Intense day with Chernobyl Children at

Trip Start Jun 28, 2009
Trip End Jul 16, 2009

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In the morning I put the Avast antivirus program on Dr. P's computer.  We also looked at some things on my Website.  I explained some about my Travel Blog.  But, what Vasyl and Natalia enjoyed most was the Peine 50th anniversary photos.   They really enjoyed seeing that along with Cathy McClure who they immediately recognized and photos of my son Michael. 

Breakfast.  I really didn’t want any except for coffee. We had  two supercharged Ukrainian-style meals after I got there yesterday.  It’s just not possible to live this way.  However, Natasha did make a pot of porridge.  I took three tablespoons of that and got by OK.  I know there’s going to be all kinds of goodies served throughout the day. 

It's raining lightly outside. I’m thinking it’s the kind of rain Bev would like for the garden and yard.  When we get to the Centre we walk around the children’s play area.  More than three years we sent over rubber matting for the Jungle Jim area via container.  I was interested in how it held up.  It looked as good as new and it’s gone through three cold winters.  This matting is  what Vasyl Pasechnik saw at St. Vincent’s Children’s Hospital when he visited in Indianapolis and mentioned that it was very important for the play area at the Centre.  In the play area there was only concrete below the climbing bars and slides.  The Mike Snyder family provided this matting that is manufactured in Indiana as a gift We sent it over by container.  It’s well-remembered.  Also, we saw the bus that we donated as a special gift for the 10th anniversary in 2006.

We then went over to Lydia Sayenko’s Montessori area.  LifeNets provided all the Russian Montessori teaching materials that was only available in Toronto, Canada.  We did that about three years ago, too.  It was a difficult process of getting through customs without duty, but we finally did.  All the items looked brand new  new.  Lydia Sayenko was working with a child to put shapes into a board.  The child’s mother was at hand.  There is an amazing spirit of light and positive thought at the Center.  Dr. P truly believes that it helps in the overall healing process for children.  I saw quite a few children with cerebral palsy and Down Syndrome in therapy at the Centre this time. 

Therapy for disabled children is so different than in the United States.  In the US therapists usually come to the homes of many of the children that we had here. The children come here and various kinds of therapy are applied during their treatment. 

Not sure if I mentioned this before, but 160 of the children’s cost is financed by the government.  Thirty children stay overnight.  That’s 160. Another 30 children are part of the original "Revival" program. The cost to handle a child for three week’s rehabilitation  is 1343 grivnas which is $176. An amazing value.  Some parents are not able to pay.  LifeNets has been providing a $15,000 a year in support to this most wonderful center and the phenomenal work that they do. 
Doctors are paid a paltry wage of about $150 a month.  Teachers get more than doctors.  Teachers have an automatic government ranking for extra pay given to them for a set number of years of services.  This classification is not granted to doctors.  Dr. Pasechnik and Natalia live in a very modest apartment and I stayed with them in the living room.  He told me his salary and it was shockingly low.

We also toured the choreography therapy room.  LifeNets supported this in a fundraising drive in 2005.  In the morning young children use the room, in the afternoon it’s the older ones.  Everything is so light and bright in the Center….such a contrast to the dreariness of the city around.   

Then came the children’s program. Whenever there are visitors a program is always put on where children recite, sing and dance.  I felt a bit awkward being only one person for the whom the program was performed.  My friend Katya was playing the piano and coaching the children.  Two boys sang one of my favorite Russian songs “My Babushka.”  But, the most wonderful song was sung by a little girl with cerebral palsy.  She had so much of her heart in it and I was captivated by it.  It was so beautiful to see her try so hard and want to perform. 

The program went about half an hour.  Nice things were said by Dr. P about LifeNets work.  Sometimes I don’t think we do very much because of all the frustration of funding, sending things (as we used to but not any more) and other factors.  But, when he listed all the things LifeNets had done I, too, was amazed.  I thank all the supporters of LifeNets who had helped make this place on Island of Hope and Healing.  So much of it is because of the marvelous spirit of the people who are a team and family….even as the staff has grown to more than 115.  It’s amazing that most of these people make only $150 a month yet put their hearts into their work. 

