Sanctuary for children with cancer

Report and pictures by: 
Jeremy Long

It looks like any other childcare centre with bright flowers and cute paintings adorning the walls. Toys are piled into two boxes, and they contain the usual plastic dinosaurs, figurines, and dolls. The only difference? Children wearing face masks.

As I entered the centre, I had to remove my shoes and wash my hands. One vital rule of this centre is to have your hands clean at all times and I couldn't agree more with them as stressing on hygiene is of absolute importance. There was even a moment when I was about to photograph two kids playing a "beads and wire-mesh" toy and had one girl telling the other girl to go wash her hands first - she had crayon marks all over her palms. I have to admit it was rather cute and I couldn't help but smile to myself at such adorableness.

Kids being kids, they always have energy running about and playing with one another. Getting them to pose for a photo was near impossible, they would either use their hands to hide their faces or make funny faces for the camera. I had to put the toys out and wait patiently for that candid moment when they were engrossed in playing it and also when they were drawing.

I also had a tough time getting the kids to play in the playhouse - they would face away from the camera when I wanted to take their pictures. Knowing that, I gave one of the boys a toy car to play with and asked him to use the window of the playhouse as a racing track. While the kids were getting it on with their games, I had to lie flat on the floor, did a leopard crawl to properly position myself so as to not distract the kids just to get the photographs.

Watching these kids have fun and being able to photograph them really made my day.

The Arc Children’s Centre, which opened in August 2011, bills itself as the only daycare centre for kids with the disease. Said Ms Geraldine Lee, the centre's general manager and one of its five founding members: “It is like a safe sanctuary, where kids can be kids, play, and maybe forget that they are different, just for a while.”