In the Field

Broken Hearts Mended: our Co-Founders’ Journey to Ukraine

Harry Ukraine

Over the past few days, our co-founders, Harry Leibowitz and Kay Isaacson-Leibowitz, along with our celebrity ambassador, Stephanie March, have been in Ukraine to see how the World of Children’s funding has dramatically impacted the lives of children in need.

In 2010, we gave our Humanitarian Award to Adi Roche, who has been actively aiding communities affected by the Chernobyl disaster since it happened in 1986. Five years later, Adi founded Chernobyl Children International (CCI) to provide aid to thousands of children suffering from the aftereffects of the nuclear disaster. One of the issues these children face is being born with a debilitating — and often fatal — congenital heart defect, known as “Chernobyl heart.”

“As a teacher, I knew the impact of what could happen – the theory of it,” said Adi in an interview at our 2010 Awards Ceremony, “and here all of a sudden was the reality thousands of miles away from our little island [in Ireland].”

World of Children with Adi Roche

Unless they received surgery, children diagnosed with “Chernobyl heart” were generally not expected to survive beyond two to three years. In response, CCI began organizing cardiac missions to Ukraine with volunteer surgical teams, providing free heart surgeries to 30-40 children on each trip.

Adi used our grant award to fund one of these life-saving cardiac missions in Kharkiv, Ukraine. In February 2011, she and a team of medical volunteers traveled to Kharkiv to perform child cardiac surgeries, up-skill local physicians and provide essential medication to perform the surgeries. By the end of two weeks, 40 children with heart defects had undergone surgery. Thousands more will receive much needed heart surgery from local physicians in the future, thanks to the training and development provided during the cardiac mission.

This week, Harry, Kay and Stephanie met Adi in Ukraine and visited the facility where the cardiac mission took place. They saw, firsthand, how the facility’s extraordinary medical team is giving children the chance to lead long, healthy lives through heart surgery.

Stephanie and doctors

“The work that Adi and all are doing is incredible,” Kay wrote in an email.

Harry, Kay and Stephanie were also invited to watch an open heart surgery from an enclosed gallery. One patient was a newborn, just one day old. After a successful operation, he is now recovering in the ICU.

“You all helped this little heart live, as the surgery,” Harry wrote. “We all now pray for a full recovery for the courageous little boy who was just born 24 hours before the surgery.”

Thank you to all of our friends and supporters who have helped fund life-saving projects like Adi’s, whose team of medical professionals continues to save young lives every day. Together, we have the ability to make a difference in children’s lives, one child at a time.

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