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Russia: Photo-Marathon For Children With Cancer

On Jan. 27, 2007, the third annual photo-marathon was held in one of the wards (Onco-Haematology 16) of the Children’s Clinical Hospital in Moscow. It was organized by the International Society for Paediatric Oncology (SIOP), the International Confederation of Childhood Cancer Parent Organisations (ICCCPO) and the Russia-based Donory – detyam initiative group (“Donors to the Children”), and facilitated by local volunteers, many of whom are bloggers.

Below are some reflections, reactions and photos by bloggers who volunteered at the photo-marathon this year (as well as by a few of those who didn't, in the comments to the first entry). (Warning: photos linked to in this entry are rather bandwidth intensive and absolutely heartbreaking.)

LJ user drugoi has titled his photo series “Strong People” (13 photos, RUS):

But these strong people are still very small. This morning, a few visitors came to support them in their uneasy fight for life.

[photo]

Today, yet another photo-marathon was held at the oncology ward of the Children's Clinical Hospital. A photo-marathon is when a person with a camera comes to every patient, teaches him the basics of photography and helps him to take a few shots – a self-portrait, his mama's portrait, a view from the window. Then these photos are gathered and printed, and then an exhibition is held at the ward. A small holiday that everyone is looking forward to.

[photo]

Not everyone, of course. When we arrives, little Anton was still asleep.

[photo]

Georgy is 6 years old. “Already six,” as he told us. Georgy was showing off his new Motorola and the games that were in his phone.

[photo]

These are Georgy's slippers.

[photo]

Photo education session is in full swing.

[photo]

This is Liza. She is 4 years old. She has been through five chemotherapies already. Her mama says that Liza's hair used to reach beneath her waist. She is quiet, pensive. As they all are here.

[photo]

Liza doing applique.

[photo]

A thin tube spreads from Liza and reaches here.

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In the room next door, a little Chechen, Magomet, is fighting with his mama. He doesn't want to take pictures and that's it.

[photo]

Anton has awaken.

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Sad Lyuba.

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Polina from Ust-Kamenogorsk. Brain tumor, a difficult case. Every day that she spends here costs her parents – who are not rich – 12,000 rubles [approx. $460]. It's good that there's someone who is helping them. Here, they call people like this “sponsors.”

[photo]

Five best shots will be sent to the international exhibition titled “I Want to Go Home.” This is how fundraising is being done. […]

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LJ user alepa didn't think at first (RUS) that it was appropriate for the photos of the children patients to be posted online, for everyone to see:

alepa: It hurts. Why are you posting this. My brother was at that hospital, he died of cancer at the age of 8. I don't know how I'd feel if his photos appeared in LJ. But it seems to me that there should be other ways to make money for the kids who are there. Why does it have to be shown to everyone? I just don't understand what for. To awaken people's empathy? Or to encourage to donate money? I apologize for the agressively hysterical tone of this letter – I always follow your journal with interest. But this got me, it's all very much alive.

But other bloggers make alepa change her mind eventually:

lmgirl: Because we should be helping all together “the whole world.” One by one it is hardly feasible. But how do you let “the whole world” know and make it remember that things like these do exist? :(

[…]

olgalav: May I respond to you? I've been through this myself and survived. And now I'm trying to let the world know that THIS exists. Because healthy, happy people have no idea that things like this happen. I've been told by many: if it hadn't been for you, we wouldn't have known. And there's a catastrophe with the money there, and with medications, etc. We are just trying to show the world that something like this exists. And that people shouldn't turn away from it. Please believe us, we are not doing it for profit. And why not LJ? Of today's mass media, it is one of the most influential.

nastyasha: Perhaps, someone would open the http://www.donors.ru page, go there, donate blood and help these kids at least with this… […]

moniava: Yes, and also all the parents whose children's photos are posted here have permitted to distribute the information about their children online.

[…]

doremifasollasi: All means are good for treatment.

alepa: I understand your position. Thank you for the answers, I didn't expect there'd be som any of them. I guess you are right.

chaika_v: I'll add a bit more. Yes, fundraising is important. Very important. But there's one more side to it. That people start helping each other is the result of the soul's work. This is helping my soul work. These photos, and what the volunteer guys are writing in their journals – it's all screaming about how it is possible to live selflessly, it's taking the indifference away.

alepa: Yes, thank you. I haven't thought about it at all, because I got swept by my own memories and emotions. People who are involved in this of course do deserve HUGE respect. […]

***

LJ user vichka_sun has posted 25 photos taken by Roma, an 11-year-old boy she was assigned to at the hospital. She wrote (RUS):

[…] I've been given the best participant of the photo-marathon. Romka. Probably so that I myself could learn how to photograph. […] In some three hours, an 11-year-old boy has come up with a photostory on life in oncology wards of the Children's Clinical Hospital that's worth a World Press Photo Award. […]

[…] He is a patient at the department […] for children with good indicators, and they are allowed to walk around the hospital. […] Roma [showed me around]. We had tea with his mama and Laura, a volunteer. Romka playes a guitar a little, listens to the Prodigy. He had no problems finding a common language with the people he photographed, he never photographed them against their will. I kept wondering – why is he so fond of shooting paintings, drawings on the walls, signs on the doors, but then all his snapshots merged into this story and all became clear. The competition's theme is “I Want to Go Home.” Romka pulled it off effortlessly somehow. Throughout the photoshoot we haven't thought of this theme once. But it's visible in every one of his pictures. What else: I had plenty to learn. Really.

[25 photos by Roma]

***

LJ user knesinka-buh spent the day of the photo-marathon with the 3 1/2-year-old Lena Amelena, who was on IV and thus not allowed to walk around, and too tiny and weak to use the camera (RUS):

[…] We didn't really manage to take pictures… her fingers are very small and thin, and she wasn't strong enough to push the camera's big button… but together we photographed her mama and papa, her legs, and the balloon, which we placed into bed for a nap before taking a picture :) […]

Go here to see over a dozen photos taken by knesinka-buh and Lena.

***

All pictures taken by the children that day are here.

The rest of the hospital's cancer patients will be having their photo-marathon on Feb. 4.

***

Links to last year's photo-marathon works are here.

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