Shell global award for Singapore toy that explains treatments to sick kids

Rabbit Ray's designer, Ms Esther Wang, wanted to help young patients understand the often frightening procedures they have to face while undergoing treatment for cancer or other serious illnesses. This teaching aid helps the children calm down as the
Rabbit Ray's designer, Ms Esther Wang, wanted to help young patients understand the often frightening procedures they have to face while undergoing treatment for cancer or other serious illnesses. This teaching aid helps the children calm down as they play with it and learn how devices such as intravenous drips work. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

A Singaporean has won the top prize in a global innovation competition - her entry was a toy set that teaches children how hospital treatments work.

The set, called Rabbit Ray, comprises a rabbit doll, replicas of medical devices and a picture book. Children can use the replicas on the doll to play doctor.

The set's designer, Ms Esther Wang, 28, beat contestants from 14 other countries, including Italy and Britain, to win first place and US$15,000 (S$21,000) from oil company Shell last Thursday.

Rabbit Ray is intended for children aged between four and eight. The replicas include a syringe and an intravenous catheter, while the book explains medical procedures, such as the drawing of blood, through stories involving the rabbit.

"Fear of the unknown drives kids' pain to unrealistic levels, but when they know what to expect in the hospital, they can cope better," said Ms Wang, who is trained in product development.

She conceived the idea for Rabbit Ray in 2010 when she was sculpting balloons for children at a hospital as a volunteer and noticed that they relaxed while they played.

It took her four years to turn her idea into reality, and Rabbit Ray was launched last year. She is now selling the set online for $210 (excluding shipping and taxes) through her start-up, Joytingle.

A panel of seven international judges, including executives from National Geographic and Emirates Foundation, selected Joytingle from 10 finalists under Shell's LiveWIRE entrepreneurship programme. Applicants had to have been in business for at least 15 months, and each country was allowed a maximum of three entries.

Shell LiveWIRE's global manager, Mr Emmanuel Anyim, said: "This innovation has huge potential for application across all geographies.

"Producing this rabbit can create employment as well as benefit the health industry.

"There hasn't been any such approach in the world to providing childcare, so that really gave her the edge."

Since last year, the KK Women's and Children's Hospital, National University Hospital and Children's Cancer Foundation have used Rabbit Ray with more than 10,400 children.The toy set is also being used by institutions in Australia, Taiwan and the Philippines.

Ms Wang noted that, when Rabbit Ray was commercialised, there was unexpected demand from the market for cancer-related services, as child sufferers have to face multiple sessions of chemotherapy and blood-drawing.

She said: "We're not doing kids justice if we don't let them learn. When they understand that these procedures help strengthen their bodies, it gives them the strength to go through the treatments."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2016, with the headline 'Global award for Singapore toy that explains treatments to sick kids'. Print Edition | Subscribe