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“I Think It Is In People’s Nature To Take Care Of Others”

October 29, 2012, 22:00 3000 Author: Iryna Gavrysheva, translated by Maria Romanko www.deti.zp.ua This is an interview with a businessman and a good friend of the Happy Child charity foundation Leonid Lobanok

Once I was asked to find a medication for the sick child that was not available in Zaporozhye. Puzzled with the problem I didn’t know what to do, but my colleague Inna said: “Let’s call Leonid”. This is when I found out about Leonid Lobanok who has helped us a lot since then. This person owns a drug store and helps us to buy medications on the reduced price as well as find the drugs that are hard to get in our city.

And recently I’ve thought: we usually tell you a lot about the children who need help. Sometimes we write about the doctors that work with our children. Maybe this is time we told you about the people who help both us and children? The people who couldn’t stay away from childrens’ problems. So let us introduce you our great helper and friend Leonid Lobanok.

- Leonid, you graduated from the Medical University, the School of Pharmacy. Why did you choose this path in your life?

- As a schoolboy I attended a school with specialization in Physics and Math. And I felt it was not something I liked that much. But when we began to study Chemistry I understood that was it. I liked Chemistry so much that even took part in local Olympiads-competitions on this subject. By the end of school I was thinking what to do next, what college to enter. Despite the fact that I liked Chemistry, entering a School of Chemistry was not an option. I thought: “What will I do next? Where will I work afterwards?” At that time, in 1996 there was only one way for such graduates – to be sent to a plant, as our city is an industrial one. And I didn’t want that to be my future. And a diploma of the School of Pharmacy offered a wider range of working options. So I chose the latter. However, as a first-year student I was amazed with chemistry. I didn’t expect it to be SO DIFFICULT, there was SO MUCH to study and to learn! At some point I was thinking that was a mistake. On the other hand, I believe if you have chosen your way, you should go further or go back but never stop!

- And how did you get a thought to do business?

- Well… It just happened. My family helped me then – with their example, advice and also financially…

- Was it difficult to start?

- In the beginning I had a lot of energy, I was very motivated! At first we built: windows, tiles, drywalls… And then, when the building was over and the real work began: purchase of goods, planning of expenses, bills, taxes, wages and also giving the credit back, all this romance around the start up disappeared.

- How did you find out about the Foundation, why did you decide to provide help?

- I remember there was time when I was listening to Era Radio a lot. There was a broadcast named “Orthodox Calendar” and in the end of it there were requests to help sick children. And I donated some money, and then again… And then I found out about the website donor.org.ua. When I first went there I was shocked! Because when you get one request a week – it is one thing, but when you go to the website and see the scale this big… And you understand that your 50-100 hryvnyas is not enough for all, it is nothing. And you don’t know what to do – to transfer a little bit for everyone or to choose one person from a list? And how to choose? In order to make this choice easier for me, I decided to help those who live in my city. That’s the way I met Albert. At that moment I thought I was cool and successful and offered to donate 200 hryvnyas a week. And after I transferred the money for the first time I understood I was not that cool as I thought. As everything is fine today but tomorrow the sales are not that good and there are also bills to be paid that I totally forgot to cover. So it turned out not the way I had intended at first. And I also offered my help in getting some rare medications. At first I did it twice a year, but then Inna called more often, then once a week… That was the beginning of it.

I remember I got a phone call on Christmas – the Hematology unit needed the normal saline. And as it was the holiday eve, the banks didn’t work, the suppliers didn’t work. So I called the driver of my supplier, met him somewhere in the city center, we loaded the boxes from his truck into mine and I took them into the Regional Hospital. Everybody enjoyed the Christmas Eve at home and I was at the hospital with the children’s parents and a doctor on duty, carrying boxes.

- Why all these troubles? You don’t get financial advantage for it. Why do you do this?

- Who knows! I think everything happens in the way it should. I think every person has a need to take care of somebody, it is embedded in our nature. There are just people who try to muffle it and concentrate on themselves, and there are those who listen to this inner voice. And on the other hand, if suddenly our government recalls its obligations and the Foundation doesn’t send me lists with medications several times a week, perhaps it won’t make me unhappy. But I may want to go and find somebody else to take care of instead.

To tell you the truth, I don’t regard it as a charity work, I mean what I do for the Foundation. I got a phone call, made a couple of clicks and ordered a necessary medication. It’s what I do for work every day. And it’s easy to do it. That’s why when I make a donation, it is charity, and when I help with the medication, it’s just a part of my work. Look – I could sell the medication to the Foundation not for the incoming price (for instance, for 500 hryvnyas), but make the price 200 hryvnyas higher and sell it for 700 hryvnyas. And I would think: cool, I’ve got 200 hryvnyas of revenue, but then I would give it back to the Foundation as a charity. And pay 90 hryvnyas of taxes as well. Is there any sense then?

- One could leave this income to himself, not give it away.

