The first time I rolled my suitcase through the front gates of the SACH house, I was instantly greeted with hugs and welcoming words. With no time to spare, each of the children introduced themselves to me, toting along their favorite toys and games. In a home where many languages fly throughout the bright walls, two things are very clear: the abundance of love and lots of playtime bring everyone together.
As my two weeks as a full time volunteer come to a close, I am extremely grateful for the experiences I have had, the people I have met, and the lessons I have learned. In an effort to convey what these past two weeks have meant to me, I created a list of the toys and games to serve as a guide for recounting my time here. In the house, the playroom is one of the most popular destinations. Each time a child wanted to pick out a new toy or game, they would run to me, yank the lanyard of keys hanging around my neck and declare, “Me! One!”
My Top 4 Favorite Toys in the SACH Playroom:
- Pink Stethoscope
For a group of children awaiting or recuperating from a cardiac operation, the light pink toy stethoscope holds particular importance. One morning, Mubarak, an eight and a half year old from Ethiopia, pulled out the pink stethoscope for a large visiting group of students. He instructed them to sit down and lay their head on a stuffed toy, while he put the stethoscope to his ears and listened to each person’s heart. When he finished with one, he would yell “Good!” and immediately instruct the next group member to lay down. Visitors and volunteers alike loved seeing the positive attitudes of the children as they simulated familiar procedures.
- Frozen Puzzle
From now on, everytime I hear the song “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen, I will be transported back to the SACH house. In the house, the Frozen franchise has spread to playing cards and jumbo puzzles. I have completed this puzzle many times with different kids each time. Each time, however, someone starts singing “Let It Go” as they assemble the pieces on the floor. The dancing and singing continues through the afternoon and night when we play music after nap-time or when “kulala finished.” Close to all of the kids have learned this song and at any moment will belt out lyrics from memory.
- Taki Cards
Taki, similar to UNO, was another favorite game for the children. The overused and ripped cards were the first to be taken out of the playroom in the morning and the last thing to be put away before dinnertime. I was lucky enough to accompany a couple of children to the hospital one day for their scheduled echoes and checkups. While sitting in the waiting room, Daudi, 10 years old from Zanzibar, and I played close to ten rounds of Taki. Each time he beat me in a game, he would throw the card onto the pile and say in a loud whisper, “Taki finished!” His bright smile and fun nature brought laughter to everyone sitting with us in the waiting room.
- Tea Set
Especially for the younger babies and children, the white, pink, and purple set has been really popular. As much as I have loved forming relationships with each of the children in the house, I have also really enjoyed meeting and getting to know the mothers and nurses that accompany the kids. My favorite part of the afternoon is when some of the mothers bring out Ethiopian coffee and a real tea set. We sit under the tree in the shade and sip on the strong, but delicious coffee. Some of the kids bring their plastic tea set to sit and play while we have coffee. Tasting and eating the different foods that each of the mothers make enhanced my experience while living in the house.
I know that when I return home, I will really miss all of the children, mothers and the entire experience. Through the hospital visits, the tears, and the laughter, I truly feel part of the SACH family.