THE WAY OF THE MESSENGER OF GOOD
How it all began
“I felt the pain of a jellyfish sting in my body”.
Sasha, thank you for taking the time and agreeing to talk. And my first question is: what do you think is the base for the desire to help others?
“I believe that the desire to help is one of the defining features of an adult, mature personality. This is absolutely normal and natural. I assume that it works similarly for many people. So I do what I can, what I am able to do.”
I wonder, is compassion rooted in childhood? Or do we develop this quality as we grow up? Do you have a childhood memory of helping others?
Yes, perhaps it is a topic for a separate exploration, but I have such memories. The very first memory: I am three, walking along the surf by the sea, and suddenly feel the pain of a jellyfish sting in my body —jellyfish are thrown ashore by a storm and have no chance to survive under the scorching rays of the sun so, I pick them up and throw them back into the sea.
I still do not know if these creatures are capable of feeling any kind of torment. But then I vividly imagined they could, so I couldn’t just leave them helpless. The nickname “sister of mercy” stuck to me at school, as classmates ridiculed my inclination to help. It was typical school bullying, nothing new — if they found a place to sting in the most painful way, they would surely use it.
When did you become a donor for the first time?
At the age of nineteen, one of my friends asked me to donate blood. I began donating regularly after having a baby. I also want to share my system of decision-making regarding donating blood. It is safe to donate blood once every 3-4 months if it is whole blood and once a month if it is platelet concentrate. It is imperative to assess your condition the night before because donating blood should not make you feel physically poor, and it is better not to be a heroic deed. If you have a lot of work or feel poorly, you’d better postpone it.
Having a baby allowed me to explore charity in terms of my need to help, and I gained a deep understanding of why I felt compelled to do it.”
Tell us more about how you came to understand it.
It all started with my child suffering from asthma with suffocation attacks when they could not breathe — such conditions develop extremely fast. The ambulance takes about 15 minutes to arrive, and respiratory arrest can occur in four minutes. To overcome my inner panic, the fear of losing a child, I made a “deal with the Universe” that if everything is fine with my child, if they survive the attack, I will donate to another child who needs treatment or support. This is how the Tabletochki Foundation appeared in my life. After the next asthma attack, I donated quite a large sum of money so that no mother would have to face the sense of helplessness.
Things went on like this for some time until I became aware of my mental process during a session with my psychotherapist. I decided to rethink things but continued to help, just differently: I started donating to the foundation every month instead. Now, I donate all the money I receive for my birthday and add as much as possible from myself. My target is palliative care; the Tabletochki Foundation allows you to choose for which needs you donate. I now have a firm conviction: if I can help, I should do it.
Bone marrow donor
“I signed up and got tested to be a bone marrow donor”.
Where did you learn about the possibility of becoming a bone marrow donor?
“On Facebook, from a post by Uliana Suprun. There is a private organization called “Bone Marrow Donor Registry” that helps to find unrelated donors. Before you help someone, you get to know that person. So, I visited the webpage of this organization and filled out the questionnaire. Then they send a set of special brushes by mail that you have to run along the inside of the cheek, package, and send back. You might be surprised to know that such a donor simply donates blood without any kind of punctures, operations, or super complicated stories. So, if a DNA match occurs and you can donate blood, you can also become a bone marrow donor. The only restriction is the age of up to 35 years, so I have a little time left to help someone, but I hope I will have such a chance”.
Is this different from regular blood donation?
“Yes, the principle is different. You need to take a drug that pulls bone marrow cells into the bloodstream for a few days before the procedure. It works out to be about 4% of your bone cells. The marrow donation procedure itself takes about four hours because the blood goes through a diffuser to separate the bone marrow cells before flowing back into you”.
What stays in the memory
“I understood that there would be no gift for me under the Christmas tree, but I felt warm because I knew that those children would definitely be gifted with some vivid impressions”.
Do you remember when you donated money to charity for the first time?
Yes, I remember it well. About seven years ago, on Facebook, I saw an initiative to raise funds for the roof of Okhmatdyt [a children’s hospital] — it was a long-term construction project and hard to complete. So I really wanted to donate some funds toward this project. My birthday was approaching, and we had a tradition in our office — the birthday person treated everyone with a meal.
