Charity is now in vogue. Magnificent and demonstrative actions have become usual. It is hard to imagine that someone is engaged in philanthropy unselfishly or even can turn it into their main occupation. But there are such people in Zaporozhye
The children from the Zaporozhye orphanage went backpacking in the Crimea under supervision of the instructors from the “Happy Child” Foundation
Charity is now in vogue. Magnificent and demonstrative actions have become usual, especially on the eve of the elections. Donation boxes for collecting money in public places are nothing new. At the same time, the Ukrainians, who have seen many fraudulent public events during the last 20 years shy away from the phrase "charity." It is hard to imagine that someone is engaged in philanthropy unselfishly or even can turn it into their main occupation. But there are such people in Zaporozhye.
This year the local "Happy Child" charity foundation turned 5 years old. It was created by a group of enthusiasts to help children with serious illnesses, orphans, and children from disadvantaged families in the Zaporozhye region. Their experience is a representative example not only for the region but for the entire country. One of the founders and current Director of the foundation is 32-year-old Albert Pavlov. He resigned as a programmer and dedicated himself to raising funds for children of usual and ordinary citizens like himself.
It would seem that no one in our indifferent society is concerned about someone else`s children. However, now the official website of the foundation deti.zp.ua, which regularly publishes requests for help is one of the most popular non-profit organization in the city.
Albert and his wife Lyudmila know first-hand of the problems of vulnerable children. There are four children in their family, two of them were adopted. They had to collect money for the treatment of their adopted son before the "Happy Child" foundation was founded.
A correspondent from the "2000" magazine spoke with Mr. Pavlov about different matters. Mr. Pavlov is a pioneer of "professional" charities in Ukraine, he is an ardent supporter of bringing up orphans in foster families rather than in orphanages. He supports the idea that even the most disabled person has the right to compassion from society and to live in normal conditions.
"We were afraid of the word" foundation”
- Albert, why did you decide to make a charity your profession? Our readers might go through the introduction to the interview and not believe it. Can it possibly be that this man from Zaporozhye is so good that he cares not about himself but about others?
Albert Pavlov, Director of the "Happy Child" Foundation
- It's been a long road for me. I do not mean organizational issues related to the foundation but forming of my philosophy of life. I was influenced by my own life experiences, reading books and meeting the right people. My future wife and I found out about the problems of orphans from our friends, who had been helping pupils of the Zaporozhye orphanage # 3. Later, serving in the army which is a closed team, where you do not belong to yourself, made me think about the reasonability of orphanages. Gradually, I realized an organization that helps other people is what I really wanted to do.
Regarding public skepticism about those who raise money announcing good intentions - you're right. First, people who believe that nothing like this may ever happen in their family, abstract away from the problems of orphans, the ill and disabled. Secondly, to bring a request for help to people so that this request does not look fake is not easy, even using visual aids. We're constantly working on it – we choose bright, catchy material for the website, use outdoor advertising, arrange visible actions in the city. Anyway, in Ukraine, the majority of people are kind (smiling). They are willing to help but only if they trust the petitioner.
- For example?
- I had an interesting experience of fundraising, if to call it by this economic term, to put it in a simple way - of attracting donations in my district. It is a remote area, poor people live there. My son and I decided to raise funds for playground equipment. We went from door to door and met with residents on the street. About 80% of those to whom we spoke donated money, even if it was a small amount - from 5 to 50 UAH (0.61 – 6 US dollars). Because the people knew me personally and were sure that the collected funds would be used for no other purpose. Not long before we had put up a horizontal bar at our own expense in the district. Transparency works regardless of the amount, whether it's $120 or $100.000.
- You with your friends began as a group of volunteers. Why did you stop volunteering?
- Initially, we did not want to create any foundation, because we ourselves had zero trust to any kind of such organizations. We were afraid of the word "foundation". If I weren’t working in one of them now I would think as many Ukrainians do, that any foundation is nothing but a parasitic structure or an intermediary, receiving money from nowhere. But without starting a legal entity it would not be possible to attract donations from companies.
