In my last post I mentioned that I was chairing a Festival to raise money for Nastenka, which supports a pediatric oncology unit at a Moscow hospital. Today, I had the opportunity to visit the children.
Before we visited the children, two other volunteers and I had to buy some groceries to bring. The children are given three meals a day. However, because they are under chemotherapy they aren’t always hungry at meal time or not hungry for the food available. In addition, the majority of children have their parents with them throughout the day and they need to eat too. The food that we bought supplements the meals provided and what the parents bring. The parents cook comfort food for their children and meals for themselves. We refer to it as a Ronald McDonald kitchen. The American Women’s Organization supports the supplemental food at 7,500 rubles a month, that’s about $230.
The staff at Nastenka send us a list of the items and quantities of products needed. This month the list included such items as laundry detergent, wet wipes, paper towels, juice boxes, flour, sugar, and sunflower oil. In addition they request items such as tea and coffee. There are about 40 children on the floor and you can imagine that it is tight trying to buy the quantities needed on that budget. As we went through the store we calculated what we were spending and how much remained to buy additional items such as canned vegetables or an additional container of coffee. It made me feel grateful that I can go to the grocery store and afford what I need. Pushing the carts through a crowded Russian grocery store was quite the experience and my arms had a great workout.
Finally it was time to visit the children. As we arrived on the floor it looked like a drab hospital floor. There were no decorations or colors for the children. The purpose of the visit, called Spread Sunshine, is to bring a smile to the kids’ faces. There are toys, arts and crafts projects, school supplies, and fun clothes that are donated. The items are broken down by gender and age group. We go from room to room permitting the kids pick a toy or two and giving them a juice box and snack. Some kids are too sick to leave their bed and their parents choose a gift for them. Others are so excited to choose and play with their new toy. These kids are in the hospital for weeks at a time, and something to keep them entertained is greatly appreciated by the kids and their parents. It seems that everyone eagerly awaits our visit. Children and parents waited at the door for us to roll down with the toys.
It was a very moving afternoon. Most of the families are poor and those that are not Russian citizens need to pay for the treatment out-of-pocket. Some of the kids come from Former Soviet Republics to this hospital because their needs cannot be met at home. So even though our monthly contribution is small, it was great to bring a smile to their faces and make their day a little brighter.
You can see some pictures below.
From Russia with Love,