Sick kids have the week of their life time

Ardennes Travel Blog

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Once a year, in Autumn, my employer PBN, organizes a week of survival for sick kids. It's a project with a couple of hospital in the Netherlands. A group of kids come to the Belgium Ardennes to do adventure sports and playing a lot of funny games. All the kids are still on medication and have cancer or are cured of cancer. Some of the kids will be healthy, some of the kids are at the end of their short life time. The kids are between the 11 and 18 years old.

I was one of the lucky ones to be an instructor this week in October 2005. It was in my first year as an instructor and normally I work with healthy kids and adults, but this week was different. All the kids used medication, were weak and very fast exhausted. But this didn't stop them at all! They have so much energy! But at the end they have to pay for it. After this week, some of the kids couldn't go to school for a whole week, because they had to recover.

Some of the kids had wigs, some had prosthesis for an arm, lower leg or foot because of amputation to make sure the cancer didn't spreas out and some had a knee that couldn't bent. Pretty heavy, if you get confronted with this for the first time. They really do it all. They even try ten times harder than kids who aren't sick! They don't complain biking up a steep hill, they keep on trying climbing up and are so happy when they made it to the top!
Here are a stories about some of the kids. One boy, 12 years old, needed a wheelchair. His muscle were to weak to walk all day. He actually climbed a hill to be able to go abseiling, together with an instructor he did it! Another boy, 10 years old, one leg amputated. He had a prosthesis, took his 'leg' off in the cave and to crawl through the cave as if it was nothing. A girl, 17 years old, had a wig and was diagnosed as cured. Fysical still weak, but mentally so strong. The kids know they are sick, but don't wanna be treated different than healthy kids.
They even make jokes about the limbs they don't have anymore, about the cancer and about all other things in life.

As instructors we were not alone. From the hospital was a medical team of four doctors and nurses. They gave the kids their medications and painkillers on time and slept in the same rooms as the kids. As instructor we aren't allowed to do that. The medical team joined all the activities we did with the kids. The activities the kids participated in were mountain biking, climbing and abseiling, caving, building a raft and do a race on the river, archery and many funny games to have a good time. At nights we watched a movie, did a story telling competition, board games and the last night was a party. Disco lights, music and dancing. They had a great time.

I had the most amazing learning experience ever with kids. Of course, not all things that happened that week made us smile. Tears were very close sometimes. You know that some of the kids don't life next year any more. It makes you think of life, to make the very best of it. Don't take life for granted.

I don't have pictures from this week.


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photo by: RJ82