I was never a fan of hospitals. The narrow hallways, the medicinal smell, the knowledge that behind each door there was likely to be another sickly or dying person. When I got involved with the Dhaka Medical College Burn and Pediactric Units, I knew I was going to have to suck it up and be strong. But when I arrived at the site, what I saw drove all my fears and hesitations from my mind.
When I stepped into the children’s ward, a large room with fifty or so beds, to pass out the toys I had collected from friends and neighbors here in the Bay Area, I did not see a room with people full of sadness and despair. Instead I saw young children, each one accompanied by a parent, faces full of hope and gratitude. As a public, and thus free, hospital, DMCH is generally the destination of the poorest when they are ill. Neither the parents nor the children could believe anyone would take time to notice them, let alone bring gifts. Never had I seen that many children so genuinely excited and enthusiastic about toys, especially old ones. As I walked from bed to bed, asking each child what toy he or she would like, I noticed how they would first respond shyly, unsure if they would actually be allowed to keep the toys. After being reassured that the toys were theirs to keep, their faces would light up with bright smiles, beautiful despite their rough skin and imperfect teeth. I took notice of the fact that the beds were clean and arranged in an orderly fashion, with only one child per bed: a drastic difference from the condition I had encountered in the Pediatric Unit two years earlier and a distinct mark of the impact SpaandanB had made. At the end of the ward I came across an infant who was accompanied by no one. She was small with a cleft lip, yet fairly healthy. The doctors told me she was an abandoned baby. A rickshaw driver had found her on the street and had brought her to the hospital to be taken care of. The doctors, with the help of SpaandanB, had been able to provide a home for the child at the hospital. She was to undergo surgery for her cleft lip and sent home with her adoptive parents within a couple of weeks.
As I looked at the baby, sleeping soundly with the stuffed bear she had been given, and at the rest of the children in the ward, each playing happily with their new toys, I realized my initial thoughts about hospitals were all wrong. Being involved with SpaandanB has shown me that hospitals are not a place of despair, but are a place of hope, faith and appreciation for what one has been blessed with. Observing the direct impacts SpaandanB has made on these people has led me to realize how little it takes to better the lives of those most in need.