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Help Us Help the Children

 

All the creatures live thanks to charity.

Everything depends on charity. That is why

charity is called the Highest Deed.

 

From the Upanishads (sacred Sanskrit texts

that form the basis for Hindu philosophy

and doctrine, dating from the 8th century BC).

 

In this world, so sceptical and so cruel, everyone of us secretes and cherishes their own, concealed experience of good deeds, the memory of which warms the heart. Such deeds are usually recalled when we seek justification for our existence, or when our heart is heavy and there is anguish in our soul. It is this experience of doing good and of giving love that suddenly brings light, soothes, gives new meaning to the words of kindness and noble emotions.

Once, when I was a little girl, I was running back home along the road in the steppe, with the heavy black clouds roiling behind me, bringing storm. Swallows were diving from the sky close to the ground, and one of them hit the dirt right in front of me. I picked the swallow up and discovered that he was alive but one of his legs got entangled in the wing. I felt his tiny heart pounding in his chest and reverberating in my palm. I kissed his tiny dark head, disentangled his leg and let him go — he went straight up into the sky.

 

I find it difficult to write about charity.

The ancients said that bestowers of charity are happy, but to give charity is to be compassionate and that means to take somebody else’s pain close to heart, empathize, to share someone else’s misfortune.

A couple of years ago I worked for a Ukrainian charity fund, and every day I read hundreds of letters and talked to dozens of people who wrote or came to ask for help — mothers who did not have money for urgent operations for the ailing children; managers of orphanages who, because of lack of funding, were forced to feed their wards with vegetables grown in their own back gardens; desperate parents whose talented children could not get a proper education. The list is too long to continue. And every case involved tears, begging — and hope. Weeping over the letters, commiserating, we then rushed to find sponsors, talk to the surgeons and the presidents of universities.

I really can’t find proper words to describe my emotions when we did manage to find food for 400 children of an orphanage, when I held the hand of the child whose life had been saved by an operation, when I looked into the eyes of that child’s happy mother. At such moments you feel the world begins to fill with love, good, warmth and light, and you begin to believe that you can do so much.

Ten years ago Ruslana Wrzesnewskyj and her husband Andy Cottrel, Canadians of Ukrainian descent, came to Ukraine to adopt a child, an orphan — they were not childless, they had three children of their own.

When they saw the appalling conditions, under which the children lived in orphanages, they were horrified. But they did much more than just burst into tears and adopt a child — upon their return to Canada they initiated the Help Us Help The Children (HUHTC) project through the financial support of the Children of Chornobyl Canadian Found. The first thing HUHTC did was to deliver considerable humanitarian aid to the orphanages and children’s homes of Ukraine.

HUHTC now unites hundreds of people throughout the world, and the number of HUHTC supporters in Ukraine is also growing. In 1996, a filial Ukrainian organization, “Pryateli Ditey”, was set up under the presidency of Maryna Krysa. In 1997, a partner organization, “Ukrainian Children’s Aid and Relief Effort” (UCARE, Inc; president Vira Petrusha), was established in Detroit, USA.

Ms Maryna Krysa, president of the “Pryateli Ditey” Society Charity Fund, and Alla Galych, project coordinator, told me about the ways assistance is delivered to Ukrainian orphans. At present, several projects are being realized:

Humanitarian aid has been coming from Canada since 1993 and from the USA since 1999. Annually, “Pryateli Ditey” deliver aid to at least 150 orphanages and children’s homes of Ukraine. Donors from Canada, the USA and Ukraine pass on through “Pryateli Ditey” antibiotics, disposable syringes, vitamins, books, pads, clothes, toys, footwear, children food, plus a lot more. “Pryateli Ditey” has delivered assistance to almost 50,000 parentless children and children whose parents abandoned them in all the regions of Ukraine.

Association of Workers of Facilities for Socially Unprotected Children Project aims at bringing about reforms in children’s homes and at providing social rehabilitation of children in society.

College Applicant and Scholarship Recipient help orphans get higher education. Thanks to “Pryateli Ditey’s” support, 8 orphans study at the University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, arguably the best university in Ukraine. 62 students in other colleges get support from Vstupnyk and Stypendiat Projects; 46 of them get monthly allowances, medical treatment, clothes, footwear and food.

