It’s so nice I could live here, said a five-year old patient of the psychological counselling centre at the Department of Oncology and Haematology of the University Children’s Hospital of Cracow, as she entered the doctor’s office.

Repainted yellow walls, bright beech furniture with colourful accessories, and a cork board with children’s drawings are not usually associated with a hospital room. A celadon couch with a matching armchair, nestled in the corner of the room against a baby blue wall with tiny birds popping out of the wallpaper, along with a small accent table, create a comfy space for talking with a psychologist for parents and their sick children. At first glance, colourful plushies are just ordinary toys, but in this case they serve as therapeutic aids in the battle with cancer. Just one month ago, this office looked completely different. Navy-blue bookcases, bearing signs of wear and tear, could not contain all aids necessary in a psychologist’s work, and a heavy desk dwarfed the already small space. Black armchairs and coffee table, resembling furniture of a CEO office in the 90s, did not meet current ergonomic requirements – not to mention their utter lack of cosiness. The walls used to scare patients off with their old electric sockets that begged to be replaced. The gloomy appearance of the room could not be brightened even by children’s paintings, glued to the wall. The small patients who still remember what my office used to look like really notice the change and are thrilled, says psychologist Elżbieta Szweda.


This astounding metamorphosis was possible thanks to the involvement of Kraków Airport employees and funds granted to “Koliber” (Hummingbird), a society for children with cancerous diseases, as part of Kraków Airport 2018 corporate volunteering programme. The financial support allowed the purchase of new furniture and necessary equipment, but the hardest work was done personally by Kraków Airport employees: Artur Staniszewski, Maciej Straż and Ewelina Szybowska. After two days of painting, decorating and furniture assembling, the office gained a fresh and kid-friendly look, and the doctor – a comfortable and spacious workplace. Interior décor is a very important aspect of therapy. This is because the surroundings influence the mood of young patients, which facilitates our contact with them. They become more open and confident, stresses psychologist Elżbieta Szweda. We also wanted to replace an old landline phone with a rotary dial sitting on the desk, but the doctor said no, says Maciej. Old equipment actually arouses curiosity in children who only know numeric pads and touchscreens, so it serves as a great conversation starter.

All hands on board

At the final stage of the project, the team was joined by Iwona Brzostowska-Tłuczek with her husband and daughters: 3-year-old Kaja and 7-year-old Lilianna. We like to help and we take up these types of challenges whenever there’s a chance. We want to show our daughters that they can and should help others, says Iwona. The first picture to be pinned to the new cork board was drawn by little Lilianna. There were other examples of great cooperation and goodwill gestures in the course of the project implementation. When it turned out that the grant was insufficient to cover everything that was planned, I organised a fund-raiser among my closest co-workers, which allowed us to buy small plushies for sick children, Ewelina recalls. I was counting on a few pennies, but ended up collecting a considerable sum. Money is just money, but the support and involvement of my colleagues were like the wind in my sails, she adds. The progress of the project was personally overseen by Danuta Gilarska from “Koliber”, the beneficiary of the Kraków Airport volunteering programme, who went to great lengths to manage the project budget. When the money from the grant was becoming scarce, she convinced Paweł Gniadkowski, who had cooperated with “Koliber” for years, to finance bookcases for the office, thus complementing the furniture bought for the money from the Kraków Airport grant.

Good practice

There were also difficult moments. The delivery of the wallpaper was constantly delayed and the project deadline loomed ever closer. Eventually, however, thanks to the courtesy of Kraków Airport, the project was completed as planned. It’s a very good project that fits into the contemporary tendencies of emphasising the role of the environment and its influence on the treatment of minors with cancerous diseases. Humanisation and personalisation of children’s oncology departments is a significant but still downplayed issue, stresses Danuta Gilarska. The 2nd International Transdisciplinary Scientific Conference “Education of children with the experience of oncological disease and their families in the healing process” will be held in October this year. At the conference, we plan to take the opportunity and present the Kraków Airport project as an example of a well-implemented corporate volunteering programme, so much needed in our hospitals, she concludes.

Who Wants to Be a Volunteer?

So what do you need to do to become a volunteer? To be frank, not much. All you really need is the will and enthusiasm. The rest – the idea and a little bit of money, will always come along. You just have to look around. Try it. It’s easier than you think and the satisfaction is enormous. It’s your turn now!,  say Artur, Maciej and Ewelina enthusiastically.