Then Dr. P, Natalya and I went to visit Galina Mayurnko who was in the hospital.  She is in charge of the staff in the government section of the Center.  She had kidney stones and was hospitalized.  She was in what the Pasechnik’s said was a “good” hospital.   Before going there we stopped at a supermarket to by here a rose.  Then we stopped a fruit stand to get her some bananas, cranberry juice and apricots.  The ladies at the stand used an abacus to calculate the cost. 

Off to the hospital.  There are only wards with no less than six to eight people per room. Since she was on fourth floor it is not high enough to risk an elevator.  Up we walked and all the way down the hall to the last ward.  She was so surprised to see me.  I have known her before because of her unique humorous personality.  We walked out into a reception area to talk.  It was very enjoyable and she appreciated our visit.

Then we left.  As we left the hallway I noticed a collage of stones behind glass?  What was this?  It was an artistic layout of kidney stones from patients!   Argh! 

We came back to the Center for lunch.  Valerie Hrymchak, Dr. P’s son-in-law, a neurologist , came by.  He connected me to 3-G modem on my laptop and I was able to send out four of these blog posts.  He saw my Blackberry and asked a lot of questions about it.  He is a very competent person and is the second in charge of a medical company in Kiev and has to travel there two to three times a week.  One person they have connected with well is a Lyena Yakivna in Kharkiv who comes over three to four times a year and does various diagnoses. 

Then Dr. P took me to the relaxation room.  Our people who have visited here loved this room.  It has been moved to another part of the building and expanded. It was darkened with bubbles and lights and soothing music. I stretched back in a chair and promptly fell asleep for about 15 minutes.  This rooms is part of the therapy that children go through.

Then I went back to the choreography room to video more of that.  The choreographer teacher whose name is Artem is a young man who is really good with children.  He is a good dancer, but also focused on the therapeutic value of what he does. 

Finally several of us gathered togethe for the evening:  the Hrymchak’s (Valerie, Anya and Cyril) and Volodymer Ivanovich Yashenko and his wife Lyudmilla Leonidovna came over for the “vechirka.”  The literal for that is “little evening.”  It means a social evening with a meal. The table was nicely set by the secretary Natasha and Julie, the lawyer.  It really was nice.  Volodymer is the head of health services for the Chernihev province and his wife Lyudmilla is the director of the psychiatric hospital.

All sat around the table and we started talking about all kinds of things.  Barak Obama, the US economy, Michael  Jackson (briefly), Ukrainian politics and lots of other things. There is great disenchantment with the current president Yushchenko whose term runs out in January.  He had promised so much in his campaigning and there was great hope for Ukraine, but he has not fulfilled hardly any of his promises.  Instead his speeches blamed various likely targets: the opposition parties, Parliament, etc.  Now there is a three way battle by a Russian sympathizer candidate (Yankovich), a woman similar in political leanings to Yuschenko whose name is Julia Timoshenko and another younger candidate.

As usual, as the evening unfolded toasts were made. The first by Dr. P for our friendship.  As usually is an artful oratory saying kind things…..that you only say holding a cognac in your hand.   Toasts are a way to socially say things that you could never really say any other way.  It’s hard to explain, but you have to live it to understand it.  After a while Volodymier Yashenko proposed a toast. I had toast number three….probably 45 minutes into the dinner.  Number three is always for love and the women.  I praised Beverly and everyone who knew here went “hear hear.”  I spoke kindly of Natalia Pasechnik and our 13 years of friendship and working together.  And, of the new lady in our midst, Lyudmilla Yaschenko, the head of the psychiatric hospital in Chernihev.   We then spent another hour and a half in lively conversation.  It was fun.  More toasts came, but the important first three were the main ones.  Dr. Pasechnik is most artful in expression. 

We then went back to the apartment a short distance away.  Tomorrow I pack up and leave for home!
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