Toy monkeys help sick students stay connected to their classmates

A South Auckland school is using a soft toy monkey to help sick students stay connected to their classmates, under a programme run by Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand.

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Seven Sharp’s Tamati Rimene-Sproat visited Pukekohe Hill School. Source: Seven Sharp

The 'Monkey in my Chair' programme is designed to keep young leukaemia and blood cancer patients connected to their classmates while they undergo treatment.

When a child is away from school, a big toy monkey sits in the student’s chair, while a smaller monkey keeps the patient company while they're missing their friends at school.

Classmates are encouraged to include the big monkey in lessons and send messages and news to their friend in monkey’s bright yellow backpack.

TVNZ1's Seven Sharp visited Room 15 at Pukekohe Hill School where 'Munchie' the monkey is at the desk of Joseph Jenkins who's away  for treatment.

Teacher Shirley Smart tells the kids: "Send him a message of how your thoughts are with him, or send him some things of what you've been doing, take some screen shots, just to let him know you're thinking about him." 

The students prepare cards and messages such as, "kia kaha, stay strong".

"They send messages and cards or photos just to let him know this is going on 'but you're not missing out because Munchie's in your place to tell you all about it when you get back'," Ms Smart said.

The cards go into Munchie's backpack and are delivered to an appreciative Joseph at home.

Joseph's Mum, Lisa Jenkins, says knowing the monkey is at school made Joseph feel like he was still part of the classroom, "like the kids really cared about him, and he didn't feel so left out and so isolated".

"It has helped us get through some of the hard times, just being able to have this monkey at school and bringing joy to Joseph."

A donation of just $100 to Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand will pay for one child to have 'Monkey In My Chair'.