The Sint Elisabeth Hospital was very supportive in creating space for RMHC, but it could not fund the renovation and furnishings of its facilities. The foundation would still have to invest considerably creating the various areas and bedrooms, buying furniture and purchasing other necessities to fund its first core program, the Ronald McDonald Family Room. Claudia Rigaud, RMHC Executive Director, explains: “We started RMHC with 0 cents, but with volunteers that were excited to make things happen. As we are a self-sustainable foundation, we let our creativity guide us towards our next steps.”
RMHC decided to organize its first fundraising event. The mission of the foundation spread like wild-fire and a large number of people wanted to express and offer their support with more than a thousand people showing up for this fundraiser Zumba event. After this first success, RMHC continued to work hard to convince more people and companies to sponsors and receive donations. “Our objective was clear. We wanted to create a space where parents could stay close to their sick child and get much needed support, so we charged ahead for that goal”, Claudia explained.
That was 10 years ago. Years later, with the move to a new hospital, the Curaçao Medical Center (CMC), a new opportunity arose to create a new and enhanced RMHC Family Room. A truly family centered space with a child-friendly ambiance, a variety of toys and state-of-the-art entertainment systems, a new sensory area and in addition a new living room space for parents to enjoy.
The pandemic slowed down the construction process considerably. However, the RMHC Curacao team did its utmost to reach its target: deliver a beautiful accommodation that would ensure much needed support and a comfortable experience for families of sick children for generations to come. On November 15th 2019 the CMC opened its doors, with our Family Room still under construction. Three and a half months later as the Global Covid 19 pandemic was declared, the hospital was hermetically closed and families of children receiving medical care at the hospital were placed in quarantine and in other cases had very restricted visitation hours. Backed up by the expertise of our Global Organization we were forced to take a hard look at our programs worldwide and temporarily close or downscale operations in order to guarantee the safety of our guests. Driven by our mission we spend the first weeks of lockdown revising hygiene and infection prevention protocols, training our people and finding creative ways to continue to serve our families as best as possible. The collaboration with our hospital partner pediatric team was very open and flexible. Within the sadness brought upon all of us by the pandemic, it was beautiful to experience how much everybody tried to help in every way possible”, Claudia shares.
Finally with great pride and emotion we were able to officially open our new Ronald McDonald Family Room at the Curaçao Medical Center, on the 19th of June 2020. The virtual opening event with a livestream for media as well as other chapters around the world was closely followed and very much celebrated. “I will never forget how that felt. After 10 years of hard work, so much effort, lobbying and so many no’s, we had reached this milestone. To receive so many messages and people all around the world following the livestream in support of us was amazing , it was a very emotional moment”.
Every experience brings new positive developments as did the Covid -19 pandemic. However, RMHC does look forward to going back to their core, where the entire family will be able to be together at the hospital, and use our facilities.
Claudia concludes: “We started with 0 cents, but with volunteers that were excited to make things happen. These RMHC volunteers look forward going back to normal operations and provide all families of sick children the comfort, care and support they need”.