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25.04.2018 - News

A journey towards life seen through the eyes of journalists

Nearly 200 children are operated in Switzerland each year under the Terre des hommes specialised care programme. Speaking of a journey towards life unlike any other: that of 10-year-old Fatimatou, which took place under the watchful eye of journalists.

Following the path of a child at the Terre des hommes Valais inpatient rehabilitation facility was tickling the curiosity of Chantal Dervey for some time. As a photographer for the newspaper 24 heures in Aigle, she often passed by La Maison in Massongex and wonded about the lives of these children she watched play from afar. Who are their families? How do these live without their child?

In the footsteps of Fatimatou

Chantal discussed this to her colleague, Flavienne Wahli Di Matteo. Together they pitched the story to the editorial board of the newspaper: they would document the journey of a child suffering from a heart condition. Just before the summer, Carlos Royo, the medical advisor for the Terre des hommes specialised care programme, received a file from Benin: Fatimatou, a ten-year-old living in Cotonou with her mother and younger sister. Her family had been preparing over the past year for the operation in Switzerland.

The team in Cotonou mobilised to show the reporters the important steps when transfering a child to Switzerland for surgery. The process was very professional and the journalists met all the project collaborators on site. And, of course, Fatimatou! She was anxious and impatient. The presence of the journalists added a hint of excitement to the adventure.

Snowflakes and duvets

Fatimatou dreaded the cold. She imagined mountains, snow. She joyfully discovered the comfort of duvets. The journalists followed her for two months, from her hospitalisation at the CHUV with professor René Prêtre – cardiac surgeon and member of the Council of Foundation – to her return back home. They created a brilliant documentary released in 4 parts. Fatimatou will remember each second of this trip. “I am happy to be a Terre des hommes child. When I grow up, I want to be a doctor and come back to La Maison in Massongex. Someone saved me – now it’s my turn to save someone else”


The 24 heures report can be found here