My Summer Experience as a GRAACC Volunteer

During the summer, I had the opportunity to work voluntarily in the therapeutic toy room of the public hospital for children’s cancer in São Paulo, Grupo de Apoio ao Adolescente e a Criança com Câncer, a support group for adolescent children with cancer (GRAACC). For two of the weeks that I was in São Paulo, I spent weekday mornings helping in the therapeutic toy library and giving love and affection to the children, whose ranged from zero to fourteen years old.

The Senninha Brinquedoteca of the GRAACC hospital has a positive impact on the humanization process in the treatment of childhood cancer, functioning as a facilitating agent in coping with the difficulties that accompany this process. The space becomes a place of “life” where everything differs from the hospital routine without, however, moving away from it. The toy library stimulates the integral development and recovery of the self-esteem and confidence of children and adolescents with cancer, seeking a better quality of life during and after treatment. The toy library also has the Moving School, which offers school supervision to children and adolescents, guaranteeing their right to education. In addition, the “Quimioteca” spreads the concept to the chemotherapy outpatient clinic. The toy library acts as a bridge for children to communicate and express their conflicts and difficulties. As Shirley Jesus, one of the patients, said: “If it were not for the toy library, I would be a very sad girl. Many children even forget their pain while playing.”

This was my first experience working in a hospital. While I was working, I could see how strong, brave and courageous these children and their families are. It is shocking to learn about all that a cancer patient needs to undergo during a treatment, which may not always turn out as expected. It is even more shocking to realize that millions of children and juveniles, who do not always come from the best financial, familial and emotional conditions, go through the same treatment, situations and experiences. There is much suffering as a consequence of a serious illness such as cancer for both the patient and their family. Having the chance to work in a place that helps to ease the situation has been and is very rewarding.

By: Dora Huache