Curing cancer, particularly in children, is hard enough. But imagine if these children had no access to important resources that could save their lives!
Increasing access and support is the drive behind Podari.Life, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit focused on providing services to children with cancer and their families. What makes Podari.Life unique, though, is its cultural connections: Its mission is specifically to help children in Russia and other former Soviet nations.
One way Podari.Life does this is by connecting with Russians and related organizations in the states. In January of this year, for instance, Podari.Life held a fundraiser in Miami, Florida. The event was sponsored by the Coffey Burlington law firm, whose founding partner, Kendall Coffey, is on the board of the Russian American Chamber of Commerce. Coffey himself gave a speech in support of Podari.Life’s mission, as did fashion designer Masha Tsigal. Other celebrities were also in attendance, including journalist Julia Bordovskikh, television producer Sergey Kalvarsky, and Bel Harbor mayor Gabriel Groisman. Professional ballroom dancers Loreta Kriksciukaityte and Aleksandr Skarlato gave a surprise performance that wowed the crowd. Art and luxury items were also up for auction, and a portion of the proceeds, as well as all donations from the event, went directly to Podari.Life.
Podari.Life’s significant connection to its Russian sister charity Podari Zhizn and the UK-based charity Gift of Life give its programs and mission a wider range of expression. In fact, Podari.Life exists today in large part because former volunteers for Podari Zhizn came to the US from Russia and decided to expand that charity’s work. All three nonprofits share the same vision: “the child’s life should not hang on money.”
The conflict between young cancer sufferers’ needs and the availability of funding is particularly problematic in Russia, where national healthcare support has taken a big hit in recent years. That’s why Russian actresses Chulpan Khamatova and Dina Korzun came together in 2005, along with a team of volunteers, to help more than 30,000 children and their families get the treatment, support, and rehabilitation they needed. Their team became Podari Zhizn, which now works out of Moscow to provide medication and medical equipment to Russian hospitals, promotes and organizes blood drives, and develops volunteer networks across the country. Thanks to donations from Podari Zhizn, the Federal Center for Pediatric Onco-Hematology has been able to purchase much-needed equipment and provide services to 1,000 patients annually.
In 2011, the UK-based charity Gift of Life, which provides access to the leukemia drug Erwinase—not available in Russia—was established as a sister charity to Podari Zhizn. Gift of Life is particularly important to the cause because it creates the connections and resources needed to get treatment to young Russian cancer sufferers who can’t get it in their home country.
Inspired by these two organizations, the US-based Podari.Life was formed in 2015 to spread information, treatment, and support further. With three related charities operating in three different countries, Podari hopes to not only help more children, but also send the message that international cooperation on important issues like cancer is possible—even between countries whose governments are often at odds with each other.