Help Handicapped Children Project takes care of the orphaned children who are physically handicapped. Last year, assistance was given to 13 children of the Tsyurupin Children’s Home; the children went through complete medical examination at the best hospitals of Kyiv. Many children were operated on and medicines were provided. Attention: Hundreds of children are in need of help that this project can provide. Donors are invited to come forward with their kind-hearted assistance!

I asked Ms Krysa how they managed not to sink in the vast sea of children in distress and provide whatever help they could to orphanages and children’s homes. She said she believed that those who continued to work in orphanages despite very low salaries and harsh conditions were fully devoted to what they were doing and would never leave the children to the mercy of fate. “These devotees nurse the children, give them medicines and food that they bring from home, they spend sleepless nights taking care of their wards,” said Ms Krysa, adding that in recent years the level of humanization of Ukrainian society was rising, and the number of people who were ready to help was growing. And it should not necessarily be financial assistance — help can take vary forms, and the main thing is to get this assistance where it is needed most.

The Joint-Stock Ukravtoresurs Company, for example, has been providing space at its warehouses for storing humanitarian aid for children, and the Orlan Concern delivers food and medicines to children free of charge. The Ukrainian Vladikom cosmetics company provides children with some of its personal-hygiene products free of charge and with monthly allowances. The “Pryateli Ditey” Society Charity Fund gets support from the Canadian Fund at the Embassy of Canada in Ukraine, the Vidrodzhennya International Fund, the International Business Institute, the International Women’s Club, UMC, Coca-cola, Kraft Foods, the Hetman Company, the Obolon Company and from many other Ukrainian and foreign companies and organizations.

“Pryateli Ditey” cooperates with US and Canadian sponsors through the US organization “Ukrainian Children’s Aid & Relief Effort” (it runs two branches, one in Detroit and the other one in Chicago).

“We were very worried that after the tragic events of September 11 2001 in the United States, humanitarian aid from the USA to Ukrainian children would shrink, but it was the other way round — it increased,” said Ms Krysa. Tragedy brings grief but also purifies the heart. Among those who died in one of the World Trade Centers twin towers in New York was Oleh Wengerchuk, a US citizen of Ukrainian descent, and to honour him a fund named after him was set up. This fund has selected 10 talented Ukrainian orphans and now finances their studies in higher educational establishments. A close friend of the late Oleh Wengerchuk who receives letters from the sponsored children says that reading these messages he seems to be hearing Oleh’s voice.

For some reason, this story related to me by Ms Krysa, moved me to tears.

I must say that for me the correspondence between orphans and sponsors is a very moving thing. Ken Sommers, an American, came to Ukraine several years ago as a participant of the Peace Corps programme, to teach English in the town of Kirovohrad. When he visited a children’s home in the village of Pantayivka, not far from Kirovohrad, he was so shocked by what he saw there, that he, all by himself, collected money for the reconstruction of the children home’s building, turned to “Pryateli Ditey” for advice and help, and took 11 children under his sponsorship. These orphans write letters to Mr Sommers’s parents who have become so dear to them, describing their life, their studies, sharing their thoughts and dreams. Mr Sommers says that these letters bring a great joy to his parents who reply with their own messages of love and warmth. And what a joy and consolation these letters must be for these unfortunate children, who long for the sincere words of love and care.

“Pryateli Ditey” will mark the tenth anniversary of their work in Ukraine on June 14 2003. The charity party will be held at the Lypsky Osobnyak Restaurant in Kyiv. The money collected will be used for the needs of orphans. The evening highlights include: an art auction; a lottery and auction of special prizes, including personal items of Ukraine’s prominent personalities from the world of politics, culture and sports; a musical programme featuring Ukrainian pop stars and rock groups; dinner; open bar, dancing — and more.

Joining the party, you will earn support “Pryateli Ditey” financially, you will learn more of their activities — you will help Ukrainians orphans. Your contribution will help provide: clothes for the children, their education, holidays in picturesque places of the Carpathians, medical treatment, prostheses — and a lot more.

 

Pryateli Ditey

Website: www.HelpTheChildren.com.ua

E-mail: ukrhuhtc@iptelecom.net.ua

Tel./fax: 290-2926; tel.: 290-8162

 

By Myroslava Barchuk

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