NEW ORLEANS — Sixth- and seventh-graders at Ecole Bilingue sewed up a service project recently, bringing handmade caps and scarves to cancer patients receiving chemotherapy at Touro Infirmary’s infusion center.
Katy Ancelet, a social studies and math teacher at the small, private French school, decided to incorporate handcrafts into a class for Ecole’s 11 middle schoolers.
“There is something intrinsically satisfying about creating something with your hands,” Ancelet said. The patterns of knitting and crocheting that the class chose utilized math concepts, she said.
Meanwhile, Ecole was deciding on a service project for the middle schoolers. Another teacher at Ecole had recently been declared in remission from lymphona — as close to a cure as most doctors will allow. And Ancelet wanted to incorporate needlework into the service project.
“I told my friend about it, and she told one of her doctors about my interest. He suggested that we crochet hats and scarves for the cancer patients at Touro,” she said. “It incorporated the skills the students learned in class with the possibility of really making someone’s day a little brighter.”
On March 8, students presented their hand-made, crocheted caps and scarves to Touro patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
They also made small, uplifting cards. Students spent more than an hour visiting and talking with patients at the hospital.
Because chemotherapy patients often lose their hair, caps are a perfect gift — both warm and attractive, said Robert B. Gardner, director of psychosocial oncology at Touro.
In addition, a visit during chemotherapy is a nice distraction.
“By engaging with another person, the patients don’t focus so much attention on having cancer or getting sick from the chemotherapy drugs,” Gardner said. “The patients who met with the Ecole Bilingue students really seemed to enjoy the time they spent together as well as the caps and scarves they received.”
The visit meant a lot to the students, their teacher said.
“I think having survivors in front of them put their own problems into perspective,” Ancelet said. “They were very concerned with making this a positive experience for the patients, and with doing their best to make them happy.”