Why a Russian program?
Learning of the sad plight of Russians with diabetes, and encouraged by the breakdown of the iron curtain we were happy to welcome about a dozen Russian children with diabetes visiting our camps since 1993. Each year since then, a small group of Russian kids have traveled to Indiana for the camp through the kindness of Lilly East Central Europe, Lilly Global marketing, Northview Christian Church and Bayer, in addition to donations from individuals. In all, close to 100 Russian and Lithuanian teens have visited, enjoying their summers in America.
But for these children, our organization provides more than a fun summer activity. Russian children with diabetes face many problems American children never see, like lack of insulin and other necessary supplies. Outside of the major cities in Russia, these supplies are nearly non-existent, and when they are available, quality is dubious. Even in large cities, supplies cannot be counted on, and kids can't rely on getting the same type of insulin they've used in the past. In fact, since April 1999, blood glucose strips are not provided by health plans -- and since the average household income in Russia does not come close to the U.S. levels, most diabetic children must go without.
Why we need your support:
NLD continues to depend on individual donations to continue our international programs.
The cost for each Russian child to attend our program is $2,500, considering the cost of travel. Again, the average monthly income per household in Russia is extremely low. As families struggle just to feed their children, diabetes care slips to the bottom of the list of priorities. Diabetic children in Russia suffer many health complications that most American children never face. Certainly, camp for kids with diabetes is not a possibility for these families.
For $2,500, one Russian teen can travel to Indiana to learn how to care for his diabetes and to establish lifetime connections with other diabetic teens. These connections often prove lifesaving, since Indiana campers are often known to send medical supplies to their new friends in Russia.
No longer "Handicap"
by Max Azarov
It has been awhile since I walked to the pharmacy to pick up my insulin only to find out that there was none... anywhere in the city. And it has been awhile since my doctor told me to ration my test strips simply because there was no guarantee a new shipment would get to my city any time soon. It has been awhile since I got a dirty look from someone simply because I have to use a syringe for my diabetes.
It has been awhile since I had to spend my P.E. hours sitting on gym bleachers because my doctor told me to stay away from any type of physical activity. My high school didn't want to deal with consequences of my blood sugar getting low.
It has been awhile since I"ve looked at my "Handicapped" stamp in my passport simply because I have diabetes.
It has been awhile since I've lost my job in Russia because I couldn't hide my "handicap" any longer.
It has been also awhile since my doctor told me to stay as close to home as possible to avoid any problems with my diabetes. It has been awhile since he told me that traveling outside of city limits would be a "suicide".
If going to the United States as a part of Russian-American program organized by child endocrinologist Dr. Sam Wentworth (Indiana) was "committing a suicide", I was willing to take that chance. Because having diabetes in Russia could be called anything but living.
I was far from being the first out of dozens of Russian people with diabetes whose life made a complete U-turn for the best since meeting Dr. Sam, as we call him among ourselves. During the Summer of 1995 I was one of the 8 teenagers chosen to be in his program. I was one of the 8 lucky teenagers who, shortly after landing in Indianapolis have received everything from meters, test strips and insulin (the type which was unavailable in Russia) to complete physical examination, diet evaluation and there was more to come.
Few weeks down the road we were to face one of the biggest physical challenge of our lives. A bike trip half way around lake Michigan.
To be completed in a short 2 weeks.
To be completed with no regard to weather conditions.
No air-conditioned hotels.
Wavy roads, hills and more hills, bare endless fields under the burning sun.
Good weather, bad weather.
To be completed.
Even those who have gone on the bike trip before had their doubts. But "handicap" stamps in our Russian passports meant nothing here. The only thing we could rely on was our new knowledge about our diabetes and on people like Sam and Sondra Wentworth, people like Dave Marshall and many American diabetic teenagers who have gone through the challenge many times before.
This is why that summer we spent almost an entire month living with families who volunteered to take us to live with them and their kids who also had diabetes. Our English was getting better, our legs were getting quicker and our minds were getting stronger day by day.
When the time for the bike trip came, we were ready to face any challenges. Or so we thought. Although some miles were an easy ride, others weren't a "ride" at all and every mile felt like a fight being won; the fight with the road, the fight with ourselves, the fight with diabetes.
There are no words to describe the feeling when we hit the finish line. We did it! We were the winners! American winners, Russian winners, Diabetes winners! All of us were there. Sam was, Sondra was, Dave Marshall was...
It is impossible to put down everything that has happened with the Russian-American Program in the last 16 years. It grew, it grew and it grew. It would be impossible to count how many kids in Russia and America were touched by this program and how many lives were saved with the educational and medical help Sam provided. The program expanded and now includes great deal more kids, Winter Camp in Russia, Diabetic Camp in Moscow (run by those who were initially a part of Sam's program), annual exchange trips and much more.