2004 Ukraine Trip
In April 2004, I went again to Odessa, Ukraine for my sixth trip. In the fall of 1999 friend of mine asked if I would be interested teaching spinning and crafts to children in the orphanages of Odessa. I said "Yes" and my life was changed. I now go once a year to work with the children sharing arts and crafts, more spinning lessons and going to the many orphanages taking notes and pictures which I pass onto Clara Pascal, the director of Universal Aid for Children/Ukraine. (www.uacukrainerelief.org)
This year Linda Terry and I spent a lot of time at Alexandrovka, a mental institute, and the Boy's Prison in Fontanka. There was much work needed at both places, and we spent time talking with the children as well. We gave Easter bread to the students at both orphanages and even participated in a shortened Easter service led by Russian Orthodox Pastor Sergey Chorba at the Boy's Prison. The boys there showed us many crocheted items they had made and asked for more yarns, crochet hooks and knitting needles.
We went to orphanage #4 several days to teach classes and check out a teaching kitchen that needs repair. We'd like to see it get usable so that the home ec teachers can teach cooking again to the tenth and eleventh graders. When the girls leave the orphanage they need to know how to cook. Orphanage #5 also needs a cooking class. When we went there we saw that some repair was going on, but they did not have enough money to finish. The government seems to be helping a bit, but not near enough.
We brought toothbrushes and paste, soap, sponges, towels, shampoo, cream, combs and hair brushes, and spent one whole day putting these into bags. We had enough to distribute to each child in orphanage #4, 450 children, and to the Boy's Prison, 100 boys. UAC also hired two health teachers to teach the children good hygiene.
I got sick this time with a cold and went to a Dr. Genadi, who helps UAC with the children who are sick or need surgery. With my fourteen year old interpreter, Okasana, I saw the doctor, got some homeopathic medicines and was off running again.
We were able to go to an orphanage in Belgorod, about two hours southwest of Odessa. It has newborns to four year olds, many of them with mental and phsyical problems, like cleft palate, spina bifida, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and hydrocephalus. We gave all one hundred children there a stuffed toy, and the older ones suckers. Spent several hours there seeing most of the children there and trying to connect and play with many of them.
On our last day there we went to an orphanage we had just found out about. They needed so much help! It had about one hundred fifty children, ages seven to sixteen, with mild mental problems like Downs Syndrome or FAS. We took hygiene items to them as well as underwear, t-shirts, and some balls to play with. Had a tour and we were horrified at the conditions these children lived in. Bathrooms were almost unusable, most toilets with no seats or covers, rusty pipes, faucets with no handles, fixtures broken or not event there, tiles broken and missing, walls with mold and paint peeling. We took lots of pictures and I wrote a report to Clara to take to her board. The last I heard they were going to get some money to start repairs. We left some money we had taken with us to buy linens for the beds, that need replacing, and dishes and silverware.
When we go to each place we always meet with the director of teh orphanage. THen we get a tour of the buildings; classrooms, kitchen, eating area, bedrooms, bathrooms and play areas. We also take the time to visit with the children, playing games or talking with the via interpreters. Many times it is heartwrenching and we have been known to cry about the conditions. Our dogs live in much better conditions than these children do! However changes are being made slowly but surely. It would be wonderful if the Ukrainean government were more able to help their own children. I feel priveleged I am able to help in the many small ways that I do.
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