In addition, we decided to do charity professionally to dedicate more of our time to seek sponsors and to establish good public relations. To be a volunteer is great, but you cannot achieve much being in this status because of lack of time. It works much better if someone is paid.
In Ukraine, it is a difficult moral dilemma. For some reason, it is believed that only retired people and volunteers have to be involved in charities and only from time to time. It is considered even shameful to work in a foundation for salary whereas it is considered absolutely normal to work for example in a company that produces alcohol or tobacco. We now have a staff of five people, plus others who we bring in for the Foundation's programs, such as hiking organizers for orphans. Their salaries and maintenance of our small office are paid by sponsors.
— There is a slogan on the deti.zp.ua website "Support intellectual charity!" What does this mean?
- For many people the word "charity" is associated with irrational generosity to the point of waste. But charity can function properly, have a margin of safety, permanent sponsors and friends only if the donors clearly see what amount is required for support of this or that child, on what it was spent and what were the results of treatment. They understand that money is spent effectively and it does not go up in smoke.
First $ 100 of donations
I have many ideas about further developing of the website. Unfortunately, there is not enough time and money to make it high-tech and more convenient for visitors to view our reports, track spending of money. A long time ago, before the launch of the website, I published a request for help on a little-known friendly website. In response, people sent me $ 100. I just could not believe my eyes! It turned out social ads on the Internet work!
- What is your record amount ever collected during the existence of the foundation for the treatment of a child?
- $130.000 for surgery in an Israeli hospital for a boy who needed a bone marrow transplant. The child successfully completed a course of treatment. We were recently at his home.
In general, the amount needed is very different, depending on a diagnosis, number of treatment courses and examinations. If a computer tomography is needed 1.000 UAH (120 US dollars) is enough. But not all families have this amount. For the treatment of a child with severe cardiovascular disease we need about 10.000 UAH (1,210 US dollars). We had 5 of such children last year. For the treatment of cancer patients even more is needed, and they tend to require regular care.
A social project requires not as much money expenses as it needs efforts for its organization. For example, to take a large group of children to Crimea, our instructors get prepared for at least a month. Another direction is the purchase of new equipment for children's hospitals. Philanthropists are less willing to donate money for these purposes than personally help children. It is a psychological point: donating money for the equipment people do not see directly those who they want to help. Modern equipment saves many children's lives though. Last year, for this purpose we managed to collect about 200.000 UAH (24,214 US dollars), this year - about 50.000 UAH (6,053 US dollars).
-Not small money. And for sure it does not come by itself.
- To raise the amount for the treatment of a child, ads on the website is not enough. We need to use the media, to advertise in public places (supermarkets, for example) by putting donation boxes. Through these boxes we receive 15 - 20% of funds. Then we have to account these amounts to report to our donors. Often, foundation staff helps parents in the organization of medical care. Many parents, especially from the countryside, can not do everything by themselves. Imagine the situation: the baby was diagnosed with a terrible disease. It cannot be cured in Ukraine, a foreign hospital where they can receive help, does not have a website in Russian and parents cannot speak English\German etc. We would be looking for such a clinic and then we would call them and negotiate all the questions. With some institutions we have already gained steady contacts.
- Is this service free?
- Absolutely free! Sometimes I find out from parents how much money is charged for this service by agencies that specialize in so-called “medical tourism” which can be 20 - 30% of cost of treatment! And it is unreasonable to pay this fee because all clinics are open to foreign patients. The only problem is the language barrier and ignorance of our fellow citizens.
In general, there are many “hunters ” for large donations. We often receive calls from different “healers” who promise to cure our children ... But we say no to all of such “healers”.
By the way, parents, receiving money from the foundation agree to spend it solely on the treatment of children and using conventional medicine only. If the amount raised is bigger than it is needed in case if the child's treatment costs less than expected, or, unfortunately, if they could not save the child, according to terms of cooperation with the foundation the parents have to pass money to the other sick children. Alas, the volunteers in Ukraine have encountered cases where the parents were paid for the treatment of children and disappeared. Then it turned out that they spent the money on home repairs or something else.
