In 2003, I began to participate daily in the Emmaus Food Program in Illichevsk, Ukraine.
Operated by a local church, this organization reached out to children from difficult homes with one hot meal a day, Bible study, a sewing club, craft activities, and lots of love. In this city of 65,000, there were 300 families where the children were identified as living in extreme need of help. Fifty of these children attended Emmaus. Many were elementary school age. Most of them attended the school for children with lower abilities. They may not have been truly limited in their ability, but their home environment lacked nurturing and had no potential as a study environment. Even more, some home environments were lice infested, or parents were alcoholics or drug users.
I interacted with these children for a number of years, eating lunch with them and participating in their other activities. When some of the older children were ready to graduate high school, I learned that they would no longer be eligible to attend Emmaus. When I asked the program manager what would happen to the children, a sad expression crossed her face. She explained that some would learn a trade, but most would remain in a negative family environment and would begin to follow the lifestyles of their parents.
I asked about the opportunities for college or university for the students who had earned high grades. The potential for being awarded a scholarship was good for those students, but they had to pay for their own transportation. Students from difficult homes who had high grades had no money for transportation. There were four students who fell into this category. One was somewhat lazy and chose to succumb to the affections of an older man. The second chose to get married to her boyfriend sooner rather than later, and passed on higher education. The third wanted to study to be a lawyer, an advocate for children. The fourth wanted to study to be a kindergarten teacher.
In 2007, I initiated the Transportation Scholarship Program through Mission Ukraine Children’s Hope (MUCH) at my Ukraine base in Illichevsk, providing funds for transportation to university in Odessa. The third and fourth students gladly participated. Both students did well during the first two years. Somewhere in the third year, one of these student disappeared from our radar. She was on her own, without any parental guidance. She may have connected with a group in Odessa and continued, but no one in our network knew what had become of her.
The first student to complete the program, Vika, is a great success story. We have a second success story in the making. This student, also named Vika, is studying pharmacology in the nursing program.
This year we have three additional applicants.
It is amazing that tuition is about the same cost as transportation from Illichevsk to Odessa. We are interested in helping as many students as we can to break their cycle of poverty. After operating the program for 6 years, MUCH will broaden the program to offer a specific dollar figure for scholarships, either for tuition or transportation.
There are other disadvantaged children in Illichevsk who could benefit from higher education. By focusing on their need, we hope to encourage support for more of them to go on to higher education. For $80 a month, you can send a child to college or university and they will have enough to get something small to eat each day. A group of four could co-sponsor a student for $20 each per month. Imagine, you could help a child break out of the cycle of poverty in his or her life. In turn you could help stimulate the hope that it is possible to change the cycle of poverty in their community.
Your $10 will add up!