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I wish each of you a Happy New Year, that it may be filled with peace, financial recovery, and a new outlook on life. Ukraine will be celebrating Christmas on January 7th.

I’ll write about my adventure with skin cancer when I have during and after pictures. For those who are concerned, I’m doing well.

This post, I want to tell about two of my children in Illichevsk. Four and a half years ago, I wrote about one child who fell out of her 5th floor dormitory house window and broke her neck. She was 12 years old. She has a younger sister who was 9 years old at the time.

Life has continued to challenge each of these children in different ways during the past four and a half years. I’ll give them new names for this post to protect their identity. Kathy, the older of the two, insisted on continuing to live with her alcoholic mother in the one room that they call home. The mother is seldom their. Close to the 4 year anniversary of Kathy’s accident, she had a baby. The father of the baby married her. Now, 4 and sometimes 5 people live in the one room home.

Nina, now 13 years old, has physical problems of her own. Before age 8, she was hit by a car. Her leg that was broken was not set correctly and causes her difficulty in walking. Apparently, she had some brain trauma also. Her right hand is not contracted, but she does not use it. For some reason, it has not developed neurologically.

If these girls only had their physical problems to deal with, that would be enough for a lifetime. Here is what their home life is like, as I understand it.

They live on the 5th floor. If Kathy wants to go outside, some one must carry her down 5 flights of steps, and bring her wheel chair. If she wants to use the bathroom, it is a public bathroom at the end of the hall for that floor of one or two room homes. She uses diapers, as she is a quadriplegic, so that is less of a factor. The kitchen is also a community facility. So, accessibility for her is probably not a future possibility. Because she now has a baby, (something that I thought was not possible), all of her difficulties are times two.

For Nina, it was a great experience to witness her sister’s pregnancy, giving birth, and the early novelty of life with her niece. Now, the other facts of life remind her of what is real in her personal world.

Imagine for a moment, a 16 ½ year old mother of a 6 month old, a husband of possibly 20 years of age, a 13 year old sister, and an alcoholic mother who is transient in their lives, all living in a 10’ x 10’ room. The room has a curtain that divides it into by 2/3s. So, privacy is a luxury, Nina’s innocence has long since vanished, and interpersonal relationships of these children living in the adult world are stressed to the max.

This is only a sample of the 25 children who visit the Emmaus Food Program in Illichevsk. The children eat a hearty meal five days a week during the school year. There are programs to teach them life skills such as sewing, cooking, and social interaction. Other activities include crafts, singing, and Bible study. Recently, I have begun a chat session with the children twice a month. My goal is to discuss problems common to our lives, though we are two generations apart.

I hope to touch Nina’s life with physical rehabilitation, but it will depend upon her. I learned a very difficult lesson with her sister. Just because I see the need and want to help, that doesn’t mean that they want my help. As with most children, it is difficult to get them to see very far beyond their immediate needs and wants. That is what parents are supposed to do. Sometimes, the best that I can do is only to be available.

I’ll surprise you with next weeks post!

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