Modern Village and Town, a charity fund in Ukraine, is a multifaceted NGO that both responds to the needs of children facing various illnesses, and their families, in the Uman area while also importing and distributing donated medicines and medical supplies to local hospitals, among other programs.
Since 2020, Direct Relief has supported with their work with $6.3 million worth of medications, $5.1 million of which was donated by Teva Pharmaceuticals.
Direct Relief spoke to Modern Village and Town Project Manager Marina Makarenko to learn more about the organization and the challenges they are facing today.
The following has been edited for brevity and clarity.
When was the Modern Village and Town charity fund started and what are your organization’s main focuses?
Makarenko: We’ve worked for more than eight years and our focus is on helping patients, health care support, and social programs, like orphanages, nursing homes, and centers for refugees and displaced persons from Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. For illnesses, it’s most often cerebral palsy, oncology, urgent operations, and orphan [rare] diseases. We don’t have our own clinic now, but we try to help all hospitals from our region.
Our charity fund operates in Ukraine’s Cherkasy region of Ukraine, mostly Uman district, including the towns of Uman, Monastyrsche, Khrystynivka, Zhashkiv, Mankivka, Talne, and in the surrounding villages. The population of Uman district is 290,000 people.
With a focus of helping kids throughout the country who have serious illnesses, how do you decide whom to help? Do you help adults as well?
First of all, I should explain the medical care system of Ukraine to understand better why we are raising funds for treatment. According to the law, all medical services in state hospitals are free of charge. So, you can come to the hospital with any disease and you’ll get the necessary treatment without any doubts.
But, due to the fact that Ukrainian Government doesn’t provide necessary financial support for the hospitals for medicine, medical equipment, medical supplies, etc., people need to buy drugs, consumables, supplies, etc.
So, you get doctor’s, physician’s, and nurses’ work free, but it’s impossible if you will not buy drugs or medical supplies. For the treatment of severe disease, even for children, Ukrainian families are forced to raise money by themselves for surgical intervention, oncology treatment, medical therapy, and rehabilitation.
We raise funds for treatment, first of all, for children from Cherkassy region. We want to help all children from Ukraine, but unfortunately it’s impossible. In general, we are working on helping children. We also work with adults, but it is much more difficult to raise money for treatment for an adult than for a child.
It is a shame that we have to choose, but we cannot give hope and fail to fulfill it.
What’s the process after you receive a request for assistance from a patient and their family?
When we receive the request from a person asking to help, first we look at the diagnosis and the amount that the person asks to collect. We don’t collect money if we know that the treatment can be free of charge. Only when we are 100% sure that the amount requested by the person is justified and true can we can cooperate.
For this, we ask in which hospital the treatment will be, what kind of treatment they chose, we ask the contacts of the attending physician to talk to him and confirm the information. We also ask for general information about the family – the place of work of the parents, their marital status, in order to be sure that the family really needs this amount.
And most importantly, we don’t raise money to the parent’s private bank account nor do we give money directly. All funds are raised to the charity’s bank account and are transferred directly to the hospital, clinic, pharmacy, etc.
Which hospitals do you help support and what are some examples of what they request?
When we receive an offer of medicines from a donor, I resend it to these health care facilities asking to choose if they want it and can use it. Then, we compare the requests from different hospitals to avoid disproportionate requests.
All hospitals we are working with are in Cherkassy region. Depending on the medicines we receive from Direct Relief, we can also share medicine with big specialized institutes like the Amosov National Institute of Cardiovascular Surgery or the National Cancer Institute of Ukraine.
From Cherkassy region, we work with 11 hospitals, ranging from village health posts, city hospitals, district hospitals and regional hospitals, which offer care including mental health, maternity, pediatric, surgery, intensive, and neurology.
A recent example of a shipment was at Uman City Hospital. They received different kinds of medicines, such as antibacterial injections that they will use in surgical practice, for people with pneumonia, especially.
Direct Relief shipped over $6 million worth of medicines to Modern Village and City since last year, compared to about $300K in 2018 and 2017. What developments led to the increase? Was it Covid-19 related?
In 2020, we didn’t increase the number of shipments nor the number of medicines. $5 million of medicine was received in 2020 due to the fact that we got the medicine Imatinib and Erlotinibe for oncology treatment and this is a very expensive drug.
It had a very important impact because we distributed it to more than 10 different regional centers throughout Ukraine, to hospitals that specialize in oncology treatment.
In addition to helping raise funds for sick youths and supporting hospitals with medication, are there other programs you run that you’d like to highlight?
This year we started a project on supporting families who are raising a disabled child, as well as low-income elderly single people. We try to help with clothes, shoes, toys, stationery, and grocery kits.
This year, more than 400 food packages have already been distributed, and now about 700 food packages are being prepared for distribution to the residents of the districts in which we operate.
It is not long-term help, but it is a feasible way to help every family, because there are even families in which children do not go to school in winter because there are no boots. Of course, this situation is not in every Ukrainian family, but there are a lot of low-income families.
What are the biggest challenges your group is facing now?
We spend a lot of time on bureaucratic procedures for the clearance of humanitarian aid, sometimes it takes a month or two to get all the permits. Another obstacle is a large number of needs in different spheres of life and few sources of income. There are many projects and organizations that need help, but few sources of help.
More information about Direct Relief’s work in Ukraine can be found here: https://www.directrelief.org/place/ukraine/