This is the second article in a three-part series (you can read the first one here). As mentioned before, this series has been created to remind everyone about the basic human practice of paying attention to each other. It’s important to have social connections, for these, among other things, we need to notice each other. If we can manage this step, we can start caring for each other. I’ll show two examples how we can do it (there are countless other ways, too, of course!). Written by Noémi Szabó.
Making children happy – as a volunteer
Have you heard of the K&H MediMagic Story Doctor program? It’s a volunteer program invented and launched by the K&H Group. It’s about reading stories to sick children in three different ways: personally, online, or through a company. One can visit numerous institutions, meet children of different ages. Reading isn’t even the only available activity, as one can also play with or just talk to the children at any time of the day.
Since August 2013, 17,000 personal story readings have taken place in 47 child wards across the country.
Personal story reading works by registering on their website and choosing the closest child health institution and the most convenient time for you, after which K&H gets in contact with the institution to discuss the details. They send you a confirmation, so you only need to wait for the day to come. You go to the designated ward of the hospital and meet your contact person, then you join the kids and the fun can begin! They are terribly pleased to see someone other than another person in a white coat, and to not being summoned for another examination for a change, they can be children again and play and/or enjoy the story. After spending an hour or two there, you won’t even want to leave! The kids are enthusiastic and friendly, having the chance to cheer them up feels really energizing, and for a while almost everyone can forget that all this is happening in a hospital. Details here.
So far, more than 104,000 children have been cheered up by personal and online story readings.
Online story reading means that you record yourself reading stories of your own picking. You can even play with puppets or or you can read together with others. Then, after filling out a form, you upload your video of the right size, format, and length to the website of K&H, who will check the video’s content and quality, and finally they publish it on their Youtube channel. There, children from all over the country can watch/listen to your story anytime. Making such videos is casual and simple, you don’t even have to leave your home. I haven’t tried this yet but I really like the idea, so I’ll make a video (at least one) as soon as possible, then I’ll share my experience with you :) Details of “filming” here.
And company story reading is about shaping “team-building” events into a lightsome, cozy form, within a corporate social responsibility program. So, online story reading at the workplace, during working hours. At least that’s how it worked at my previous workplace. There, volunteer colleagues didn’t need to make up for the time they spent on reading stories in our office’s “studio”, set up by K&H. They put plushies and puppets in the office area (it became much more friendly this way :)) where the reading took place, then, after overcoming stage fright, my colleagues flung themselves into reading one after another. I think it’s a very kind idea that the company opens up the opportunity for its employees to try out such (or any other kind of) volunteer programs. If you can ignore that you’re potentially promoting your workplace and only concentrate on your own empathy and helpfulness, you can discover a very useful initiative here. Details of this kind of volunteering can be found here.
When I was working at the company mentioned before, online story reading wasn’t going on anymore, but employees could apply for personal reading. So I could experience this part of the MediMagic program. I admit, I was nervous first. I really liked the idea of doing something good during working hours, and, having heard of this opportunity early in my probation period, I immediately decided to apply. But I couldn’t tell how I would react to the sight and sudden proximity of all the sick children. It would be safe to say that I was scared shitless :). Fortunately, it turned out that I could go together with one of my colleagues. We headed towards the 1st department of paediatrics of the Semmelweis University, having books and board games with us (these things are stored on a specific shelf in our office, and are available for anyone to use), since that morning we had to call a contact person who told us the age range of children currently admitted to the department, and what we should prepare for.
We were told that we would get access to the hospital’s own inventory of toys upon arrival, but that didn’t happen, due to some kind of mix-up. Since we’ve never been to the aforementioned hospital (imagine a beautiful, large, traditional building), we wandered aimlessly for a while, before finding our “designated” department. After identifying ourselves, the nurse, with a wide gesture of generous invitation, told us that we’re free to go inside and make friends with the kids (before I imagined having to undergo rigorous (health?) checks and at least having to put on green shoe covers – this shows my fortunate ignorance when it comes to child wards, fortunately!). We walked along the hallway awkwardly, measuring each other up with the children, then, in the last room, we finally asked if someone wanted to play with us. A girl, around 13, immediately and enthusiastically said yes. After introducing ourselves and telling from where and why we’ve come, we started talking and didn’t stop :). The girl’s mother was there too, and the small patient even had to go for an examination, but after coming back, we went straight to where we left off. In the meantime her mother left, seeing how well we were entertaining her daughter.
