For each and every person, art takes on a new, different meaning. It could mean something expensive and interesting to look at in a museum. It could mean mindless doodles in class. It could mean scribbled drawings done by toddlers on a refrigerator. To me, art means something more. To me, art is healing.
My name is Haley, and I currently work as a summer junior volunteer in the Periwinkle Arts in Medicine Program led by Carol Herron in the Cancer and Hematology Centers at Texas Children’s Hospital. In January, I did an independent study at Texas Children’s that observed the difference art could make in children’s lives in the hospital. While researching, I found many specialists believe children do not grasp the severity of their situation when they have a major illness like cancer. Yet, time and time again in the hospital I saw children taking charge of their illnesses. In the outpatient clinic, the ringing of the bell means a child’s cancer treatment has ended, they can go home, they can have their life back.
Once, I saw a 6-year-old girl watching the bell turn toward her mother and say, “Two years, Mom!” This girl was only 6; two years is a third of her life; two years must seem like an eternity. This young girl was able to look at her illness and look to the future with hope and determination. She understood her situation and that the end of her treatment was not close, yet she was brave and mature, at 6. While this maturity is often necessary in the hospital, I believe children should still have the chance to experience normal parts of childhood. I want to help these children hold onto their childhood, to their curiosity, to gain a sense of control in their lives. While I observed, I saw firsthand the power art alone had to make children happier, brighter. Art gives any child the opportunity to make their dreams a reality, to put thoughts on paper, to express the abstract. When a child is able to make something from their imagination with their own two hands, the world seems limitless, and that means everything to a child in the hospital whose world is simply limited. After my interactions with these children and all I had learned, I had to come back for the summer.
I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to volunteer at Texas Children’s. Doing art with children has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. Each day I am here, I am reminded of what art can do. Just a few weeks ago, I sat down with a little girl to draw, and she would not speak to me, would not even look at me. By the end of the session, she had opened up to me completely. Without that art, that young girl would have remained silent. The art drew her out and gave her a reason to talk, which was immeasurably meaningful. What I do is simply art, and it makes a difference in these children’s lives. These children deserve a childhood; they deserve happiness; they deserve art.