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Silk Route Project Craig and Simon are currently travelling from India to Istanbul with the fantastic support of World Nomads. On behalf of Footprints, World Nomad's charity, they will be visiting of a number of projects along the route to deliver supplies of essential medicines to impoverished children.

Smiles and Laughter - Visiting Orphanages in the Ukraine

UKRAINE | Wednesday, 1 November 2006 | Views [5791] | Comments [4]

Compared to the places we have come from the Ukraine was a curious mixture of money and poverty. With a long history of wealth and power but a short history under the Russian Soviets it is trying to find it's feet and is even making murmurings of joining the European Union. Yet amongst the Mercedes, designer fashions and sushi restaurants are signs of most people's economic reality - teenagers begging in subways, old men collecting bottles for money, old women catching busses into the city to sell carrots on the sidewalk for 20c a kilo. For the majority of the country's population life was a struggle.

This was shown to us clearly in the two orphanges we visited in Chernivtsi, a small city in north-west Ukraine. Molentsi Orphanage is located an hour outside the city and accepts children that cannot get into the overcrowded government orphanages. It recieves no funding from the government, instead relying on donations from the local churches. The centre cares for 140 children aged from 6 months to 16 years. Only 26 of the children are in good health, the rest suffering from a variety of illnesses and disabilities. 40 of the children had serious neurological conditions, a number of children had Downs Syndrome and even some with juvenile cancers awaiting operations. There were also a significant number of children with severe birth defects, we were told that winds blew fallout from Chernobyl to the area and people are still being affected.

There was one great young guy who unfortunately been born without any arms. Despite this he was one of the happiest kids that I have ever met and so keen to be in photos. At the end of our visit I was shaking hands with all the children and got to him, without thinking I offered him my hand. When I realised this I froze, I have never been more embarrassed in my life. He laughed though. He was comfortable with how he was born and was moving on. This sentiment touched me deeply.

The orphanage goes through a prodigious quantity of medicines for their children which put an tremendous strain on their finances. They also badly needed a number of medical machines, in particular a sterilisation unit (they were still boiling their instruments to sterilise them) which at a cost of US$600 was way beyond their means. We were incredibly excited to have the opportunity to buy this machine for them on behalf of Footprints, the charity of World Nomads.

The head nurse cried when we presented her with the unit, she was so grateful. It will have a huge impact on the effectiveness of her
centre.

The next day we managed to visit the Chernivtsi Orphanage for Homeless Children. It is a small orphanage that cares for 13 children, aged 3-16 years, whose parents have died or are abusive. The centre recieves a small ammount of funding from the government which covers the children's food and the meagre staff wages but unfortunately there is no funding for anything else! The center director told us that this was the typical situation for orphanages in the Ukraine.

Winter was on it's way with snow and minus zero temperatures but many of the children had outgrown their shoes. Providing these children with new shoes was the priority so, with a staff member, we purchased 7 pairs of sturdy winter boots, 12 pairs of slippers (for wearing indoors) and a lot of socks. The boots were high quality and will last a long time, which is particularly important in this situation as the children hand-down their shoes to others as they outgrow them.

The children were so excited when we presented them with the shoes. It felt like Christmas, including the mandatory arguments over who had better shoes and tears that there weren't more presents.

Altogether we spent only AUS$1000 on these two centres - my mind boggles at how little is needed to ease people's suffering. It was comforting to know that we had helped these children but without a doubt the most satisfying thing for us was look in the children's eyes.

Tags: doctors, footprints, hospitals & health, orphanage

Comments

1

Hey Simon,
Congratulations for work well done. Your trip has indeed shown us how an incredibly small contribution can have a disproportionate effect. We will be definitely doing more like this in the future. Must catch up when you are back.
cheers

Simon

  simon_monk Nov 2, 2006 10:17 AM

2

Hey Simon,
Congratulations for work well done. Your trip has indeed shown us how an incredibly small contribution can have a disproportionate effect. We will be definitely doing more like this in the future. Must catch up when you are back.
cheers

Simon

  simon_monk Nov 2, 2006 10:18 AM

3

Hey Simon and Craig (Bruce) -

Great to see you are still alive and well, can not wait to see all the photo's when you get back to Sydney!!

Katie & Jim

  Katie Miller & Jim Loveridge Dec 5, 2006 1:44 PM

4

I found your blog via the 'news.com.au' website.
I'm so envious of your opportunity to go abroad and applaud you for it more so.
I had a few tears in my eyes whilst reading this... and i'm at work!

  Neshaat Dec 5, 2006 2:18 PM

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