We got the chance to get to know a vibrant, smart, and open girl, who was not bothered by her illness, which she considered temporary, and who was looking forward to summer, to fun times and to new books to read. We could talk about a lot of topics with her, a well-informed, open-minded teenager. In the end we didn’t play cards too much (needless to say she beat me multiple times), we talked for most of the one and a half hours we spent there. We exchanged telephone numbers and we agreed that, once she’s out of the hospital, we’ll go out for ice cream, all in all, we made an adorable little friend.
For me it was a huge experience, even though no actual story reading took place. I’d do it again anytime. Based on what I’ve heard from my friends, they share my opinion. So I can only recommend everyone to try it, as is is a simple and very kind way to help our fellow human beings.
Below you can read the accounts of one of my former colleagues, who has tried this form of charity as well. Written by Dóra Csikós.
“Last year I got the chance to take part in K&H’s MediMagic program. The aim of the program is to hasten the recovery of children inpatients in hospitals with the healing power of stories.
Helping others was always important to me. My mother taught this to me and my sister since we were little. For us it was perfectly natural to give our outgrown clothes, unused school supplies, and games that we grew tired of and didn’t destroy :) to poor families living in our village. Although it was natural at the time, I recently realized how important it was in developing my personality. Besides, I really like kids. So the choice was obvious :).
The story reading took place at my company, since it was flu season, personal visits were unadvisable. The task was simple: choose a story, then read it out, and professionals from K&H recorded it.
This isn’t even hard, I thought, since I read out a lot to my kids. But I didn’t take into account the cameras in front of me, that recorded every word. That was quite agitating.
But my excitement was completely suppressed by the desire to help and by the helpful crew, who repeated the recording when I made a mistake. The readout took more or less 10 minutes. My story has been uploaded to the Youtube channel of the K&H MediMagic program. The clips are played on TV or tablets to the little patients outside of visiting hours.
I trust that watching my less-than-professional performance brought a smile on their faces and made them forget about their illness for a moment. Because stories have healing powers.”
Why is this small act worth doing? Here’s a short movie featuring wide-eyed children who tell about their experiences about meeting the storytelling doctors.
Giving presents and collecting donations – as a volunteer
You’ve probably heard about the Santa Claus Factory, since there are many people abroad who travel to Hungary just for this unique initiative. “People come from Australia, China, the USA, and several European countries to help out, to wrap presents.”, writes mikulasgyar.hu. The Santa Claus Factory is about volunteers collecting donations, which are sent to the Red Cross, then given to families with many children who live in extreme poverty, to the elderly, and to the disabled, among others.
In recent years, the Santa Claus Factory has been residing in the Millenáris park for a month, around November and December. Donations – wrapped or not – can also be handed in at most post offices around the country, and at a designated place in each county seat. Preservable foods, hygiene and sanitation products, clothing, books, and toys are needed the most. Volunteers wrap donated items and the Red Cross hands them out without discrimination, based on need.
You, too, can do it: first, every December you collect clothes, toys, or preservable foods you don’t need anymore, and take them to any of the pick-up points, and second, you take a bit of time to do some volunteering in the “Factory”, where you can collect, categorize, and wrap donated presents.
At my former workplace that I’ve mentioned before, employees could also volunteer at the Santa Claus Factory within the company’s social responsibility program. Unfortunately I could not take part in it, but those who did usually reported good experiences.
Source of data in speech bubbles here.
Source of featured image: wikimedia.org
Translated by Ádám Hittaller