A state-run institution for children with disabilities in Oleshky, Ukraine. Their ages range from 5 to 18. Before this time, the orphans live in a baby orphanage. After this, at 18 years of age the director has a year to move each orphan to an adult institution.
In 2008 the orphanage was full at just over 200 children. Hall number 6 that housed 4 rooms of 10 kids each, was for small children with more severe physical and mental challenges, many of whom laid in beds. One nanny was on staff for every 10 children. It was obvious that the nanny did not have the potential time or resources to be able to meet the each of the kids needs. Help initiated there, providing diapers and clothing, basic resources, focused especially in room #1 where nine of the ten children were bedridden.
Additionally, the teen group of girls in hall 5, during that time didn’t have anyone working with them. So through the summer that year work began with the young ladies and the teens guys from hall 3 joined our lessons, totaling about 20 kids in wheelchairs every Saturday.
It was very quickly discovered that there was an immense lack of resources, even for simple things like toothbrushes and toothpaste to clean teeth daily. Stoller with support straps and foot support were ordered so that many of the bedridden children could finally get outside and feel the fresh air on their faces. The need for the children to be able to play, unhindered in a safe environment through the winter and spring compelled a team from the States to come to Ukraine the summer of 2011. They initially help refurbish the therapy, play room making it a safe, yet fun environment. Then access to the existing playground was built, opening the doors for the kids to have more fun through warm weather.
The teens did not have any kind of celebration for their birthdays, so recognition of their special day began, though gifts often included needed hygiene items like shampoo and soap, the special recognition of being special, for one day, lasted till the following year. Christmas celebrations began too, with the telling of the Christmas story and making ornaments for the tree in their hall. One special day was then made for cooking, making, baking and decorating with another special craft and lunch together. Wearing the teens out from so much joy that overflowed was not the intent, but often the result. Now, they ask, when will we bake cookies? When will we have the picnic this year? When are you coming to visit?
So few people interacted with the children 12 years ago. Gratefully now that has changed some. Schooling has become a possibility, craft lessons are more available as well as potential therapy and participation in musical celebrations for those who are personally motivated.
The needs for the 156 kids who now live in the orphanage, referred to as a sanitorium for rehabilitation, has become an open door for sharing with every child. Oleksandra, our caregiver and home director, has a team of locals from area churches who work with the children on a weekly basis building relationships and giving the orphans loving care and time. They are gradually coming to gain an understanding of Jesus, what it means to walk with him and how their lives can be changed.