Sunny Wave charity foundation in Kyiv, Ukraine

James Wood, Leader-Post, The Leader-Post (Regina)
Canada.com Network, Regina, SK, Canada
Monday, January 5, 2003

REGINA........In a country where cancer rates have skyrocketed, Svetlana Tsybizova is trying to bring some happiness and hope.

Tsybizova is one of the founders of the Sunny Wave charity foundation in Kyiv, Ukraine, which provides art and activities as therapy to young cancer patients who often face a grim situation in the country.

"The reality is awful . . . But reality is also about joy and about being happy and about being loved," said Tsybizova in her impeccable, slightly accented English in an interview in Regina on Saturday.

The Sunny Wave organization also works to bring much-needed medical supplies and expertise to the Ukraine.

Svetlana Tsybizova shows pictures of children that have been treated thanks to Sunny Wave Charity
CREDIT: Joshua Sawka, The Leader-Post

The country has seen its cancer rates increase by 10 times since the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in 1986 where a meltdown sent a radioactive cloud across the country and Eastern Europe.

While the cancer problem is major, medical equipment is antiquated and facilities are overcrowded because of the poverty in Ukraine, which became independent from the former Soviet Union in 1991.

In the late 1990s, Tsybizova was working for an American-based Christian charity program called the Centre for Leadership Development. With that organization, she helped establish a rehabilitation and education program for Ukrainian orphans and street children.

In 2001 her group was asked to put on a Christmas program at the pediatrics department of the Institute of Oncology of Ukraine in Kyiv, which marked the beginning of her work with child cancer patients.

"What we'd seen was children in pain and parents in pain. Obviously there wasn't much hope," said Tsybizova, 33, who works as a free-lance translator beyond her charitable work.

"We wanted to do something to make their environment better."

Sunny Wave volunteers and staff use art and music therapy to deal with the emotional and psychological problems of both the young cancer patients and their parents.

In 2001, Tsybizova met and eventually became romantically involved with Regina resident Alf Zumpano, who is now working with her to develop Canadian links to the charity.

"It was painfully obvious to me that what she needed was some funding and with some funding basically the sky's the limit in what she can do," said Zumpano, who works in the leathercrafting shop at RCMP Depot.

The Sunny Wave organization is now registered as a non-profit charity in Ukraine and Saskatchewan.

Besides raising funds and fostering links with Canadian organizations, Tsybizova hopes to develop connections between cancer clinics in Canada and Ukraine, especially to improve diagnostic capabilities in her country.

Tsybizova has been in Canada since August but is returning to Ukraine in February.