By Anna Tumanova, president, Rotary Club of Moscow Center, Russian Federation
I remember how impatiently I waited for my Varvara to run. I waited for my daughter’s first step for 10 months. But there are parents who wait for years. And there are those who will never experience this happiness.
What is it like for a young person who can’t lean on his own feet? How do they see the world? What is their social circle? Are they confined to the four walls of a small apartment, where they are heroically dragged along by their mother, whose life begins and ends with a child with special needs.
Louis Pasteur once said: “There’s nothing like the opportunity to be the cause of a good change in someone’s life.” I find this saying truer than ever.
Spring was rough for Rotary clubs in Russia. There was a barrage of hatred and curses directed at us as individuals that shook us to our core. But in it, we clung to the belief that the work we do through Rotary is more necessary now than ever. Our projects are about changing lives.
We went forward with our project to work with an international partner from Armenia with the support of Rotary clubs in the United States. The “Kid, You Can” project grew out of a district grant. At a volunteer forum, a member of the Rotary Club of Moscow East met Olga Paramonova, an unusually enthusiastic rehabilitator. She has spent more than two decades devoted to helping children with various musculoskeletal system disorders be able to stand and take their first steps.
Paramonova overcomes inertia and indifference at orphanages and among some instructors at rehabilitation centers. She motivates people to work to put children back on their feet. She believes everyone can be helped. A child may not be able to walk on their own, but they can definitely improve their situation.
A miracle happened with Romka. Romka and his mother, Yulia, came to the center where our club supplied a Katusha verticalizer, a multifunctional device which helps people with disabilities learn to keep their balance and restore their center of gravity. Romka had many diagnoses. He has autism and cerebral palsy. He can’t even sit up.
Paramonova worked for one year and four months without a break, with the mom’s full commitment and the support of the club. And then we saw the miracle: Romka hanging completely on the instructor’s legs, getting up on the rollers, and then getting into his shoes, going for a toy. Then he took his first two independent steps toward his mom. We were speechless. You should have seen the look in Yulia’s eyes. We wanted to bring that miracle back into the world, and multiply it.
I asked my friends to chip in for one more Katusha for my birthday. I knew exactly where to take it.
Our club has helped provide equipment, but the real miracle lies with Paramonova. Her technique instills courage in even the shiest child. She gets down on their level and rolls around with them on the carpet. Then sweaty, and happy, they eventually take those first steps, overcoming their fear of heights to emerge victorious. We cry every time we get a video from a parent of this triumph.
We will be going soon to our partner clubs with equipment for more children unlikely to walk on their own. And I believe, each of these six participating clubs will make a movie about their own miracle stories.
Together with our partners in Armenia and India, we have applied for further funding and are waiting for support from The Rotary Foundation. Our next phase will involve 14 clubs. More children who will be able to get back on their feet and more mothers will sprout wings of joy.
What else has this project taught me? Whenever we share our project with others, we always see an increase in donations to the Foundation. When we showed a video of Romka’s rehabilitation at our district conference, we raised a record amount for the Foundation.
Whatever Rotary means to us, the world judges by the results of our projects. Let’s create more projects like this one and be the cause of good in the world.