English at the Cancer Center

by Helene Jarmol Uchida & Brooke Jones

“Each time I go, it is such an enjoyable experience. And while, the children are not always in the best state of health, they always try their hardest. And to see them improving all the time really does put a smile on my face. I just hope they get as much joy out of it as I do.”

— Brooke Jones

I teach English, as a volunteer, once a week to children aged from 2-15 at the Cancer Center here in Fukuoka. Of course, since they are cancer patients, they have good days and bad days in terms of discomfort. On their good days they attend my class.

The patients are not as energetic as healthy children, so we do not move around at all. Instead we sit on mats and huddle around a low table in their recreation room. The younger children often sit on their mother’s laps.

We put puzzles together, respond to flash cards in English and play ABC Bingo. Each child plays with relish, but the children are not competitive.

The junior high students are very patient and helpful with the younger children. Very often, they will hand the winning card or last puzzle piece to a preschool student out of sheer kindness. The group almost always functions as a family.

The children all have a good attention span and are as sharp mentally as healthy children.

I read one picture book each week. The children all peer at the pages as I read and chuckle at the funny parts. They especially like Clifford the Big Red Dog, Carl stories and pop-out-books.

An Australian high school exchange student, Brooke Jones, (who hopes to become a pediatrician when she grows up) accompanies me on the days she can leave her school early. She plays with the younger children.

These precious people have taught me many things about kindness, patience and beauty. When I look into their eyes, I can see the beauty of youth in all its splendor. I find myself looking forward to my weekly visit.

I encourage you to think about making a difference in your own community. Please visit your local hospital and see if you can initiate your own program in your own way.

I promise you that you will receive more than you give.