The Greenwich International Film Festival was founded with the mission to harness the power of film to serve the greater good. Since its inception, GIFF has donated $125,000 to six charity partners and awarded $70,000 to talented filmmakers. This has made a real impact worldwide, but we are excited to bring our commitment to charity partners to local organizations for the 2017 Festival.
The Greenwich International Film Festival is proud to announce our support of Family Centers and the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital for our 2017 Festival. Both organizations work daily to improve the lives of people in our community, and we are honored to support their work.
In October, I accompanied GIFF’s Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board, Wendy Reyes as we visited both of these incredible organizations. Along the way, we met inspiring people whose mission it is to make a direct impact on the lives of the people they are helping.
Our first stop was to Family Centers, operating out of the Chester Addison Community Center in Stamford. While there we sat in on a Reaching Independence Through Employment (RITE) class. We listened as the women in this room spoke about their work experience and the reasons they were there. Whether it was to improve their English (which for most is their 3rd or 4th language) or learn how to be confident during a job interview, each of these women were inspiring.
What struck me the most about Family Centers was the emphasis on helping the community as a whole. Family Centers is well known for their award winning pre-schools and early childhood education programs.However, a good amount of their funding and resources go toward programs for adults. Adult Literacy and Reaching Independence Through Employment (RITE) programs are difficult to fund, but the reach they offer in the community is unmeasurable. These adults take what they learn at Family Centers back to other members of their community, encouraging them to enroll in similar programs and passing their knowledge along to their children. This cycle of knowledge is what I found most fascinating about the work Family Centers does every day.
Family Centers consists of over 200 professionals and 3,500 trained volunteers who work together on a daily basis to provide a variety of programs that enhance the lives of children and adults. This year, Family Centers is celebrating 125 years of empowering families and communities to realize their potential and GIFF is honored to be a part of this exciting celebration.
Next we visited the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Group in Valhalla, NY. Born out of the tragic loss of 13-year-old Maria Fareri in 1995 to rabies, Maria’s wish was “for the health and well-being of all the children in the world”.
Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital is the only hospital in the United States named after a child, and her spirit shines throughout. Everywhere we turned, parents were with their children as they received care. The optimism of all the medical and support staff was overwhelming and helped lift the burden these families carried.
As it was just a few days before Halloween, all the kids wanted to talk about was what they were going to dress-up as for the annual trick-or-treating. From Batman to Snoopy, these kids were so excited to trick-or-treat around the hospital and bring candy to the kids that couldn’t leave their rooms.
As we toured their incredible facilities, including the Pediatric ICU, what stood out were the areas that made you forget you were in a hospital. A gigantic aquarium in the lobby, filled with fish, coral and other under the water creatures that greets all visitors. The “Neighborhoods” which are themed according to favorite topics, like music and sports, are filled with interactive rooms for the children to enjoy during their breaks from treatment. There is even a life-size fire truck, that the hospital was built around, a donation from a local fire department, and a NY Baseball Museum in the lobby.
While these aspects of the hospital make the children forget a little bit where they are, it was hard to avoid all the reminders that we were in a children’s hospital as we visited. Children hooked up to IV stands, parents sat anxiously awaiting news about a loved one, medical devices beeped as they were pushed down hallways. But the things you could not see were what I will take away most from our visit: the continuous hope, the excitement over new visitors, and the uplifting spirit of the staff.
The Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital is truly a “family-centered” hospital that realizes that the parents are just as much a part of a child’s care as the medical team. It is no surprise that a hospital that took a group of hundreds of parents, medical staff, and community leaders to build is just as much a community within its own walls.
Our visit to both Family Centers and Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital was uplifting and inspiring as we saw the direct impact these organization make on a daily basis. The Greenwich International Film Festival is proud to support these organizations for our 2017 Festival. Stay tuned to see how GIFF will support these charity partners in the new year, with the help of GIFF Board Members Mark Teixeira and Jenna Bush Hager.
Photos of Family Centers provided by Bill Brucker, Communications Director for Family Centers. Photos from the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital are provided by Lindsey Hascher and Wendy Reyes, taken at a recent visit to MFCH.
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