Child Life Heroes: Child Life in Kenya (Part One)
In August, Morgan Livingstone, Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) and Child Life Director of World Eye Cancer Hope Charity, packed her bags and headed to Eldoret, Kenya for the annual child life training that she hosts for the Sally Test Child Life Program at Shoe4Africa Hospital (Kenya’s only public pediatric hospital) within Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital. If you read our past blog post about how Morgan has cultivated a child life program in Kenya, you know how much work, time, and energy she has devoted into making this possible. She’s incredibly passionate about nurturing and supporting the growth of locally sustainable child life programs within Kenyan Healthcare.
Morgan initially got into child life because she loved working with children and wanted a challenge. She couldn’t narrow down her long list of reasons why she loves being a child life specialist, although she enjoys how play can provide so much to children in so many ways. But if you’re thinking that all child life specialists do is play, you’re definitely mistaken. “People don’t realize just how much we do every day: play, planning, prepping, creating resources, writing, participating in research, fundraising, advocacy, meetings, presenting, helping each other, volunteering with ACLP and other charities, and most importantly, helping children and families with whatever challenges they face,” Morgan says.
Morgan is currently a CCLS in private practice in Toronto. When she initially transitioned into private practice, it was because she felt like something was missing. “I knew that families would benefit from having a child life specialist come to their home, instead of being forced to always come to the hospital for support, preparations, education, etc.,” Morgan says, “After trying to advocate for an aspect of this community outreach when I was working at a large oncology hospital, and they said, ‘No,’ I just decided to do it myself.” Private practice is not that different from working in a hospital. She does the same direct child life supports, medical play, preparations, and interventions, just in the home. However, it does give her more time for writing and participating in global health opportunities. “I enjoy the ‘groundbreaking’ activities in collaborating with medical professionals, organizations, and countries that may have never heard of or had access to child life before.”
Her work in Kenya over the last decade is one of these “groundbreaking” opportunities, and the hope is that more and more children around the world will have access to child life services. “It’s a basic human right of children to have access to good quality healthcare and opportunities to play,” Morgan says, “I see that the real growth in child life for the future must include more and better access to child life supports within the community, and for greater and more diverse patient populations. Children don’t stop needing support when they are out of the hospital, right? Much of this new community support should be a part of the complete healthcare experience, and should be a part of every hospital’s care in the future.” Morgan also emphasizes the need for greater understanding and sensitivity regarding the significant financial barriers to creating child life programs in low income countries (LIC), especially with the costs and educational expectations. “Much of the basic professional costs are more than a future child life staff in a LIC makes in a month of work. This has to change and adapt to offer better financial and educational support to these emerging healthcare economies in order to truly foster the growth of child life globally.”
Despite all odds, the incredible child life team at Shoe4Africa Hospital is growing and thriving. Every day they provide much-needed support through medical play and preparation for all patients. Morgan’s hope is that with the skills and abilities of this child life team, they can offer local Kenyan Hospitals and other neighboring countries in East and South Africa an opportunity to attend a high quality child life internship site supported and staffed by local Kenyans. We’re excited to see the continued growth of this team and global child life programs in the years to come!
Stay tuned for part two of this blog series which will highlight specifics from Morgan’s trip to Kenya and the amazing response to her introducing SpellBound to the child life team and patients there. Subscribe to our blog in the bottom right corner to receive an email update.
Morgan welcomes donations of toys, materials, and equipment year-round. The Kenyan child life team also welcomes access to free webinars and presentations so that they can continue to build their professional growth and development. Monetary donations are welcomed and needed to help build existing programs, add more programs, hire more staff, buy supplies and materials, and support participation in conferences, both locally and globally. For more information, contact Morgan.