Monday, May 7, 2012

 Blogspot #7
May 8, 2012

One of the challenges for the Mennonite Centre is to find local leaders who will be able initiate strategies that will further develop their own civil society.  We feel fortunate in having developed positive working relationships with a number of such leaders in Molochansk.  On Friday, May 4, a number of these, together with their spouses joined us for a delightful evening at the Mennonite Centre.  This group consisted of school principals, deputies of town council, hospital and care home directors, etc.  Ira, our head cook, together with our staff, prepared a lovely meal, delicious and beautifully presented.  Following the meal, we enjoyed the wonderful music performed by Sergei Lokotkov (guitar) and his daughter (flute).  The purpose of this gathering was to show our gratitude to these leaders who are serving the people of their community and to encourage them.  Secondly, we wanted to present a challenge that all of them could be involved with at various levels.  The challenge was to make Molochansk  “A Clean City”.  This could involve students in various ways, encourage volunteerism, rewards for the best “clean” project, helping elderly neighbors, being an example to others, etc.  The potential for beauty is abundantly evident. The deputy in attendance agreed to set up a meeting for Mennonite Centre and the mayor to further explore this idea.  Those in attendance appreciated the positive atmosphere and pleasant entertainment of the evening. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Blogspot #6
May 3, 2012
We had the pleasure of visiting many of our medical projects last week with Drs. Art and Marlyce Friesen from BC.  Art is a member of our Mennonite Centre board of directors, so it was most helpful to discuss issues relating to these projects.  They have visited Ukraine many times, providing medical consultations, speaking at medical conferences, as well as assisting with the work of the Mennonite Centre.  For us personally, it was an opportunity to process issues face to face with a board member, as well as to glean wisdom and encouragement from seasoned workers.  Both of them have retired from busy medical practices in BC, and have spent many of their holidays serving the people of Ukraine. In the photo three of the doctors (on the left) who hold regular clinics at the Mennonite Centre are meeting with the Friesens.

We met with the directors of the Molochansk and Tokmak Hospitals, inviting them to share their hopes and dreams with us for the future of their facilities.  Their budgets are limited and they receive very little funding for maintenance.  Among their requests was an ambulance, an ICU, lab supplies, expanding our services to include more village feldshers (medical practitioners), providing a network to share information throughout the hospital, etc.  The list is endless.  They are invited to submit proposals to the Mennonite Centre to which we will respond as we are able.  A ray of hope was a promise from the government to provide funding for an MRI, lab equipment, and rehabilitation equipment.  Now the waiting begins to see if the funds will come through. 
We were deeply saddened by our interactions with two different doctors.  A urologist who had practiced in Tokmak many years was now working with fewer staff and old equipment.  He looked sad and tired.  We met another doctor who formerly directed a village hospital, had often been assisted by Mennonite Centre, but now only ran a clinic. The hospital had been shut down by the government.  He had dedicated most of his life to this medical facility, demonstrating creativity and innovation to make ends meet.  Now he felt defeated.  Could Mennonite Centre perhaps extend funding for feldsher services to this group of villages?

Mennonite Centre provides funding for medicines to many feldshers in small villages.  Many villagers are unable to purchase basic medicines and we provide funding for a certain amount every month.  Some of the clinics are in deplorable conditions because of lack of money for repairs, heating, and basic equipment.  In one case, the heating system was no longer functioning, so the temperature inside the clinic was about 0 degrees during the winter!  How impressive to hear that the doctors had then made house calls instead of neglecting their patients.  What a contrast to visit a clinic in another village that had been renovated and well-maintained.  We were told that the local town council had provided the funding to do this.  How encouraging to see people in public office working to provide services for their own communities.  But in each case, the feldshers were very grateful for the help they had received, not only the funds for medicines but also some basic equipment.  In one clinic a gift of paska accompanied by huge smiles was their expression of gratitude! 
Once you meet Luba (the woman on the left), our contact in one of the villages, you do not forget her!  Her weathered face wreathed in smiles, speaks of her love and care for her community.  She has been entrusted with medical funds for her village and determines who the needy recipients are.  As we were speaking with her, an elderly woman walking along the street came up to us.  When she realized that we represented the Mennonite Centre, she thanked us for the help she had received with tears streaming down her face!
In that same village, we also stopped at the monument placed there in memory of all the murdered victims of the former village of Eichenfeld.  Over 80 villagers were cruelly murdered during a single night in 1919!  All this had been witnessed by a young boy who recently passed away at the age of 90+ in BC.  Art had had the privilege of getting to know him, and hearing about that experience firsthand.  What was so striking about this man was his ability to maintain his sanity despite this horrible event.  He had come to the conclusion that he had to forgive, instead of harboring hate and bitterness!