Hello family and friends,
Sveta and I wish each of you good health and happiness as we begin to see the fruits of springtime. We have recently returned from a two-week journey visiting friends and MUCH children. Our first stop was in a village outside of Poltava, a twelve-hour train ride. It was very cold there for this time of year. We visited three families and I spoke at a church service. I see possibilities for a massage program for children in the surrounding villages. Our second destination was Marganets, where we would visit the two orphanage/boarding schools and the Transition Home that we sponsor. To get from Poltava to Marganets, we had to take a four hour bus to Dnepropetrovsk (say that one five times fast) and a two hour bus to Marganets. I learn more about Ukraine each time that I travel. I see more cities and villages, and better understand the people and their plight.
Six days and seven nights of our second leg of our journey brought smiles to the children in Marganets. The orphanage is going strong in the development of new uses of their computer room and music and dance training and competition. Although, most of the children were away on spring break, the fifty-some children with no family were at the orphanage. Sveta and I connected with a handful of children who wanted to talk and become friends with us. Some of the children were those who talked with Sveta by phone the last time that I was there.
The best news that we received came from the manager of the orphanage. She told us that she has seen a very big result because of the new clothes that the children have received over the years. In the past, children would go into town, wanting to interact with the local children. Their clothing and general appearance was very poor, therefore the children of Marganets families treated the orphans very badly. They would fight with them, sending them back to the orphanage with broken noses and black eyes. Now, the orphans blend in with the other children of Marganets and there are no more incidents as there were in the past. The local children have a new respect for the children from the orphanage.
Since my youth, I have always enjoyed working with wood. Andre, the art, computer, and woodworking teacher, captured my interest in his work from my first visit. Since that time, I have seen more of the work that the children have produced under his tutelage, as you can see to the right. They have entered their work in competitions and contests throughout the region. As time went on, other materials were provided to develop new skills. The newest learning task is weaving with straw, as you can see in the picture (above) on the far right. This is one more craft item that they can sell in the city centers in the future.
The role of the Transition Home initially was to provide a ninety-day orientation to living in a larger group setting before being sent to an orphanage. When we visited the Transition Home, we learned that it had become a Center for Children, with twenty children living there, and ten children coming for the day and then returning home at night. The goals are to: 1) help parents in jeopardy of neglecting their children by removing the children from the home environment for the day, giving the parents an opportunity to organize their lives. 2) keep children from entering the orphanages and give the director time to find good foster homes where the children can be nurtured and develop in a number of ways for nine months instead of ninety days. There are now two psychologists on staff and they have a special room to interact in with the children. The vision for this room was three years in the making.
The second orphanage, which helps only local children in Marganets, was without children when we visited, again because of spring break. The director met with us and shared all that is happening there. He showed us pictures of him harvesting the honey last year, the result of our first project of providing three bee families at this orphanage. The children were administered honey and herbs the same as in the other orphanage, and proceeded through the cold and flu season without having to quarantine the orphanage. After, he took us outside to show us the 60 plus fruit trees that the children planted last year.
A six-hour train to Sevastopol and an hour and a half electric train to Saki left us off within walking distance of the home where we would attend church that Sunday. Nellya, who translated for me in the past, lives there with her mother. We visited for tea, wanting to have time for Sveta to have some conversation and get a feel for the community. Before we could leave, Anya and Andre arrived to pick us up. We would be staying at their home in Froonza and they happened to be in Saki at that time.
Our two-week trip for me was very impressive. I learned and saw very many good things in the boarding schools, massage rooms, and in the families. I am glad so many people give their love for children. When we visited the orphanage, leaders expressed their gratitude to Mark and all the people who provide financial and material assistance for children.
The director of the orphanage recalled how MUCH sponsorship began at this boarding school for special children. That was 10 years ago. The children had old ugly clothes, and they were very different from children who live in families. This always led to conflicts between these different children: fights and broken noses, but the most important thing is that children felt marginalized, handicapped in the society, they were not accepted by their society peers, who had good clothes.
Now, says the director, the situation has changed due to sponsorship. Children from the orphanage have a good variety of clothing that does not distinguish them from children living in homes; they have confidence in themselves, developing aesthetic tastes, and make friends among the children who live in nearby houses in families. These are the results of MUCH investments and work.
In the orphanage, a lot of attention is paid to developing children’s talents: dancing, singing, crafts, and wood carving. We observed a lesson in woodcarving. The boys are interested, they are working with enthusiasm under the leadership of their teacher, and what they learn here can be useful for their future.
In Marganets, we had a great meeting with Tatiana and her husband, Vladimir. Five years ago, they took two children, Ivan and Antonina into their family. Ivan is holding Antonia’s picture. The little boy is Tatiana and Vladimir’s grandson. Kelly, a young woman visiting from America, noticed Ivan and Antonina in the transition home, and her heart was very worried about the future of these children. Thus, Kelly was the driving force for this Ukrainian family to carry out this good work.
During the first Christmas holiday, Tatiana and Vladimir’s very large family visited their home. When Ivan and Antonina saw all of these people, they hid in their room. They anticipated that this holiday experience would resemble those of their past, with much drinking and fighting. Living in a Christian home was a very different and new experience for them. It was their first of many loving holiday adventures.
When Antonina came to live with Tatiana and Vladimir, she was the age for 8th grade, but had only completed 2nd grade. With very much help from Tatiana, a previous teacher, she has caught up with the curriculum, graduated school, and now she studies at the medical school. Ivan continues to go to school. With this family, these children will have a bright future. When God works through different people, connecting them, He ends up with a wonderful result, as in this case. Two children, many years behind in their education are brought into a loving family where they receive love, guidance, care and training for a wonderful future.
When Mark and I were in the village of Froonza, Crimea, we visited the massage program that Mark initiated two years ago, and met with parents of children who are receiving massage. They are very grateful for this wonderful opportunity for their disabled children to have massage from a qualified massage therapist. Parents talked with admiration about the results they actually see, the physical improvements in their children. I understand the need for a massage program for children of this village. Thank you, MUCH, for sponsoring this program.
We recently received a report from our masseuse and a photo of Mi, a girl in Dobromel. The girl has already received two courses of 20-day massage. She has very visible results in her physical and psycho-emotional condition. I know this girl and see how her eyes have changed, from empty and sad to tranquil and happy. (Please compare this photo to the photo in the March newsletter). Our massage therapist writes that Mi has become more confident and stable in her emotions. In late April, Mark and I will go to this orphanage and we will see the children. We very much miss them!
During this trip, my eyes have been opened more to understand Mark’s work. He is like a bridge between people and organizations. I see the great results from the sponsors of MUCH and Mark’s efforts! This brings me inspiration, and I am very glad that I joined the team and can give a piece of myself for this good deed of charity.
Living my dream,
We have more stories to tell! I am working on a better way to share our stories, but if you have some ideas, please let me know. Help me understand the images that you perceive from my stories. We are touching many lives of children in need. If you could see, first-hand, as Sveta did, and as my brother and his wife did, I think that my newsletters would be more inspiring. What would you like to know about the children? But be careful! Their stories may break your hearts. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you. Early in April, Sveta and I will be in Dobromel to visit the children at the orphanage and see the progress of the massage program. Please continue to pray for these children as their lives are taking on new meaning.
I wish for all of you who will celebrate a holy day this month, that you may be showered with blessings.
Blessings of love and healing,
Mark and Sveta