Volunteers are beautifying an area near the house of a foster family for disabled children in the village of Kalinovka, the Zaporozhye region
Orphanages are like army barracks
- Let's talk about the second direction of the foundation - support for orphans. Perhaps, your most humane project is opening a foster home for 9 disabled children.
- Yes, this is an important project because it is about the children almost forgotten by all. Previously, they were in a special orphanage in the village of Kalinovka, the Chernigov region (the foster home was opened almost a year ago next to the orphanage. - Ed.). Some of these children are orphans, others are visited by parents very rarely.
Almost all healthy people think that these children are a burden to society, and there is no sense in improving their life. But if we open animal shelters, then why do disabled people not deserve a normal treatment?
These nine children now are receiving much more care and attention than they used to have at the orphanage. In the foster home we were able to hire an extra-teacher who receives a salary from our foundation. And for the first time in 30 years a child from this orphanage was adopted! The boy was taken by a devout family from the USA. Now, we are equipping one more similar foster home in Kalinovka.
- But ideally, do you think children should not be brought up in state-owned institutions?
- Yes, as a person who always works with orphanages, I think their system is basically outdated. Perhaps, they were effective after World War II or other disasters, when there were tens of thousands of orphans and street children. Now there are not so many orphans, and I'm sure there are families that would be willing to adopt those who have no parents. Concerning problem families where there are mother and father but they are asocial or live in poverty, social workers should work with them to prevent crime and help them with employment. While in the cities social workers are doing this work, more or less, in rural areas such families do not receive enough attention or help.
- You are not alone in your judgments. Child Rights Ombudsman of the Russian Federation Mr. Pavel Astakhov at the recent Congress of Children Ombudsmen said that the authorities would soon implement the federal program "Russia without orphans", using the experience of Western countries. Moreover, the Russian experts cite the example of Ukraine as a country with progress in this direction.
- Probably, such praise should please us, but judging the situation in the Zaporozhye region, we are making little progress. Now in orphanages come not so many children than 5 - 6 years ago. How can one keep the same amount of orphanages? Even the officials acknowledge that at least 4 orphanages in the area should be closed. But anyway, none have been closed yet. It is happening because the outdated system is resisting reorganization and even with or without intentions rejects potential adopters.
The administration of orphanages, their staff does not want to lose their jobs, especially if a facility is located in the village where the unemployment rate is high. Therefore, they are striving in every way to fulfill the plan of filling facilities with children. Orphanages with the status of rehabilitation centers have the right to take not only orphans.
A representative of an orphanage comes to a large impoverished family and begins to convince the parents that their children would live better in the orphanage. In short, all the benefits from the government 6-7.000 UAH (850 US dollars) is spent for a child per month. At the same time, the government gives only about 3 thousand UAH (363 US dollars) to a foster family per adopted child. The social network which if correctly doing their work could prevent risky behavior of parents, and the deprivation of parental rights, does not have enough experts who are well paid. This means there is enough money in the budget, but there is a huge imbalance in its distribution.
- The point is not as much about the money, but about teenagers, who have been under care, leave an orphanage and go in the world. And if before they are released, they were living on a "100 percent guarantee and zero freedom", now, suddenly they have to live a completely different life- "100 percent free and zero guarantee." Those who had to deal with such teenagers emphasize their infantilism and inability to control their own destiny.
- I agree. An orphanage affects a child. These children do not have personal space, their life consists of rules and regulations. In early childhood, when personal relationships are forming, children really need parents. Otherwise, degradation, learning difficulties occur what also results in fear of the world. It cannot be made up by an improved household. One teacher for 12 children would not replace their father and mother. No one wants to live in a commune!
I do not support any revolutionary actions such as to close all the orphanages. It is necessary to settle small, up to 30 children foster homes and social hostels for graduates of orphanages and to develop an institution of foster families.
Based on my own experience, I can say that the relationship with foster children does not always go perfectly, but I have never regretted that they appeared in our family.