Every second Tuesday, the dining room at the Crystal Brook hospital is filled with the laughter and squeals of excitement as the local kindergarten children come to visit the hospital’s permanent residents.
An initiative started by a video that Crystal Brook Kindergarten director, Karena Wilson saw on social media, the children have now been making the fortnightly visit to the hospital for three years.
The benefits of the visits as described by Karena have been incredible not only to the children but to the residents, who have created such strong relationships with the two to five-year-olds.
“It is a really beautiful way for the children to see and value the residents at the hospital, as a part of our community. The relationships that are developing are just incredible. Sometimes it is really hard to put into words how powerful they are”, Karena said.
“We find that the children respond in such a kind way. They are developing levels of empathy and compassion beyond their years. We have celebrated birthdays with the residents, especially Shirley’s 97th birthday.”
When the kindergarten visit, they bring a range of activities that the children and residents can do collaboratively.
This week, the kindergarten brought along purple playdough, that was lavender scented and some drawings that the children had drawn for the residents.
Georgie Arbon, a student at the Kindergarten said that she liked to play with Shirley at the hospital when she visits.
“I love singing her songs”, she said.
The relationships between the children and residents have blossomed in the past three years, so much that children are now coming in their spare time to spend more time with the residents.
“We have never left because the relationships and friendships that are forming. Children are now visiting residents in their own time, in school holidays or on the weekends. Last year, we gave Shirley a birthday party. We have really developed beautiful bonds with the residents.”
“One time on our visit, Shirley told us when we first started coming that her and her husband never had children. So we know just how powerful the visits are because Shirley actually calls the children her babies.”
“As much as the children love to come and are developing skills and qualities in themselves, we are actually seeing the benefits for the residents as well. It is definitely a two-way relationship.”