Blog #3, March 23, 2012
The care for seniors in the former Molotschna colony took a step forward in 2011 when one floor of the Molochansk hospital was designated to provide care for up to 30 seniors. One room of this floor had earlier been renovated and furnished by the Mennonite Centre to serve as a respite centre for up to four patients.
A recent tour of this ward revealed clean facilities and patients who seemed content. Fourteen staff, including patient care, kitchen, maintenance and administrative staff, are funded by the government’s social services department, separate from the health department. Funding for basic maintenance of the building, upgrading of equipment, even basic supplies and medications is seriously lacking. The new, commercial quality stove purchased by the Mennonite Centre in fall, 2011 was found inside a cardboard box, still unused, because the kitchen in which it was to be installed did not pass inspection. Consequently all the meals are still prepared in a poorly equipped kitchen in a building next door. All the food is then carried by hand across the yard, to the patients on the wards. Several hot plates are used to prepare the food; old, scarred metal tables are used for food preparation and dishes are washed by hand in large metal tubs. Large windows in patient rooms facing west overlook the Molotshna valley, but have only partial sheer coverings. This will cause problems in the summertime in an un-air-conditioned building when outdoor temperatures can reach the high 30’s. Linoleum floor-coverings are cracked and broken so that the wheels on the wheelchairs get stuck in them. The seniors are expected to pay for food and medications from their own meager pensions.
In the nearby village of Kutuzovka, the Mennonite church has expanded its facilities for senior care from six to ten women. Being a two-storey facility with no elevator service is problematic for the seniors. Long-term plans, after the church has built a new sanctuary in Molochansk, call for more extensive renovations of the existing sanctuary to further increase their capacity for seniors. Lilli, supported by a German mission agency, gives positive and energetic leadership in this facility. Together with her staff, she has managed to develop a strong community atmosphere with the residents which includes spiritual care. Here also, the residents are expected to contribute much of their pensions to provide for their basic needs. One of the residents was so pleased to be here that she described her present conditions as paradise, compared to her former living conditions. Nevertheless, despite donations from Mennonite Centre and others, funding is a continual challenge for the staff.
Having observed our parents and other relatives through the aging process and eventual death, we sometimes feel that our western society has not yet discovered ideal care and support for our seniors. However, those of us in Canada in or nearing retirement can rest assured at the huge advantage we have over the present Ukrainian system.
At the other end of the age spectrum are the children in schools also lacking sufficient funding. A recent donation by the Mennonite Centre to pay for transportation allowed the 50-voice girls’ choir from the Russian school #2 in Molochansk to participate in a music festival in Melitopol. Their strong and sensitive musicality was rewarded with a third place finish. Their enthusiastic cheers signaled their delight despite the long and tiring day they had experienced!
Thursday was clean-up day at the apartments. Shortly after lunch a dozen individuals gathered to dispose of last summer’s tall weeds on the property in front of the apartment.
Sergei Zubov, also a resident and local businessman provided a front-end loader and truck to haul away garbage and branches that could not be burned on site. While the yard may not qualify as being manicured, a marked improvement is evident. Perhaps of even greater value was the spirit of cooperation in a joint project among the participants. Discussions even arose regarding the possible further development of this property into a playground by constructing a fence along the street and adding appropriate structures. That, however, will require more than “elbow grease”.