Mothers help Ukrainian girl battle leukemia

The son of one of the members of a local group helps raise money for a 2-year-old Ukrainian cancer sufferer. Photo by Tomomi Iguchi

Leanna Maslyuk, and six local mothers have formed a group called the Veronika Children Leukemia Foundation. They created this organization to help children in need of medical care in former Soviet Union countries, like Ukraine. Initially Maslyuk and the other mothers were a loose group of volunteers, but they have recently registered their organization.

Leanna Maslyuk. Photo by Tomomi Iguchi

Maslyuk, originally from Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, is a substitute elementary school teacher in Surrey and has lived in Canada for the past 10 years. She says that unlike Canada, it is impossible for an average family to receive treatment for leukemia and other severe diseases in Ukraine.

“70 to 75% of children with severe conditions [in Ukraine] survive, but the rest of them do not, due to financial difficulties,” says Maslyuk.

According to the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, which is a partnership between the World Health Organization and several European governments, the system of health care delivery in Ukraine is currently experiencing budget shortfalls. This is because the majority of the country’s population is not affluent and, therefore, health care is inaccessible to them.

In contrast, according to BC Children’s Hospital, the Medical Services Plan will usually cover of the costs for one’s treatment. This is because Canada’s health care system is based on block funding, a federal financing policy that gives provinces a fixed sum of money for health services, based on their population size.

In an email from the Canadian Cancer Society, a represenstative says that “regardless of the type of leukemia, [the] patient, or treatment plan, the Canadian health care system should cover most costs related to treatment (including chemotherapy).” Furthermore, treatment plans are on a needs basis. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, this means “that if a delay in a person’s treatment may have a negative impact on their health, they will likely receive treatment as soon as possible.”

Maslyuk became interested in helping children after the birth of her first son, which caused her to see life from a new perspective. Now a mother of two, Maslyuk deeply sympathizes with Irina Lubota, a mother living in Ukraine whose daughter, Valeria, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010. Maslyuk knows Lubota and her daughter through a mutual friend and decided to start an organization.

2-year-old Valeria Lubota was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010. Photo courtesy of Leanna Maslyuk

For those like Valeria Lubota, the organization helps to offset the financial burden of a convoluted and difficult medical care situation in Ukraine and other countries. The group has already met with success. A previous fundraising campaign helped another two-year-old girl named Veronika. The campaign for Veronika’s treatment collected more than enough to pay for her bone marrow transplant, leaving an extra $12,500 which will be transferred for Valeria Lubota’s care. This is a practice the Veronika Children Leukemia Foundation hopes to keep, by reallocating leftover money to the next child in need.

Maslyuk believes that one gains the most by giving and meeting the other mothers, who would form the group, was a perfect opportunity to leverage her passion to help critically ill children in need of medical care.

“Life is completely changed when there is someone that is more important than yourself,” says Maslyuk.

A fundraising event for Valeria Lubota, the “See More Results 3rd Annual Charity Salmon BBQ” will be held on September 1st and 2nd from 11 a.m.–7 p.m. at Semiahmoo Park in White Rock. All are welcome. Attractions will include a bouncy castle and children’s entertainment. To learn more visit:

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