Shining a light for Ukrainian newborns

The SUN Project is collecting money to help babies with jaundice in Ukraine. — Courtesy The SUN Project

The Support Ukrainian Newborns (SUN) Project brings “vital medical equipment to providers in Ukraine to help save newborns” and it announced it will be holding a fundraising event on Martha’s Vineyard. On Thursday, July 28, from 3 to 5 pm, the fundraiser will take place at the home of Francine Sohn, who is organizing the event with Linda Jeng, at 10 Loon Cove Way in Edgartown. 

According to the announcement, around 1,000 mothers give birth daily in Ukraine, but many medical facilities in the country are “missing basic medical equipment for treating newborns with highly treatable conditions, such as jaundice.” Severe cases of jaundice can lead to brain damage and death. T.K. Znamenskaya, president of the Ukrainian Neonatology Association, is requesting 60 bili-huts and 60 bili-rulers for his country. The bili-hut is a small, portable blue-light phototherapy device for jaundice, while bili-rulers are used to detect the condition. They were developed “by medical researchers at Harvard Medical School’s Brigham & Women’s Hospital for babies born in nonclinical settings in developing countries,” and have also helped babies in war zones. 

Donna Brezinski, CEO and founder of Little Sparrow Technologies, which is the company that makes the bili-hut and bili-rulers, told The Times the total cost of delivering one package of bili-huts and rulers to Ukraine costs $3,000. 

“My company provides the bili-hut and bili-rulers for this project at or below cost, and the subsequent administration,” Brezinski said. She said there have been 40 requests for packages from other institutions within Ukraine. “The goal is to raise a total of $300,000 to meet this request, which will go on to treat more than 100,000 babies with severe jaundice over the lifetime use of the devices.”

“It’s 100 percent treatable,” Jeng said. She also told The Times the chance of babies developing jaundice doubles when a mother is under stressful situations. 

The SUN Project has been a “personal cause” for Jeng since a close friend of hers, Anne C.C. Lee, is one of the doctors leading this effort at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, alongside Brezinski. During the process, Jeng also got in direct contact with Ukrainian medical personnel, and heard of their efforts to keep people safe, such as moving newborns to basements of hospitals that have not been heavily damaged by the war, to protect them from broken glass. 

“It’s a bit heartbreaking, talking to them, because they are so devastated and worn,” Jeng said. “But, life still happens.” 

Refreshments and snacks will be served during the fundraiser. There will also be a raffle basket, and the announcement suggests making donations between $50 and $500. Speakers include Brezinski and Lian Folger, a research member of the Global AIM Lab. To reserve a spot for the event, email with the number of people in your party. For those who cannot attend but would still like to donate or get more information, visit