By Leena ElDeeb
A shelter for poor patients, stray cats and dogs is what Demerdash Hospital really is. Luckily a group of high-spirited students and fresh grads rush in to resurrect hope.
An event hosted by the Egyptian Medical Students’ Association (EMSA) on 8 August at the Hospital helped redecorate the waiting area walls in the paediatric outpatient clinics.
The event was part of a 3-stage campaign, Splashes of Hope, to make improve children’s experience in by adding colours and drawings to the walls that the children see during their stay at the hospital.
“We see that children stay in the hospital for hours waiting, some get hospitalised for months and we noticed that the walls are plain and discouraging as if they’re being punished for going to the hospital. ” said the campaign’s coordinator, Michael Assem, a 6th year medical student at Ain Shams.
Children drew pictures which were passed on to an art committee where they put their final touches so it would look neater and more understandable. In the third stage, the drawings were transferred from paper to the wall.
The campaigners have also redecorated the walls of the fourth floor of Abo El-Reesh Hospital, unlike in Demerdash Hospital where they only got to paint the corridor and the waiting area since the walls inside the clinic itself are made of ceramic. Splashes of Hope chose these two Cairo hospitals as they are the two most crowded hospitals in the city.
Aside from its work in Cairo, the campaign has spread to work in the governorates of Asyut, Menufiya and Minya.
Although Assem noted there is a five-year plan to reach out to hospitals nationwide, the plan is also to spread to orphanages. As part of this, paediatric psychiatrists would work in hospitals to ease the difficult experience.
EMSA’s Splashes of Hope campaign is inspired by a similar campaign in New York of the same name.
The campaigners and volunteers managed to turn the dull and boring walls into colourful gardens with rainbows, birds and trees surrounded by butterflies, bees and happy children watering the flowers.
They held the chalks and markers in one hand and the sketchpads in the other, and kept on drawing on the walls of both the corridor and the waiting area, which were the only permissible areas to paint on. When they were done, they mixed the paint to come up with a pallet of numerous shades of colours. They weren’t done painting until 6 PM.
“”That’s a nice cartoon!” said one little girl, while she pointed at every single drawing on the wall as she passed by.
“I believe that if we can bring such a smile to a sick child’s face during a painful medical treatment, then our most important goal, our splash of hope, is achieved. After all, colours heal, and art could certainly influence lives,” said the vice coordinator, Nashwa Shaban, a third year Economics student at the American University in Cairo (AUC).
According to a study conducted by Houston’s St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, art can help in the recovery of patients, shorten hospital stays and help manage pain. However the style of artwork counts; bright paintings of landscapes, friendly faces and familiar objects can lower blood pressure and heart rate, while abstract pictures, like Van Gogh’s art for example, can backfire.
EMSA fundraises the campaign through donations, pins carrying the campaign logo and blank T-shirts that might be needed while painting. Teaming up with Can Survive, a charity organisation supporting cancer patients, they are hosting a fundraising event on 20 September in the Greek Campus with performances from Cairokee and Zap Tharwat.
“There will also be a presentation about EMSA, and we’ll try to invite the Minister of Health, officials of medicine companies and medical insurance,” Assem said.
Demerdash Hospital, built on the back of a large donation by El-Azhar scholar El-Demerdash Pasha and his family, dates back to the 1928. The hospital’s name has changed several times until it became officially known as Ain Shams University Hospital, although its popular name remains Demerdash Hospital.