Hello family and friends,
On May 21st, Sveta and I left Illichevsk’s summery temperature of 75 F as we headed for northwestern Ukraine, 462 mile from our seaside city. Considering that June was right around the corner, we were thinking about warm weather in Dobromel. To our great surprise, two things were not as we expected. Our train ride to L’vov was air-conditioned, causing us to pull the blankets close around our heads. When we finally arrived in Dobromel, ten kilometers from Poland, the temperature was a cold and rainy 50 F. The day after our arrival, we went shopping at the outdoor market for warm socks and wool sweaters. Most of the shopkeepers had already packed their winter items in storage. We were able to find what we needed, but our choices were few.
We reported in the May Newsletter that Mikola, the director, had died. It was strange to visit and not see him there. Most of the children didn’t understand. Lidiya, the manager, and Natasha, the massage therapist shared their sense of loss with Sveta and me. Natasha told us that the tradition that she was following in her work with the children was that for forty days she would not use music or dance in her programs. This memorial tradition is very heartfelt. He will be deeply missed.
In the February Newsletter, I expressed great thanks for a successful Christmas fundraiser. The computer program began in February at the Dobromel Orphanage. The government had provided the computers two years ago, but no money for a teacher. This visit, we met the new computer teacher, Volodya, who is sponsored by MUCH. We learned about his work. The director gave him three tasks, each with a time expectancy. First, he was to prepare the room to accommodate electricity for each notebook computer on each desk. The teacher’s computer was to be connected to the interactive board, maybe better known as a PowerPoint projector and screen. From the teacher’s computer, he or she could project the assignment for the class to work with to the screen. See the video of the children in action.
Second, he was to educate each teacher and staff member who would have need to use the computer system. The director’s plan was not to use the computer classroom only to teach computer skills to the children, but to use the computers in every way possible to enrich the children’s educational experience. What we have learned is only the beginning.
Third, he would teach the children to use the keyboard, computer, and internet to enrich their learning experience. We have seen the children in action, so engrossed in their new adventure, they barely knew that Sveta and I were there taking pictures and making videos. They also have speech therapy software to work with the children that we wrote about in the December, and January Newsletters.
We have much more to report. Let’s take a look at Sveta’s Journey, and see what good news she has to share!
Children! How wonderful they are! They have different character and behavior, and are different in intellectual and physical development. They are so amazing! When Mark and I were in the Dobromel Orphanage and watched the work of Natasha, massage therapist, we saw how the children eagerly awaited their turn for a massage. Usually, Natasha comes to class and takes one child for massage, but this time there was a change and the children came running into the office in the hope that they would be allowed to stay in this wonderful room and wait for when their time would come.
Finally, it was time for Irina, eight-years-old. She quickly climbed on the massage table and happily placed her face in the hole in the table. Irina graduated the second grade this year. She is an orphan and came to the orphanage from the Baby House. Like many children who come to this orphanage after the Baby House, Irina was an unstable and explosive child, often crying for no reason, was nervous and stubborn. After two years in the orphanage, she started to be friendly and cheerful. Irina has a wonderfully beautiful smile. When she looks at you and smiles, you cannot remain indifferent.
This is her third course of massage and massage therapist sees positive changes in her physical body and a positive change of her mentality. With relaxation of tense muscles, now the girl
has good posture and she is calmer.
Vanya, seven-years-old, is also an orphan. In the beginning, he covered his face and did not want to be photographed, he shied away when we would try to touch him, hiding behind the massage therapist. Very quickly, Mark and I have gained his trust and he sat down on our knees and began to embrace us. The boy loves to be caressed, we hugged him and pressed the child to us. Vanya, like every child, when he feels love, he responds to it. He understands everything said to him but he cannot talk. For him, this is also the third course of the massage, but because the boy has big problems with the spine, apart from massage therapy, he requires additional treatment.
Vanya has the strongest kyphoscoliosis and administration ordered a hard plastic corset for him to correct his back, he will soon be wearing a corset. See the video of Vanya receiving massage on Natasha’s new massage table.
Julia, ten-years-old, is the fifth of eight children in her family, and all of them are in the orphanage. About two years ago, I was giving her massage. The massage therapist, Natasha, continues to work with her, and during this visit, we saw Julia’s great results. Strengthening of the muscles of her back, and relaxation of the neck muscles that were previously shorter and tight, slowed the natural growth of the cervical vertebrae. Because of massage therapy, her spine and neck muscles will grow and develop normally.
Now, Julia turned into a beautiful girl, as in the tale of “The Ugly Duckling.’’ But, this is not a fairy tale, these are real effects of massage therapy on the body of this child. Before she received massage therapy, the girl was diagnosed with kyphoscoliosis. Two months ago, after a medical examination, the doctor said that her posture has improved so much that he changed the diagnosis to impaired posture. This is great progress! We believe that in the future the doctor will also change this diagnosis!
Mark and I had meetings with the manager, Lidiya Romanovna. She talked about the many successes of the children who had received a course, or several courses, of massage therapy. Some of the results are improved posture in children, improved articulation, handwriting, and positive change of the mental attitude of children.
Natasha expressed gratitude to all those people who support the massage program, and thereby show love and care to the children and particularly the children who are orphans. In May, three of the four children who received massage therapy were orphans. We see concrete positive change for them.
We thank you!
Living my dream,
After watching the two videos that we made of our visit to Dobromel, it brought new understanding to my eyes. Sometimes, I forget the great impact that the contributions of MUCH have on the children and the people who work with them. Natasha is doing great work through massage therapy, but it was her words of thanks that stopped me mid-thought. After thanking her for her work, she said, “Mark, thank you for coming to Dobromel, so far from any big city, and caring about the children that most people forget about.”
Please join our efforts to understand life in the different communities that we serve. Watch our videos and receive joy because of the results of your financial support and prayers. God bless you. We thank you. The children thank you!
Blessings of love and healing,
Mark and Sveta