The red rooftops of Prague and the Malejovice countryside were a welcome sight this week as I rejoined the Kralovec family in their dream to grow Hospital Play Work in the Czech Republic .
As the Klicek Foundation enters their 25th year, they celebrate not only their anniversary but their entry into a new phase of their mission. In collaboration with Charles University and the Plzen School of Nursing, they are developing a college level program on Play Work, the first of its kind in their country. This is all in addition to the work they do in hospitals for ill children and their families, and the summer camp they run for these families each year. (Click on “summer camp for a beautiful view of the property where they live and work in Malejovice, filmed by Jiri Kralovec, Jiri’s son).
As part of this vision, they invited me to consult with them about curriculum and to teach two seminars on child centered play, a topic that Marketa Kralovec says is much needed in their culture.
“It is such a necessary but unheard of thing here, to follow the child’s lead in play,” she states with feeling.
And so we got down on the floor with play dough, Legos, army figurines and plastic monsters, demonstrating child centered play techniques and then practicing them together. We also drew play maps, shared stories of our childhood memories of play, played hand games and blew lip whistles – the hours passed quickly
The Caritas School of Social Services hosted our first seminar. The head of the school, Martin Bednar, welcomed us warmly, expressing his gratitude by presenting me with the book Destinies as hard as stone, about a sculpture in the school courtyard – The Monument of Stories. A wooden series of towers house stones from around the world on many small shelves. Students bring stones from their internships to represent a story that affected them deeply in their learning. The school gathers for each installment to hear and record the student’s narrative. It is an incredible tribute to the work of students and the people who’ve shaped their lives.
“We are like stones in a river. If alone, the water will wash us away. Together, however, we make up a dam.”
Our second day of teaching took place in a medieval building overlooking Wenceslas Square in the heart of Prague. Throughout our seminar occasional strains of church bells and the hoofbeats of horse-drawn carriages drifted up to the windows from the cobblestones below. I couldn’t take my eyes off the ceiling of the room, which was crossed by beams of ancient wood and hand painted panels depicting whimsical animal scenes.
Our students in these two venues included both undergraduates and working play workers. They showed great passion for the children and families in their care, and a willingness to ask tough questions and share painful memories and struggles. Throughout the students’ stories ran a common thread of the childhood desire for self expression, adventure and kind attention from adults. Child-centered practice definitely fits in with this ideal. The participants truly brought all of themselves to the learning. I couldn’t have enjoyed a more engaging and thoughtful group. Not to mention Jiri Kralovec, who was a tireless interpreter, translating my every word.
Please enjoy the photos below, and remember the Klicek Foundation during this holiday season. If you wish to make a donation to this humane and critical work, you can contact Jiri & Marketa, the founders, at email@example.com for more information.
Thanks to Jiri Kralovec Junior for capturing our seminars with his wonderful photography