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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Dubai-based initiative gives sick children a superhero boost

Junior GCC patients receiving medical treatment at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London got a superhero makeover

A partnership between Great Ormond Street Hospital (Gosh) and Superhope brought six children undergoing treatment for haematology and oncology conditions together with a comic book artist, videographers, photographers and a costume designer to make them into their superhero alter-egos.

The project is the brainchild of Dubai initiative Superhope, which has been running similar schemes across the GCC, US and UK since 2014. It partnered with Gosh's International and Private Patients Service to boost the spirits of some of the 1,500 children who travel to the London hospital from the Middle East for specialist treatment every year.

The process began in May, by asking the children, one of whom is from the Emirates, how they would imagine themselves as a superhero. Powers such as the ability to make people laugh, bloom flowers and shoot ice were thought up by the children. Comic book artist Amrit Birdi set to work turning the imagination into reality.

Together these children became a force to rival TV stars. The first members of the GOSHxSuperhope League includes characters called AJ-Force, DarkGadget, SaMagic, ButterFly, Flowergirl and ReFroze. Each of them possesses unique characteristics of their own design.

As well as being an engaging and fun experience for the children, Claudia Tomlin, one of Gosh's matrons, says it also boosted their self confidence.

“Some of these children have been in the hospital or having treatment for a significant amount of time and for them to be able to find that kind of release, is really worthwhile,” she said.

“A lot of the families involved said it gave them a well-needed lift in the midst of some quite intense treatments"

Gosh and Superhope have created a short film featuring the children’s superheroes, which was shown to their families and hospital staff on Monday. On Tuesday, the videos were released online for the world to enjoy.

Those involved in the process said it was a gratifying one. Jo De Santis, from Atelier Spatz, who made all the individual costumes by hand in under five weeks, was stunned at the difference her creations and the process made to the children’s confidence.

“When we gave them the costumes and they slipped into that role and stepped in front of the camera, they adopted totally different personas,” she said.

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“Some of them were so shy when we first met them and they really came out of their shell, posing ... they loved it. It was a transformation."

Ms Tomlin agrees.

“One of them didn't take [the costume] off for about three weeks. She came to every outpatient appointment in her costume. She really became her alter ego,” she said.

Speaking about what the experience meant for GCC patient Latifa (also known as ButterFly), her grandmother, who wished not to be named, said, “the Superhope initiative has had a very positive effect on Latifa and our whole family. Latifa needs something to encourage her and this initiative made her, and our family, so happy. She became a butterfly queen, very beautiful!”

Following the success of the project, Great Ormond Street and Superhope is considering rolling out the service to children across the hospital.