Who is giving, who is receiving?

July 10, 2007


Photo by Sandra van den Berg from ‘Het Beter Gezelschap’

Imagine going into a healthcare facilitiy with this mission,’ Use your creativity to bring a smile to the face of  each person you meet’.

That is just what 9 of us, from ‘Het Beter Gezelschap’ (see a previous post ) did a few weeks ago in a multicultural elder home in The Hague (NL). The other part of the assignment is to focus on the healthy part of the person and the organisation. So we don’t go in as therapists or helpers, but more as trained entertainers and enablers.

 To give an idea of what this work is like, here are a few vignettes from the most recent event:

I gave a young Indonesian nurse a fimo clay charm to support her in an ‘as yet unrealized creative venture’. I asked her if she could think of one and she confided to me that she had always wanted to sing. I asked her if she would sing me something. In a precious moment, sitting together in the empty room of a resident, she sang me an Indonesian lullaby. 
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A woman was sitting alone in her room, strapped in her wheelchair, appearing apathetic.  She said I could come in, but didn’t want to do anything. She said she used to do crafts but she could no longer use her hands. It was difficult to communicate with her, but I ended up making her a paper rose (like the one in the photo).   She liked it so much, I made another one, but this time guided her hands in helping me apply the glue. We made two more with her increasing participation.  Just then, a nurse came in and the woman pointed proudly to the flowers and said, ‘See, I can still do something‘!
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I accompanied my friend Nava the clown. She is a small, fiery Jamaican lady with a wonderful personality full of warmth and humor.  We entered the residence of an Indonesian lady and saw she had her family visiting. We didn’t want to  interrupt her but all 3 women insisted we join them. Nava put on some gentle music and each person had a chance to ‘dance’ with Fifi. Fifi is a stuffed doll that wraps her arms around your neck and they stay there by way of velcro. Each of the women took turns holding that little rag doll as if it were a real child while they swayed to the soft Indonesian music. The atmosphere in that room was so tender, and I realized again that these moments are what this work is about. 
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I knocked on the door of a old man’s residence, at first he was was reluctant to let me in. He gestured to me that his hearing was bad, but I said we could just sit together and I could make him something. He was the perfect host- offering me something to drink and nibble on.  He had been a waiter on a large cruise ship. He told me about the compliments he got from the Captain for his service. Just before I left, he proudly pulled out a perfectly preserved diploma for catering on large ships, with his scores in serving, arranging food, serving wine, etc. 
He thanked me profusely for my visit but I thanked him for his hospitality and couldn’t have meant it more.

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People thank us for coming and for what we do, but after an event like this I always end up feeling like I’ve received so much.

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