Sixteen-year-old Dasha has hydrocephalus and is confined to a wheelchair. When Dasha was born, doctors told her parents she only had a few months to live. After spending her first year of life in the hospital and despite increased brain swelling and constant seizures, Dasha was still alive. Her mother believed she should be institutionalized but her father, who loved his daughter beyond anything and knew the grim fate that awaited her in an institution in their native Belarus, insisted on bringing Dasha home so she could know the love of family.
Dasha’s care put a strain on her parents’ marriage and her mother eventually asked her father to choose between Dasha and herself. Her father, Alexander, stood firm in his commitment to Dasha. “I couldn’t put my little girl on a death list,” he said. He and his wife divorced and he continued to care for Dasha at home.
Fifteen years later, Alexander still adores his daughter. When they are at home together, he sings her songs and combs her hair. She smiles and laughs and reaches out to him and follows him with her eyes as he walks around the apartment.
But as a single parent, Alexander does not have the resources to provide Dasha with the specialized care that could help with her condition. After many years of making ends meet on their own, Dasha and Alexander joined the Community Care Program run by World of Children Honoree Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children International. The Community Care Program provides parents with an alternative to institutionalization by giving them the supplies and support they need to take care of their seriously ill and disabled children in their own homes.
Specifically, Dasha receives visits from physical and occupational therapists. These therapists work with her and then teach Alexander how to continue daily therapy with Dasha. “[It has] made a dramatic positive difference for Dasha,” Alexander shares. “Now she can turn herself over. She couldn’t do that before. Before, she couldn’t sit up because her head was too heavy. Now she can sit up.”
In addition to these services, the CCI Community Care Program provided Dasha with a wheelchair. “The wheelchair CCI gave us is a miracle,” says Alexander. “The old wheelchair provided by the government was deforming her spine and causing her a great deal of pain. With the new chair, I can take her outside and she loves to go for walks.”
Alexander admits that his life with Dasha can be socially isolating. “None of my friends understand why I don’t give up on her. I’ve had a few girlfriends over the years… but to tell the truth, they loved me and not my daughter.” But this does not stop him from loving his daughter fiercely. “And we’re a package deal,” he says. “I still believe we have much to hope for, and I will not rest.”
Just $25 can provide a week’s worth of the medicine and supplies parents like Alexander need to keep their children at home. Give Love to a child like Dasha today.