Fairytale ending in Thailand

Erin Thursby with a young patient

An outdoor space where sick children can play is now a reality for a Thai hospital thanks to the efforts of an Australian teacher.

When Epping West Public School teacher, Erin Thursby, visited Lampang Hospital in 2010 she played with the sick children, even though she could not speak their language.

"I was amazed by their strength, courage, sense of humour and resilience," Ms Thursby said.

"[But] as a teacher, I was really saddened by the thought of children who were long-term patients missing out on fun at school and making friends."

On her return to Sydney, Ms Thursby volunteered at Westmead Children's Hospital to gain an insight into how she could help in Thailand.

"You can't imagine the difference the environment makes to children's overall wellbeing," she said.

"I wanted to create a space for them not only to relax and escape from their suffering but to promote healing on a physical and emotional level."

After visiting John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle and seeing its fairy garden, she was determined Lampang Hospital would have a similar resource.

Ms Thursby gained approval from the Thailand hospital to create a garden sanctuary and playground in July 2011 and immediately began fund-raising.

Epping West Public School held a trivia night and the Student Representative Council organised a Fairy Tale Frenzy, where students and staff dressed up as fairytale characters and donated a gold coin. 

The University of Newcastle, Tara School for Girls, Paramatta and St Patrick's Marist College, Dundas also contributed financially.  The Salvation Army donated toys and games for the patients of the paediatric wards.  

"Many organisations and individuals have contributed their time, expertise or resources, with my uncle actually designing the garden and coming to Thailand with me to build it," she said.

Ms Thursby returned to Thailand in December with Epping West teachers Amy Neat, Danielle Cheuk and Elizabeth Hamilton. 

In Lampang, the College of Commerce and Technology provided students to paint fairy murals and build the cubby house and EGAT Electrical Company, sponsored the project. 

Boromrajonani College of Nursing provided accommodation, interpreters, transportation and their expertise in health practices.  In return the West Epping teachers held art and craft workshops for the nursing students and staff.

"We taught nursing students how to … entertain and distract children while they are awaiting treatment or in recovery," Ms Thursby said.

Now 80 per cent complete, the project has been handed over to the Lampang stakeholders with Ms Thursby planning to return for the official opening later this year.

"Who knows, maybe I'll dress up as a fairy," Ms Thursby said.

Photo: Erin Thursby with a young patient. Photo supplied by Erin Thursby.

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