Ronald McDonald House Charities is today an international organization that operates in 64 countries thanks to the help of 536,000 volunteers. Among these, since 1999 there is also Italy, where the Ronald McDonald Children’s Foundation has set itself the goal of helping sick and disadvantaged children to have a better future.
This commitment is realized through a series of humanitarian and scientific initiatives which involve children and their families: in all these years, in fact, the Foundation has always been present with operations of restructuring and preparation of new hospitalization areas within hospitals and with the donation of medical equipment in some of the major Italian pediatric hospitals.
The main work was to open and manage the Case Ronald close to the main pediatric centers in Italy and the Family Room inside the pediatric pavilions of the main Italian hospitals. The Family Room program represents a concrete response from the Ronald McDonald Children’s Foundation to the issue of supporting the families of young patients being treated at hospital excellence of the territory and to the even older one of health migration.
Maria Chiara Roti is the General Manager of the Ronald McDonald Foundation Italy: we met her and spoke with her about the importance of the Foundation and the third sector in Italy.
Once you arrive here, you feel completely at home: how did you think about the spaces, also from an architectural point of view?
The Family Rooms respond to architectural criteria that are a standard of our organization, which for 50 years in the world and for over 20 in Italy has welcomed and treated families and children who are suffering from the disease. First of all, it is a large and bright room, with spaces divided by family unit so as to ensure that each nucleus remains united. And then we decided to give a huge boost to the common areas, because this is where what is called “Family Center Care” is promoted, i.e. bringing the family back into the center of the child care process, with faster and more positive results. That’s why we cook together, eat together, watch TV all together, thanks to the common areas. In this house there are also other areas, such as the smart working room, which we had already thought about before the pandemic and which then became a commodity. As for the aesthetic part, ie the colors and furnishings, we chose them together with our architectural studio, thanks to McDonald’s, our founding company which has a large panel of suppliers available to the Foundation. We have tried to choose high-end materials especially for a theme of durability, so as to ensure that care for our families is not interrupted.
You have been present in Italy since 1999 with the Foundation, would you like to take stock of all these years?
Personally, I have been with the Foundation for three years and I have been given an important reality, perhaps only a little silent up to now. A reality that fulfilled his mission very well, but had not opened up much to the territories. It is a Foundation that is almost 25 years old, but is being renewed. Because contexts change on a daily basis, just think of what the experience of Covid has taught us. Today the Foundation responds to three criteria of Italian healthcare: the first is dehospitalization: fewer nights are spent in the hospital, increasingly targeted and specialized treatments are provided, aiming at prevention. The second is that of the humanization of care: in an increasingly technological healthcare based – fortunately – on research, the risk is of losing contact with doctors and healthcare personnel. Here these places, so familiar, bring the person back to the center, realizing what healthcare itself wants. Finally, another important aspect to take into consideration is the chronicity of the diseases: today we also get to live with very complex pathologies, such as neurological or oncological ones. We therefore need places that can welcome children and their families during checks, treatments and checks, to remain connected to the reference hospitals.
The macroeconomic scenario is constantly changing, not always positive. How do you see the future of the third sector in Italy?
When I started working in the third sector about ten years ago – during a change of life and career – even my sensitive family thought I was making a somewhat risky choice. Those were the years in which a new sector was emerging, which thanks also to various reforms, today employs many people in Italy and responds to many social, health, environmental, training and educational services. It is now a necessary world, both because it gives space to volunteering, a very important and indispensable resource of our country, and because it is a place for increasingly trained professionals. We have finally become primary interlocutors in Ministries, Regions and Municipalities, sitting at the same table as decision maker to understand how it is more correct to operate in the territories in which we work. The real challenge will be that of sustainability, because it is a sector that does not produce funds by its nature, except in some exceptional cases of social enterprise. And that of measurability, starting to measure the value and impact of the third sector with concrete and universal studies.
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