The children and COVID-19 | Maison de Terre des hommes

The children and COVID-19

written on the 22.06.2020

The children’s resilience

At the start of the crisis, 39 children are staying at La Maison.

This figure comes with numerous questions:

What does this mean?

What health problem are we referring to?

Why are these children in La Maison?

What are their needs?

Who looks after them?

Is La Maison able to take care of these children during this crisis?

You probably asked yourself all of these questions.

The children come from Africa. They are very sick and cannot be healed in their countries. The infrastructure and competencies lack.

Their families have very little means and social insurance does not exist. These children are enrolled in the “Specialised care” programme of Terre des hommes. They are welcomed in Valais, at La Maison, a medicalised facility which offers a kind and tender professional care before and after their stay in one of the university hospital partners of the programme.

La Maison: individual wellbeing and community spirit

The space and daily way of life allow a rapid recovery for the children. La Maison is a space of intimacy, a shelter that enables the children to open to one another. For many, it is the symbol of a temporary rootedness, a bubble where each and every one of them can blossom. It is, and has always been a safe haven. With time, and since it’s opening, 50 years ago, the successive management developed and enabled a care facility ensuring the best welcome by a qualified and dedicated staff. Surprisingly and in spite of the measures taken to face the virus, a certain sense of peace prevails in La Maison. The admirable resilience of the children, who currently cannot travel back to their loved ones, underlines the importance of this space of shelter, unique in its kind. More than ever, and in these uncertain times, La Maison’s vocation as a space of life and sharing radiates. Individual wellbeing and a true community spirit serenely coexist and can be felt entering La Maison and meeting the children.

The children of La Maison stand with the rest of the World

The children of La Maison made colourful signs to express their solidarity with the whole World.

Staff members from the educating team of La Maison worked to raise the children’s awareness about the current crisis. “It is essential that we explain, in simple words, so they can understand”, says Tania, head of the educating sector. The children understand it very well, the crisis is worldwide. When they speak with their families over the phone, they realise that the situation is similar over there. So, wanting to show support with the whole World, they created these beautiful colourful signs with a message of hope: “Everything will be fine”.

Spectacle des clowns de la fondation Théodora pour les enfants
The clowns of the Foundation Theodora give a show to the children

It helps knowing that the children understand and accept this situation.

Alioune Ngom, Head of the educating sector

Outdoor activities to feel energetic

With the school and kindergarten being closed, who usually are a big part of the children’s day, it has been a challenge to find new activities to busy them throughout the day. When the weather is nice, children go for walks, as it is the case here with Murielle, one of the educating staff, who goes out for a stroll with a few children. “It gives a chance to change scenery, they manage to let go and take their minds off things”, she tells us. That day, about ten of them are off for a short walk. “Because they are quite a large group staying in the main building (26 children), it’s nice to sometimes split them up into smaller groups to give them more space. It’s a time when they are calmer because they aren’t as many”, Murielle says.

Les enfants profitent du beau temps pour une balade ne plein-air
The children enjoy the nice weather during a walk

The long wait to go home

The patience of the children of La Maison who are healed is being tested. It’s hard to explain in detail all the consequences of the current crisis. But one thing they understand is that planes don’t or barely fly anymore. So, to help them cope with this long wait, they built their own small planes with pegs and popsicles. Building a biplane was very interesting for the children since it required eating two popsicles! A fun activity to make them smile, but mostly, give them hope. Emmanuel, from Togo, proudly shows us his creation. He arrived last February in Switzerland to receive treatment for a caustic oesophageal stricture. His medical appointments, considered “non-essential”, were delayed during the crisis. Recently, the dilatations hoping to reopen his oesophagus have been taking place again.

Les avions ne volent plus... Les enfants fabriquent les leurs
Planes don’t fly… so, the children build their own

A wind of change

Edwige, 5 years old, comes from Togo. She arrived in Switzerland in November 2019 to receive medical care and undergo several operations. Today, her biggest wish as she blows on this dandelion: reunite with her parents and big sister.

La petite Edwige souffle sur un pissenlit lors d'une promenade
Little Edwige blows on a dendalion during a stroll

Being in her mum’s arms

Erica, 2 years old, with a little twinkle in her eyes, was only a few days away from returning to her home country. She arrived right before Christmas and was operated on to heal a heart malformation earlier this year. At the beginning of the month of March, recovered after her open-heart surgery, reuniting with her parents was near. The current crisis keeps her with us in La Maison when she would rather be in her mum’s arms.

Erica profite d'un moment en plein air dans les jardins de La Maison
Erica enjoys an outdoor activity in the gardens of La Maison