Monday, November 7, 2022

A Happy Hospital

Tessa de Goede

You don’t normally think of a hospital as a “happy place” but this one sure is. Clínica Los Tulipanes is located on the outskirts of Antigua Guatemala and caters solely to children with cleft lip or palate. Tessa de Goede, founder of the NGO Tess Unlimited that runs the clinic, made her dream come true by now having her own place where children receive the best care they can get. For years, Tessa brought in medical teams to do the surgeries on location, which was always complicated and rarely comfortable. Now the children receive surgery in a top of the bill location, as well as any other care they might need. Think a special milk program for new-borns, psychological consultations for the parents, speech therapy and dental care for the older children. Tessa managed to turn a clinical space into a warm home with lots of details that will most definitely bring a smile to anyone’s face.

I feel honoured to have been involved in the art design part of this project. The opening of the hospital was much delayed due to the pandemic, but that gave me all the time to paint cute animals (al with cleft lips!) in the recovery rooms. Earlier this year I painted some animals in the dental clinic, including an installation that hangs from the ceiling, depicting a hole in the ceiling that opens up to the sky. That and the butterflies that hang from it give the children something to look for while in the dentist chair.

Just last week I painted, on Tessa’s request and kindly sponsored by the Dutch foundation Podia4People, a large map of Guatemala. It’s actually a cork-board that will be used to pin down the hometown of each patient. Next to it a quetzal, the national bird of Guatemala. A perfect spot for selfies, of course!

It’s wonderful to have seen the clinic transform from a construction site into an buzzling beehive of activities. Dozens of children have already benefited from this happy place, and dozens more are on the waiting list.

Does that mean that my work is over? Thank goodness no! The next step is to build a temporary home for patients’ family. Tessa and team laid the first brick last week, so the work has begun. And contrary to the clinic, there are not so many healthy and safety regulations to take in account, so we can go as crazy as we want. Looking forward to it!

Many thanks to Colour4Kids and People4Podia for sponsoring!