Experiences of the recipients of Reach For A Dream Foundation projects
Myburgh, Debra Anne
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In children, life-threatening illnesses (LTIs) present with both physical and psychosocial side effects, which seem to contribute to the perpetuation of hopelessness and fear among the children and their families. Children with LTIs often experience regular and painful treatment routines. A LTI not only impacts on the child but also on the family. LTIs put families in a critical and vulnerable situation, evoking emotions such as shock, disbelief and fear. Hope and coping strategies appear to be crucial for both children and their families when facing the effects of a LTI on a child. While medical intervention strategies are used to alleviate physical side effects, psychosocial intervention strategies (as referred to in this research study) that are focused on improving the well-being of the child and family, appear to be limited. Psychosocial interventions are defined as any intervention that emphasizes psychological or social factors, rather than biological factors. Psychosocial intervention strategies, such as „dream-come-true‟ projects, appear to ameliorate distress, offer respite, decrease isolation, empower individuals, increase self-confidence and give the children unique opportunities to connect with their families in a positive, normal way. Such a psychosocial intervention strategy is offered by the Reach For A Dream Foundation (RFAD) in South Africa. The experiences of the recipients of RFAD „dream-come-true‟ projects were the focus of this study. The goal of this research study was to study the „dream-come-true‟ psychosocial experiences of children/adolescents and their families, by means of a narrative enquiry design. This design allowed participants to tell their stories truthfully, giving the researcher the opportunity to immerse herself in the personal experience of each participant. Participants were purposively, and then randomly, selected from an RFAD client list. A total of six children/adolescents, between the ages of 8 and 18 years, were randomly selected from Johannesburg and the surrounding areas. The children/adolescents and both parents were interviewed, except for one father who was not present (17 participants in total). Child/adolescent interviews included the use of fun, tactile emotive cushions to assist the participants to recognize emotions they had felt „pre-dream‟, during the „dream‟, and „postdream‟. Semi-structured, individual in-depth interviews were used to interview parent participants. The parent‟s story was not interrupted, thereby providing the opportunity for a fluid narrative. In addition to interviews, the researcher made field notes of the participant's reactions, body language and emotions after each interview. All interviews were recorded and transcribed. Tesch's (1990) approach was used to identify, analyse and report patterns within the data. The findings of this study suggest that intervention strategies improve emotional health and overall wellness in participants. „Pre-dream‟ feelings of fear, sadness, loneliness and a lack of normality in everyday life, were prominent themes. Participating parents expressed anger, helplessness and guilt about being unable to help their children. During the „dream-come-true‟ experience, the predominant themes that emerged were excitement, amazement and gratitude. The theme of disbelief in the reality and experience of the „dream‟ was also prominent. „Post-dream‟, the participants reported a more positive, confident and hopeful outlook. This research appeared to yield some important information on the possible benefits of psychosocial intervention strategies, as they seemed helpful in addressing the challenges presented by LTIs in children/adolescents.
- Humanities