For the first time in Lithuania, people were invited to take on the roles of parents and the relatives of sick children in a special support campaign.
On Monday, 16 September, a campaign titled “A Story of One Chair” was launched in Lithuania to help complete the Mothers’ Union Family Home that was under construction in Vilnius, and to draw public attention to the difficulties faced by the entire families of children with cancer. The project was opened by the first lady of Lithuania, Diana Nausėdienė, with Lithuanian celebrities, project sponsors and the creators of the idea attending the event. After the shortfall in funds is raised, the first families will begin to settle in the Family Home at the beginning of next year.
“The idea of unity is very important to me, as citizenship and community are very important. I care about encouraging hope and people’s efforts to act. What the state doesn’t achieve can be achieved by citizens and the society. Each of us can do something. For example, by sitting in this chair and think, we can consider the things we can do today to make a disadvantaged person feel better and warmer,” D. Nausėdienė said. She was the first person to sit on the chair.
“A Story of One Chair” is a reminder and a call to pay attention to what family life is like when one is caring for a child with cancer. For one month, an imitation ward with only a bed and a chair will remain in Cathedral Square. According to the organisers of the campaign, the parents and relatives of sick children spend most of their time sitting in a chair. The installation will invite people to sit on the chair – people want to donate their time and contribute to supporting the campaign. All adults who have registered in advance on the Mothers’ Union website will be invited to sit on the chair for at least an hour.
Helping families stay together
According to Eglė Mėlinauskienė, Founder and President of the Mothers’ Union, the need for the Family Home was dictated by her many years of experience in communicating with families experiencing a serious illness. “The illness affects every member of a family. Although a sick child is treated in a hospital and is given all the necessary medical care, it’s not possible for the whole family to be able to help him and stay together. Being together is vitally important for both the child’s health and the wellbeing of the whole family,” E. Mėlinauskienė noted.
According to her, the consequences of such separation are sometimes very painful: the family members who are left at home have difficulty due to the separation from their loved ones, while healthy children who have been left at home without their mother or father for months sometimes feel abandoned and defeated. There are situations where children have attempted to regain parental attention by hurting themselves. “We started this project in order to bring about a fundamental change that will provide help for whole families,” E. Mėlinauskienė said.
Upon the completion of the home, 11 families will be able to stay in the furnished apartments that are constructed with separate entrances.
According to Lukas Laukaitis, CEO of Conresta, which built the Family Home, this is one of the noblest projects they had the honour to work on, as it will help solve some extremely important and sensitive issues.
“We are not seeking to replicate the services of a medical institution. Instead, the Family Home will provide rehabilitation services for the whole family, and sick children will be able to stay here with their family during the day, between chemotherapy sessions. Leaving the hospital environment for at least half a day or even a few hours is very important,” said the Head of the Mothers’ Union. She revealed that the Family Home will host music, art therapy, canine therapy and various other activities, as well as providing psychological assistance to families.
“We invite you to actively register to show solidarity with the parents of seriously ill children. In real life, people sit on these chair for months, or sometimes years, and we intend to continue this sitting campaign until we have raised the missing funds. We want the parents of seriously ill children to have more than just a single chair on a ward. It’s a big challenge, but we believe that the Lithuanian people are kind-hearted and understand that without their help it will be impossible to achieve this goal,” E. Mėlinauskienė stated with confidence.
Register to support “A Story of One Chair” at: www.mamuunija.lt/vienos-kedes-istorija
Donations for the construction of the Family Home can be made by a text message to 1344 (€5 donation) or by a bank transfer, as well as by providing periodic support.