Well, yes, it is possible. But it’s difficult…psychologically. Especially after I made a promise to Albert…

Once I was struck with an article on your website that said: it is very difficult to raise money when there is time of summer vacations, when the child in need is not cute, when he/she is 16 and older – very difficult, when the diagnosis is not that terrible and one needs only 2000 hryvnyas – no chance at all. Now, when I go to the website, I send money to the first child I see the ad of. I don’t read a lot, I don’t look carefully. Because there is no difference! I agree, somebody can be in a bigger need, but at the same time…I am not the only person who helps. So if everyone gives a little, everything will be all right. However there are cases when you want to help a particular child. It was a case with Sonya Petrenko…I believed that everything would be fine…

- Do you ever feel disappointed that you do something, help but in the end…

No, I never got a feeling to give it up. Of course sometimes it is painful: to follow someone’s story, to worry and in the end… Yes it is painful.

- When you came to Albert the first time, did you have worries that it was fraud or something?

No, I didn’t. I first read about Albert on donor.org.ua – the website I trusted. That’s why I trusted Albert too, of course. Perhaps if he approached to me in the street and began to tell that he helped children, it would be more difficult to believe him.

When in the social network Vkontakte I get requests from some people asking me to help their sick children, I answer that there are charity foundations and I help through them. When I see a help request at the Foundation website, I transfer money to the Foundation’s bank account or even to the personal parents’ account – no difference for me. I always know that this information was checked, the ad is not a fraud and the people who need money will get it.

- Do your family and friends know that you collaborate with the Foundation?

I try to “advertise” the foundation when I can, to let people know about it. I don’t hide my participation in it but I prefer to be a donor, not a sponsor. When you sponsor something openly, it looks more like you advertise yourself. Sure, this public charity is better than just putting your face on big boards, but I like to help in a calm and anonymous way.

- What do other people think about your participation in charity?

There are lots of different thoughts. I don’t really care what the other people think about it. I just know that what I do is more important to me, even if the others don’t always understand my actions. And besides I don’t think I do something extraordinary.

There was time when I helped to spread the word in the Internet – articles, banners. And there were many negative comments like “this is fraud” and I was struck with such feedback. And I tried to change people’ opinion. At least I know one girl from Kiev whom I persuaded. It was a request about a child who stayed at the hospital in Kiev and I wrote about it. The people’s reaction was something like “we don’t believe you” etc. And I answered that there were all contact details and one could call and talk to the child’s parents. If the person wanted to help, he would call and see it was true. If the person only wanted to accuse and find criminals everywhere – it is difficult to change. And one girl said: “Ok, I will go and talk to the parents and make a decision”. So she went, talked to the child’s mom and left a big sum of money. Well, if it helped at least once, then everything was not in vain!

- Why do you think it is not common for us to help? Why is it easier to accuse the others of cheating than to provide real help?

- Who knows! If I were in their shoes, maybe I would tell… Well, it’s easy for me to help, why it is difficult for the others, I don’t know. Really – I don’t know! Maybe these people have negative experience or they have heard about it and don’t believe anymore.

And again – there are people who were face to face with the problem or their family or friends were, and they understand that the problems exist. For example, I didn’t know that children can have cancer before I came across Donor website. And many people don’t know. That’s why they think it is fraud.

- What interests do you have apart from your work and helping the others?

I like to go hiking and taking pictures. I’ve been on a hike only to the Crimea. My friends invited me to go to the Carpathian Mountains but because of my work I can’t go now. It’s far, it takes 2 days only to get there and back. Not much time left for the vacation itself. I believe I will go there one day.

- Where else would you like to go?

I would like to go everywhere! Our planet – it is big!!! A friend of mine has been to Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Nepal etc. I would like to go there too! I also want to go to Antarctic! It’s great there!

- But it’s very cold there!

We’ll dress up warmly! There are very beautiful places there! They even have a church there!

- What is Happiness? What do you think?

Happiness? Happiness is when your soul has a passion for something.

- Can you call yourself a happy person?

Having a glass of soda right now would be great…(smiling)

On one hand sometimes I think to myself: what if tomorrow my business goes up and I get fantastic income – would I be happy with it? Sure, I would have euphoria, but what about happiness… I don’t know, I am not sure. On the other hand, when something goes wrong and I have problems with business, I feel low, it’s depressing. But anyway I think I am a happy person! I have my family, children, I have a job. Of course, I want something more. But I understand – the most important thing is to see everybody healthy, the rest is not that important!

When Leonid left, I thought to myself: there are many things I like about my job but most of all I like the opportunity to meet people like Leonid. These people are just simple citizens. They don’t say lofty phrases, they just do something for the others without showing off. I like to talk to such people. I like to realize they exist somewhere. And in our city in particular. And as long as they exist, our world is not hopeless!

Happy Child foundation - effective help to the most needy children of the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, since 2004

They need help:
Oleksiy Marchuk
Oleksiy Marchuk

cerebral palsy, spastic tetraparesis

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