Child Life Heroes: Child Life in Kenya (Part Two)

If you haven’t read part one of this blog series, we highly recommend that you do! Morgan shares her experience as a child life specialist, her passion for global child life programs, and the challenges of access to child life services in low income countries. We also have a blog post detailing how she started and has grown the child life program in Kenya throughout the years.

 Morgan introducing SpellBound to patients for the first time. Photo provided by Morgan Livingstone.

Morgan introducing SpellBound to patients for the first time. Photo provided by Morgan Livingstone.

In August, Morgan Livingstone, Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) and Child Life Director of World Eye Cancer Hope Charity, made her annual trip to Eldoret, Kenya for the 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. Among the many child life resources and materials she brought along with her, SpellBound was one of them. Morgan thought it’d be a wonderful idea to introduce the technology to the seven child life specialists there to use with patients, and we agreed.

This time around, the trip to Eldoret was very busy and consisted of advanced professional development and hands-on training for the child life staff. Some of the highlights included completing the last of data collection and scoring for a research study Morgan has been working on with Sherwood Burns-Nader of the University of Alabama, hosting a Canadian child life intern who’s a student at Bank Street College of Education in New York City, and welcoming four American child life practicum students along with their supervisor Courtney Moreland of Child Life United.

In the midst of all the busyness of training, Morgan was able to introduce SpellBound to the Kenyan child life specialists. “It was pure joy seeing the child life team explore SpellBound for the first time! The CCLS’s all loved trying it out and seeing the features,” Morgan says. The next big moment was introducing SpellBound to the patients. “To say the kids loved it and were captivated by SpellBound would be an understatement. The very first time I took out a card to show a patient, I was swarmed by countless other patients--in a good way,” Morgan recalls, “Just the spectacle of seeing the cards come to life and hearing the sounds each child made as they delighted with each tap on my phone, was priceless.” She mentioned one of the nicest features about SpellBound was that the individual animals were familiar and identifiable to the Kenyan children. “They loved that there was an elephant (Tembo in Swahili), a lion, which is a symbol of strength in Kenya (Simba in Swahili), and other animals they knew. The mouse got an interesting and loud response! When so much of our resources are from the Western world, it’s nice when a resource is easily recognizable for the patients in Kenya.”

Morgan wasn’t at all surprised by the overwhelming patient response to SpellBound, as it’s not unusual in a hospital where resources are scarce and electronics even scarcer. Within the country, traditional child life materials and toys used in the western world aren’t available. For example, in North America, iPads are so commonplace; in the child life program in Kenya, they don’t have access to any iPads and have only been able to purchase a Samsung tablet locally with donor money. There’s a constant struggle to provide high quality toys and materials, often resorting to Morgan physically bringing as much as she possibly can when traveling to Kenya. She emphasizes all the more how crucial play is for children in low income countries when there’s lack of access to even the most basic toys, materials, and resources. As a result, the work of the Kenyan child life team really focuses on the delivery of medical play and preparation for all patients as well as access to enriched therapeutic play opportunities in the ward playrooms. One-on-one distraction is also provided for young patients during procedures.

We’re thankful for the opportunity to offer SpellBound to the child life team and patients in Kenya and are excited that children there have access to our tools! This is just one step in the process of making the plethora of resources we have more accessible to areas that don’t have the same privileges. Please see how you can help Morgan and her Kenyan child life program endeavors below.


 The child life team at Shoe4Africa Hospital. From left to right: Jayne Kamau, Morgan Livingstone, Martha Mwongela, Phillister Wambeyi, Catherine Cheruto, Liz Kabuthi. Photo provided by Morgan Livingstone.

The child life team at Shoe4Africa Hospital. From left to right: Jayne Kamau, Morgan Livingstone, Martha Mwongela, Phillister Wambeyi, Catherine Cheruto, Liz Kabuthi. Photo provided by Morgan Livingstone.

Morgan welcomes donations of toys, materials, and equipment year-round. The 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. Contact Morgan for more information.

Rachel MartindaleComment