New Friends (UKRAINE POST # 1)

March 11, 2011

Her name is Natasha, and she’s a social worker. I don’t actually know her yet, but we’ll be meeting this Saturday at 8:30 A.M. She lives in Ukraine, so our meeting will be via Skype.

Natasha works with at-risk families, and her job is to keep families intact–and the children out of orphanages. Many children must leave their homes simply because of poverty, and Natasha’s role is to creatively address solutions through education, direct intervention and visitations so that in the families to which Natasha has been assigned, this can be avoided. My job, along with about 11 others later this summer, will be to do whatever we’re asked to do in order to support Natasha and her work with these families. We’ll be running a 4 – 7 day camp (not quite sure yet how long it will be) for the children, as well as meeting and encouraging their families, and we’ll be American “cheerleaders” for Natasha and her co-workers, lending a hand and….who knows what else? With gifts, camp ideas and lots of energy (a large portion of our team will be teens), our main goal will be to have fun with them–bringing them a respite from their very difficult lives, and well, ….to be their friends, to learn from them, and to enjoy them as our’s.

After my last trip to Ukraine 2 summers ago, I asked Scott, our team leader, why it is that we actually go rather than to just send them money. It’s so costly to travel that I wondered if more good could be done by the locals if we saved our travel expenses and sent them over in one large lump. He said that this is not what they want. Their lives are so difficult, so draining, so alienating and lonely, that for them to receive our actual visits, boosts them in ways that money alone just couldn’t do. To be able to meet, see, touch and be with Americans is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them that equals nothing else, and they look forward to each visit. I was certainly satisfied and was glad to know. His answer was reflected in my own experience, and I easily understood. Plus since I was dying to return, I was really glad to hear his answer to me.

Be watching our website for “Orphan Days” — days set aside on our calendar where portions of our reservation collections will go directly to these children and their families, and also to Natasha and to her fellow Ukrainian social workers. Begin thinking about a stay here on one of those days so that you, too, can make a difference in the lives of our Ukrainian friends.

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