Azerbaijan International

Winter 2000 (8.4)
Page 86

SOCAR Section
Pennzoil Caspian Brightens Kids' Lives


Above and below: At the Children's Bone Tuberculosis Sanatorium, children now are beginning to receive instruction in First Aid, sewing, crafts, art, music, English, Russian and computers. It's a new world for these kids especially when you realize that therapy used to entail just lying in bed for months.

Life used to be pretty bleak at the Bone Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Zagulba, a distant suburb of Baku. The building, once an Oil Baron's summer house, was run down. There wasn't enough medicine to treat all of the patients. The children would mostly lie in bed all day; the ones who could get up didn't have anything to play with anyway - a few balls, an out-of-tune piano.

Four years ago, Pennzoil Caspian, a subsidiary of Devon Emergy Corporation, began helping out with this dire situation. "We heard about the Sanatorium from Gulara Narimanova, the director of INSAN, a local humanitarian NGO (non-governmental organization)," Pennzoil Caspian's Manager, Igor Effimoff, says. "Her organization had been helping the kids for many years in whatever way they could.

"My wife, Betty, and I decided that we couldn't solve all of Azerbaijan's problems. There's just too much to do, and nobody has the resources to solve all the problems. But the Sanatorium was 'bite-sized' - small enough for us to help and make an impact.

"Bone tuberculosis is usually contracted by drinking unpasteurized milk. To make a complete recovery, children need medicine, proper nutrition and lots of bed rest. Usually an intensive, uninterrupted two-year treatment program will do.

"Our immediate goal was to provide nutrition for the children suffering from this terrible disease, so that their bodies could begin to heal. They needed food, medicine, money and care. We found Sima Khanum, who runs the Sanatorium, to be very honest and extremely dedicated, along with her staff."

Once the children's basic needs were met, the company undertook a major rehabilitation of the Sanatorium in a project implemented by Mercy Corps International, a U.S. humanitarian organization. The Sanatorium was essentially rebuilt with a new roof, windows, doors, heating system, sewers, bathrooms and kitchen.

Pennzoil Caspian is now entering a new phase of assistance in partnership with the Reliable Future Youth Organization, the Azerbaijani NGO implementing the project. In this six-month pilot project, the 150 patients at the hospital will receive instruction in subjects such as First Aid, sewing, crafts, art, music, English, Russian and computers. Pennzoil Caspian has provided two PCs so that the children can work directly on computers. High-school and college-aged volunteers from Reliable Future teach the courses; other contributors include BP and a group of artists organized by Baku artist Sabina Shikhlinskaya.

One of the art teachers describes a typical class at the Sanatorium: "One boy drew a bird on a tree, with a house and grass. He then explained that the bird was sitting on a branch and thinking. She had been told that hunters had killed her mother. She looked at the flowers on the grass and noticed how friendly they were to each other. The boy said, 'Why people can't be the same - kind and friendly?! I wish they could!'"

Effimoff says that the Sanatorium now has a completely different atmosphere: "The kids are thrilled. Like kids around the world, they love to learn new things. They enjoy the attention of their tutors. The Sanatorium can get sort of boring, so any change of pace is most appreciated."

Pennzoil Caspian hopes that other companies and NGOs will join the project to provide ongoing assistance to the Sanatorium. The project's continued success will depend upon the availability of funding, and for the present, these need to come from outside sources.

Azerbaijan International (8.4) Winter 2000.
© Azerbaijan International 2000. All rights reserved.

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