Puppets cheer up sick kids in hospital over Christmas

Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy, when families get together to eat, drink, and be merry. But for seriously ill children who have to spend the festive season in hospital, it may be neither a time of joy nor one they can spend with their families. That’s where the organization Puppets in Hospitals comes in.

Marka Míková | Photo: Marina Feltlová,  Czech Radio

Started 17 years ago, the group visits sick children year-round, not just at Christmas. But in this particularly difficult period when kids in hospitals may be feeling especially blue, they have been using the quintessentially Czech puppet tradition to spread a bit of Christmas cheer. I spoke to Marka Míková from the organization and started by asking what is so special about puppets.

“We believe puppets are very close to toys. Immediately when we come in, the children start playing and using their imagination. They forget their sickness and their bad mood. This is a little miracle that we use to encourage them and make them feel better in the hospital.”

How does it work – do the parents order a puppet to visit their child? Do you surprise the children or do they know about it in advance?

Photo: Loutky v nemocnici

“We are a non-profit organization so we try to collect money from people who donate to charity. Then we call the hospital and ask if they’re interested in it – because we’ve been doing it for 17 years, they know us and they know how it works.

“Sometimes they even use us – they give us some tasks like to try moving the left hand of the child or to get the child to speak more about how they feel. And surprisingly it really works! Because the children speak to the puppet, not to us [laughs].

“We also use music – we play piano or guitar and we let the children play instruments, like little drums. So they start singing and then they feel much better.”

How did the organisation help kids in hospital over Christmas? Did the puppets visit children even on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day?

“Christmas Day was difficult because none of us had time to visit them, but in the period before Christmas Day and now every day this week between Christmas and New Year, we’ve been going to the big hospital in Prague, Motol. The seriously ill children who couldn’t go home over Christmas are there and they are really happy that somebody is thinking about them and coming to be with them. Today there are four people there with puppets, singing carols and just trying to help.”