I calculated that if I did not buy the food to prepare a full meal, I could transfer a good sum to this fund, adding gift money from my colleagues and a part of my savings. So, the day before my birthday, I baked some muffins. As soon as I arrived at the office on my birthday, I wrote a letter informing my colleagues of my decision to accompany the muffins. It was my first non-ordinary birthday and the first donation.
Do you remember any other charity cases?
Yes, I have several such stories. A couple of years ago, I participated in the New Year’s Gifts for Those Who Need Them More initiative. I chose a large family with orphans whose father did not return from the ATO. My husband and I decided that we would give this family the money we were planning to spend on our own gifts. I contacted the mother of these three children, and she wrote to me that one of them needed boots, the other needed clothes, and something else. But then she added that the children had not had any real fun for a long time. It occurred to me then that maybe I could help them with a trip to Lavina Mall.
So, I told the mother, “Let me transfer the money to you, and you could spend a day in the shopping center exactly as you want so the children can enjoy it.” It was a significant moment when I transferred her the money. I understood there would be no gift for me under the Christmas tree, but I felt warm because I knew those children would be gifted with some vivid memories.
Do you have any other stories to share?
There was a very touching story about a boy with cancer who was selling a handmade snowman to raise money for treatment. And I bought it. Or rather, I just sent the money without expecting the snowman to be sent to me. Sometime later, I received a letter asking me for a photo so that people could share this story on Facebook. But I knew that I wanted to do something more than just a photo for this boy and his snowman. This story was quite captivating, as the boy sought a way to earn money for himself, despite his diagnosis. So I made a short video about this snowman and his life after the purchase, showing that he felt good in a new place and had a new friend.
Why do you donate to the Tabletochki Foundation specifically for palliative care?
Psychologically, people are more inclined to donate money for those projects where people can be cured and saved or where there is hope. We often see statements such as, “Let us unite to save this person so they can continue to live.” This sentiment is right, as it should be. But unfortunately, there are many cases of terminal illnesses, with death coming sooner rather than later. And I want to do something to make this period as comfortable and dignified as possible for those who will succumb to their disease. This way, these children and their families can benefit from the help of psychologists, medical personnel, and social workers. At the same time, I understand that most people are not ready to donate for these purposes as opposed to research or treatments that provide actual cures for diseases.
The power of thought
“Humane things should be permanent, not seasonal”.
If you had three wishes, what would you wish for?
First, I wish that Ukraine was like Sweden in terms of waste processing: so that we could process it so efficiently we could even buy it from other countries, to benefit the entire planet. I believe initiatives will multiply, and people’s awareness will rise accordingly once the benefits of recycling exceed the cost of doing so.
Next, I wish that people were not afraid to help and could overcome the stigmas that repel and frighten them from doing so. Those concepts they would rather quickly pass by and forget. As a society, we have such an extreme duality when charity is involved. Giving toys or clothes to an orphanage is deemed “OK,” but helping with painkillers so a person can die without physical torment is somehow not OK. It is as if the latter is some wild appeal. People want to escape the reality of the need for terminal care wholeheartedly or pretend it doesn’t exist. Humane deeds should be permanent, not seasonal or a matter of convenience.
My third wish is that people would be kinder to each other in general, so they could learn to empathize and understand the great need for compassionate support.
“I need help too. I need someone’s compassion in moments of fatigue and lack of resources”.
What kind of help would be useful to you?
That is a good question. On the one hand, helping others plays a large role in my sense of inner comfort; on the other hand, it makes me think about my personal needs and problems. Of course, I need help too, and very often, that comes in the form of communication. I need someone to help me understand myself and other people. I need someone else’s compassion in my times of fatigue and lack of resources. I am fortunate that I often receive it when I ask for such help.
Thanks for the conversation, Sasha; it was interesting to talk with you. I wish you continued resourcefulness and ability to support others.
Thanks for listening. I wish your project success! I believe in spreading goodness, spreading the support we can give, and talking about how we can help others. So often, help requires very little from us.