The hospital was supportive in creating space for RMHC, but it could not fund the facility in any way. The foundation would still have to invest in creating the rooms, buying furniture and purchasing other necessities. 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 step.”
RMHC decided to organize a fundraising event. The purpose of the foundation spread like a wild-fire and a large number of people wanted to express and offer their support. More than a thousand people came to the very first fundraising event, a Zumba event, which is a lot of people for an island event. After this successful event, 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 get a breather, so we charged ahead for that goal”, Claudia explained.
That was 10 years ago. Years later, with the new hospital, Curaçao Medical Center, being built in 2019, a new opportunity arose to create an enhanced RMHC, including a new Family Room with a child-friendly ambiance, a variety of toys and a state-of-the-art entertainment system for the children, and in addition a new canteen for the parents to enjoy.
The pandemic slowed down the process considerably. However, the RMHC team did its utmost to reach its target: deliver a beautiful accommodation that would ensure the needed support and a comfortable experience for the families. On November 15th 2019 the new hospital opened its doors, figuratively speaking. As the hospital was hermetically closed, the families of the young children receiving medical care at the hospital were placed in a so-called quarantine. RMHC, driven to support the families, in many ways, added to the services the hospital was already providing to the families. “For instance, if a mother would receive breakfast and lunch, we would provide dinner and in-between-snacks. The collaboration with the hospital personnel was very open and flexible. When we were not allowed in the building due to the restrictions, the hospital personnel would keep us informed and would be open for our advices. It was beautiful to experience how much everybody tried to help in every way possible”, Claudia shares.
It also helped that the Global Ronald McDonald House Charities and the foundation in Curaçao were able to work on protocols together, which helped the team reach the point where the RMHC programs were set, and they were able to launch the RMHC at the Curaçao Medical Center, officially on the 19th of June 2020. It was worldwide news, as the RMHC opened its doors in a creative way, by holding a virtual event with a livestream for media as well as other chapters. Ronald McDonald Houses around the world, including the Global RMHC in Chicago, followed the live-stream and offered their well wishes. “I will never forget how that felt. After 10 years of hard work, so much effort, lobbying and many no’s, we had reached this moment. To receive so many messages and people all around the world following the livestream in support of us was amazing and impactful, it was a very emotional moment”.
Every experience brings certain developments. The RMHC having greater connectivity and continuous communication with the various departments of Curaçao Medical Center, the gained knowledge on hygiene and the use of technology for daily administration will certainly be maintained. However, RMHC does look forward to going back to their core, where complete families will be able to visit the children at the hospital, or stay at the facilities of the RMHC such as the canteen and the Family Room.
Claudia concludes: “We started with 0 cents, but with volunteers that were excited to make things happen. The RMHC volunteers look forward to welcoming them as soon as this is possible again, as the main objective is for the families staying at the RMHC to be surrounded by comfort, care and support”.