manila.
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