Today “Anna” (not her real name) finishes her second semester ever at school. She is 10 years old and has lived almost half of her life as an inpatient at Okmatdet, the national children’s hospital here in Kyiv. Her mother died, her father is nowhere to be found, and her aunt cannot transport her to the hospital three times a week for dialysis…so she simply lives at the hospital. Yes, the government DOES supply teachers to instruct the children in the dialysis unit, but they are not willing to teach Anna. Why, you ask? Anna not only has failing kidneys caused by tuberculosis but she also is HIV+. And the teachers are afraid of her.
Mind-boggling, isn’t it? If anyone should know the truth about HIV/AIDS, you would think it would be the hospital staff! And you would HOPE that they would pass on that truth to volunteers. But that is simply not the case.
Jim and I visit this hospital every week, Jim teaches medical English to the staff and I simply play with the children. It turns out that this combination is making an impact…not only are we interested in the children but we also care for the staff! We don’t have deep pockets, but we DO have time and find ourselves modeling compassion as we deal with real-life situations at the hospital. And it has not gone unnoticed.
The staff trusts us and they trust our recommendations. When we approached the head doctor about the situation involving no education for these inpatients, she was totally open to our recommendation of a private teacher. We have started small — one student with one teacher once a week. Sveta is our teacher — a mom who herself has adopted a special needs child in Ukraine and knows firsthand the challenges that come from being institutionalized, whether an orphanage or a hospital! She home-schooled her daughter until she was able to attend the neighborhood school. She has designed a program for Okmatdet that takes into account that some ‘students’ will be there for only a few short weeks, some for months, and some for years. We love that Sveta is teaching much more than simply ‘book learnin,’ including how to express emotions appropriately (using words rather than just pouting) and she brings a Christian perspective to the world around Anna. The parents and care-givers are begging her to teach the other children as well. Such an opportunity!
We all were thrilled to hear that Anna had become a Believer over the holidays — lots of visitors flood the hospitals during Christmas/New Year’s break — and one took the time to quietly pray with Anna. We planted seeds over the years, Sveta watered them, and someone else harvested. God’s ways are perfect.
Yesterday Sveta came by to report on Anna’s progress. To quote Sveta:
We have got four great achievements in January:
1. Anna is very excited about doing math. She is super at addition and subtraction from 1 to 10. She also is very good at problem solving. She had a big problem with numbers, she even could not remember how to write them 5 months ago. God is really great!!! All glory to Him!!
2. Anna’s and my backs would be shown on TV and people could see how it is important for such children to have lessons at hospital.
3. Anna’s aunt came and saw a little of our lesson. She was very excited and looked at Anna’s achievements and signed her school day book.
4.Anna finished one more book World Around Me.
These are huge steps in the life of a little girl who spends so much time sitting bored in her hospital room or in the dialysis unit. She is often tired and extremely thin. But she is so very excited to learn new things. We are so thankful for Sveta and her first student!
We are challenging schools, teachers, parent-teacher groups and others to consider partnering with us in the project to educate these hospitalized HIV+ patients. Once we replace Sveta’s current salary she will be going full-time with us. How exciting is that? We also have dreams of another angel working with the upper school patients…we have someone in mind, but we would need to also replace her current salary. We pray that groups will be willing to raise funds to take care of just one month a year, every year. That cost ranges from $500 to $900 a month (depending on one or two teachers) and also includes all the supplies needed to teach the various ages. We can do this, but not alone.
Are YOU willing to organize a group to take financial responsibility for one month a year? We have already heard from one school in Alabama and also a parent group from a private school who will be making a donation each year in honor of the teachers!
Two months down, ten to go.