When we started at five in the morning, on the long drive to Calicut, known as the “City of Spices”, we expected to reach there by 9.30 or so. To our surprise, the drive with Maximo took less than four hours. It was as if he had lent wings to our car. And the reason is not far to seek: Maximo loves children.
The first event was at the clinic of Dr N K Warrier. He had got together some 25 children in his clinic. They all came dressed beautifully, in traditional lehengas, jasmine flowers adorning their hair – all chirpy and happy to be there. They were so friendly that we had no problem interacting with these bright children. Our dear FOM got together and set up the room to welcome the kids. Maximo books were distributed and we began reading the story. Very soon we could see them all immersed in reading and sharing their thoughts about colouring the activity book – the Big C. “We can colour it Orange”, said one; “Maximo is Blue on one side”, said another … and so went the discussions. When asked about what they understood from the story, each one came up to say that they learnt they have to overcome fear, and that it is important to help others when in need. A brave little one said that one should visit the physician without fear …
We had carried a packet of goodies too and the children were excited and happy to get their copy of the book as well as the goody bag.
The second event, later in the afternoon, was at Baby Memorial Hospital where Dr Sajeevan had gathered a group of 8 children. These children too were very interactive. The books were distributed and the story appealed to them immediately. One young boy , when asked what his ambition is, came forward to say that he would like to be an “Ustad” – meaning “a teacher” in the local language – and teach everyone that one has to be positive and not to live in fear. We had many children coming up to say that they would like to be Doctors.
Maximo visited the Amrita Super Specialty Hospital in Kochi to spend some time with the children in the pediatric ward. The core group joined us at the hospital and we waited for Dr Neeraj Siddharth who had invited us over. Dr Neeraj took time off to show us around the hospital. There were two wards – one an 8 bedded general pediatric ward and the other, also 8 bedded, a chemo ward. We found it very hard to get communication going as these children were shielded by their parents – no photos, they said. We respected their privacy concerns and so did not click any. But the books were well received and a few children who interacted came forward and said that they should also be flying high like Maximo.
We later visited the rooms, where the children were more approachable, but there too we were requested to keep the camera shutters closed.
Interesting stories to share :
A lady survivor shared her story of how both, she and now her child. are brave survivors. Her husband abandoned the family as he feared she would spread the disease and so would not live with her anymore. She was in tears when she said that the physician tried his level best to make him understand that the disease is not contagious, but he would not listen. Finally he left her and their two daughters to fend for themselves. After listening to the tale of Maximo, she said “Today I have found a new strength and will now fight all odds to live a meaningful life with my two daughters”. She also conveyed her special thanks to Viji , Maria and Fan and said that it was very thoughtful of MAX to reach these books to children all over the world. She said that the children present would go back home full of positive energy – and then live with dignity and without fear.
A young boy said that the story of Maximo appealed to him so much that he has decided to become a teacher and teach children to fight all challenges that life throws at them. He said he has learnt today that if there is a will, one can even move a mountain. He also said that until that day, he was living in fear, fear of something unknown, but today, he is only thinking about how he can help others and make his family happy. He says he is now full of hope and will fight the disease with courage.
A six year old girl, perched on her father’s lap, said that the story of Maximo has made her understand how with courage and willpower, one can overcome any hurdle in life. She said that she would like to be an engineer and earn lots of money so that her father would no longer have to go around asking people for money towards her treatment. She would want her father to have a comfortable life. One could see the tears flowing down her father’s cheeks at this, and we later came to know that the girl is not doing well, and her prognosis is not good.
A smart girl of just 5 years said that after her treatment is over she will become strong like Maximo . She said she would then like to be a nurse. When asked why, she said she would like to inject the nurses who are now doing that to her.
It is obvious that the Maximo book is creating an impact on the children. We were able to spread the message of hope, courage, fearlessness, and acceptance and to communicate with the children in a positive way. The physicians took part actively. The book has appealed to grownups too – Parents and caregivers too were immersed in reading the book. We have surely made a big difference to the children, and hope to keep spreading the message of Max.
Thank you Maximo and thank you Pat for freeing the Maximo inside all of us to fly free in this project.