UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
UOC of the USA 2016 Mission Team
Visits Two Orphanages in Ukraine
On May 31st, 2016, 8 team members from Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA left in the evening hours of the day for a long, but exciting trip to Ukraine for eleven week. This was the first visit for six out of eight team members. This year’s team in comprised of: Very Rev. Patrick Powalinsky (UOC Canada), Deacon Paul Cherkas (Holy Archangel Michael UOC parish, Woonsocket, RI), Subdeacon Volodymyr Yavorskyi (St. Sophia Seminary, South Bound Brook, NJ), Andrew Powers (Protection of the Birth-Giver of God Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral, Southfield, MI), Xrystuna Tyapko (Holy Archangel Michael UOC parish, San Francisco, CA), Julianna Wasyliuk (Holy Archangel Michael UOC parish, Baltimore, MD)
The team has been anxious to visit and assist in any way they could for the past several months since the initial applications were submitted and approved. Extra luggage was taken containing medications, school supplies, gifts from sponsors, toiletries, etc. Children of both Znamyanka (Kirovohrad region) and Puhachiv (Zhytomyr region) orphanages enjoyed the numerous gifts and attention paid to them by the Team members of this year’s Mission Team of the UOC of the USA.
There are about 220 children in two orphanages - all with special needs. At first glance, it can be overwhelming to see so many children with Cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, severe paralysis, fetal alcohol syndrome, birth defects and developmental issues. But, the children don’t let you dwell for very long on any reservations you might have – their warm greetings and need for hugs and a simple touch of your hand make it easy to be with them. With the funds raised for the trip, the Team was able to hire a group of actors to stage a play for the children. The children, all dressed in their festive costumes (donated by our faithful a few years ago) performed a series of poems and songs for the Team – and they were amazed by how talented these children are – singing countless songs with great enthusiasm and reciting lengthy poems in Ukrainian.
The two-week period in Ukraine went by quickly with helping to perform physical rehab activities, playing with children, taking them for a pizza at the local Chelintano Pizzeria, scheduling a chocolate fondue theater event, etc. The Team interacted with the children, giving them their gifts and messages from their sponsors, who were not able to come along.
Visiting a local chapel, built with the funds of the donors of the UOC of the USA (raised by Very Rev. Fr. Mykola Krywonos) was a very special time; walking up with children, - holding the hand of a child on either side of us, snuggled up closely to each other – having a cone of ice cream in the evening – these are just a few daily events at both orphanages. The team was exceptionally prepared for the work of serving and hearing from God. Many had their hearts pierced and were changed forever. Our closing team meeting was filled with tears and emotional stories of how each brought the presence of Christ in the lives of kids and refreshed their own understanding of Faith. One Team member stated: “I am truly blessed to have experienced God’s hand working in the lives of those who are “fully committed to Him.”
One of other Team members wrote a note stating: “This trip was a life changing experience for me. I was questioning my faith in Christ when I decided to do this trip, through the Team Leaders and the people of Ukrainian orphanages, I realized that I had nothing to question at all my faith did need to be restored it was always there. This experience will stay with me forever. The children in one of the orphanages were able to get to know me and were very comfortable with me by the end of my trip. Everyone is place here for a reason and my reason is meant to serve. I will never forget this experience…”
During the stay at the orphanage, the kitchen staff prepared all meals along with baking fresh bread for the children of the orphanage and the Team. At the suggestion of some of the team members, we invited the older children to our kitchen/dining room where we warmed up the meals (borscht, katlety, holubtsi, mlyntsi) and watched them enjoy this extra special treat.
One of the highlights of the trip was the presentation of a book of poetry, authored by one of the children of Znamyanka orphanage – Valia Nyzhnyk. The publication was possible due to a generous donation by the representatives of local Kirovohrad Disabled Children’s Association. His Grace Bishop Daniel, acting on behalf of the local government official and the 2016 Mission Team presented Valia with the first copy of her book and at the same time received a first signed copy by the author for the library of the UOC of the USA.
Over the last 18 years of the UOC of the USA’s support of the orphanages in Ukraine (along with that of the CCRDF – Children of Chornobyl Relief and Development Fund) more than the material support we have provided, the simple act of visiting, laughing, dancing and holding these children has made a deep impact on the lives of not only the children but their caregivers and teachers.
What we have accomplished over the last 18 years with the leadership of the Church’s Hierarchs, the Consistory Office of Missions and Christian Charity as well as Youth and Young Adult Ministry, and the support of the faithful of the UOC of USA:
- Purchased a used 22 passenger minivan (heated & air conditioned) to transport children to doctor’s visits or for recreational purposes.
- Repaired existing elevators in the building so that children in wheelchairs have easy access between floors.
- Outfitted Montessori activity & rehabilitation rooms.
- Funded salaries for physical therapy & Montessori teachers. The orphanage staff is funded by the Ukrainian government ministry and the additional specialists are funded by our faithful and are considered “volunteer” staff.
- Funded water heaters for bathrooms.
- Refurbished orphanage bakery (with the funds from Holy Archangel Michael UOC – San Francisco, CA)
- Installed new windows throughout the orphanage.
- Built a chapel at Puhachiv orphanage.
- Funded air conditioners for the hallways.
- Generous donations of clothing, diapers, costumes and toys.
- Painted and refurbished rooms and halls in the orphanage.
- Organized Mission teams: College mission groups in the summer and adult teams in December.
- For more information about this trip, including photos, please visit the pages of the UOC of the USA web page – www.uocofusa.org
- If you are interested in joining the 2017 College Age Mission trip to Ukrainian Orphanages, find out more by visiting the web page.