FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – A program that helps children during difficult situations is spreading a long way from Fort Worth. The Child Life Program at Cook Children’s Medical Center is now helping children in Romania.

To see intern Laura Alb and 7-year-old Emma Owen sitting down painting together may seem like simple child’s play. But when the activity takes place in a hospital because the child is sick it means so much more.

“Research has shown that kids who play after surgery go home sooner,” Child Life Program Director Jill Koss explained. “They heal faster, get better quicker and go home sooner.”

In 2004, the Child Life Program at Cook Children’s helped a little girl from Romania, named Victoria Sortow, heal from cancer. The program helped her and her family so much that the Sortow’s wanted to create a Child Life Program in Romania…and they have.

Now eight years later Laura Alb is an intern of that program. ‘It’s something I always wanted to do — was make a difference in children’s lives,” she said.

Before programs like this children who experienced long hospital stays lacked normal development. ‘Children didn’t have much of anything to do except lay in their beds. [Their] development got stunted, their ability to bond and form relationships was deficient.”

Whether it’s artwork, music or just playing, experts like Koss say it helps. “Play is kids way of working through fear, stress, anger, all of those emotions.”

Alb believes that play is a universal language and she’s confident she’ll soon impact the lives of children in her own country. “I realize that hospitalization can be very traumatic for them and I find it like the perfect spot to make a difference.”

A team of eight more Cook Children’s employees is heading to Romania to spread knowledge of the program.

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