First day for Kythe!

It was my first day to volunteer for Kythe last Friday. I chose UST Hospital for my first assignment because it was nearest to my home. Plus, UST will always have a special place in my heart.

I was met by Ms. Juliet Reyes, the friendly social worker at the Child Life Center. She took me on a mini-tour through the different pediatric wards, while saying the kids' names like they were written on her heart. I tried hard to remember all their names, while the names of their "cancer" types just passed me by. I didn't want to think too much that they were sick kids. If I did, it would be too heartbreaking for me to handle.

After we did the rounds, Ms. Juliet introduced me to Jessieriel, an 11-year old girl who had leukemia. She had short hair and round expressive eyes. Half of her face was covered with a cloth mask, for protection from germs that may be brought by outsiders like me. Jessie was preparing herself for chemo and approximately had to spend 2 - 3 more weeks in the hospital before she can go home.

I brought a Mickey and Goofy adventure story book from the Kythe playroom and started to read to her. I though storytelling would be easy. I mean what could be hard about reading a book to a kid? But it was harder than I thought. I was used to producing a story and telling them through videos and spiels. But now all I had was a book and a few colorful drawings.

Half-way through, I could see she was getting bored, but she remained polite and continued to listen to me, the amateur storyteller. The story was about Mickey and Goofy's search for Dr. Stan Livingstone, an explorer believed to be lost in the Bottomless Lake. In the end, Mickey and Goofy ate "five impossible berries" that made impossible things happen and they were able to rescue Dr. Stan.

Maybe if Jessie could have impossible berries of her own, she could get better right away. Well, that's just my wishful thinking.

After reading the story, I asked Jessie to tell her own story.

Unlike other girls her age who are into kikay stuff, Jessie said she loves pets. A lot.

Her two most favorite animals are cats and fishes. She told me she has a furry gray and silver cat named Muning back at her home in Pampanga. She also used to have a dog but it died years ago.

Turns out, Jessie is also an avid fan of Lovely Day. She even remembers the episodes last year! She remembered that pandas are slowly becoming extinct, our trek to Mount Pinatubo and Love's trip to Europe.

"Magkano po ba ang nagagastos niyo kapag nagpupunta kayo sa ibang bansa? (How much do you spend when you go abroad?"), she asked. I said we spend quite a lot.

She said she dreams of traveling to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower. I assured her that she will. She will get better and she will see the Eiffel Tower. I'm thinking of getting her a replica of the Eiffel Tower so she'll never lose sight of her dream.

We talked and talked like old friends. She would tell stories about her favorite pets and animal trivia. I could tell she's a real smart kid. When it was my turn, I would tell her behind the scenes stories and trivias from our shoots in Lovely Day. Before I knew it, it was past 3 pm and I had to go.

I remember the child life specialists recommended that first timers should volunteer for one hour, just enough to feel the groove of things. I didn't realize I had been talking with Jessie for 3 hours! I didn't feel the least bit depressed though. I had fun talking with Jessie.

As I was about to leave, I asked her what she wanted me to bring for our next session. I wanted to bring a fish but she said she's not allowed to hold animals anymore. She said she just wants an animal book about rare animals with lots of pictures. She said she wants to learn more about rare animals like that duck which is considered a mammal because it can produce milk for it's babies.

Before I stood up to say goodbye, I put my face near hers so we could "beso-beso" just like old friends. Though her mouth was covered with a mask, I could see she was smiling.

I thanked her for making my day. And for teaching me about the Platypus.

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