Category Archives: Life in Ukraine

September 2013 Newsletter

Hello family and friends,

The first of September fell on a Sunday this year. Even so, the school system brought in the ceremonial First Bell where the children dress in their best clothes or school uniforms and honor the teachers with flowers. The ceremony includes music and speeches, kicking off the school year with enthusiasm and new energy.

For MUCH, September brings our focus to education scholarships, and the great need for seasonal clothing for the children in the Marganets orphanage and school. In our scholarship program, Vika is in her last year of medical college. She wants to continue her medical education and become a doctor of microbiology. See her video.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-NGTPT3a-Y&feature=c4-overview&list=UU7wsKHT3uX4x-VzXgDH8gUw[/youtube]

Two other girls in Illichevsk desire to continue their education. They talked about their vision for their futures in this interview.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFEMAc2Hh_8&feature=c4-overview&list=UU7wsKHT3uX4x-VzXgDH8gUw[/youtube]

Moving is always a great adventure. There are seasoned movers, novice movers, and those who see it as a challenge to overcome, something like a contest. A young couple we know took the challenge. The husband said to his wife, “We can pack in three days!” When I told Sveta that we would move in April 2014, she began to pack in July 2013. It is a good thing that she did.The rent went up quite a bit in August, so Sveta looked at me and said, “I’m ready to move when you are!”

I have been visiting a language school as a guest speaker for the past two years. During my final visit, one of the students asked me why I wanted to leave Illichevsk. It is a seaside resort, and a very clean city. Soviet and post-Soviet people often remain in the same city, in the same flat or private home most, if not all, of their lives. After a moment’s thought, I realized the truth. I replied, “Sometimes we get too comfortable in our lives and need to be pushed into something new and challenging. We need something that will bring out our best selves.” There is a phrase that goes something like this “Comfort those who are bothered, but bother those who are comfortable.” I was getting comfortable.

When Sveta and I got married in January last year, we pushed ourselves from our individual lives into a life that causes us to become selfless toward each other. On September 21, we moved to a village south of Nikolayev where we will live until our house is built. Now, living with her parents and her brother, we push ourselves out of our comfort zone to become selfless toward them.

The travel distance between Illichevsk and Nikolayev is about 124 miles. Waiting for buses and travel time, usually takes us about five hours and three bus changes. We hired a truck to move us, and friends helped us load and unload. The travel time was close to four hours. It was a full day for Sveta and me. Our work has begun! In June we had started digging the foundation for our house that we will build in a year or two. Sveta and I began by moving the Together 2topsoil from the foundation area to the back of the property where we will have a garden. (Sveta and I are pulling a two-wheel-wheelbarrow in this picture.) We are very excited about our new adventure.

My time and opportunity have come to expand my personal involvement in ministry. Our involvement with MUCH will remain the same. Ira Kolosova, my previous assistant and contributor of the Ira’s Insights articles for the MUCH newsletters, will manage the ministries in Illichevsk. Sveta and I will visit Illichevsk, Dobromel, Marganets, and Froonza twice a year, as we currently do. In the house that we will build, there will be a multipurpose room that will give us opportunity to minister to the village community with programs such as exercise for the elderly, Christian small group meetings, Bible study, and other social activities.

Life in the village is quite the challenge if you are used to city life. The many luxuries that were within walking distance in Illichevsk are now a twenty minute bus ride away. Any project that I may do must be very well planned to avoid spending the day traveling to and from Nikolayev.

On the other hand, our opportunities to reach out to people in the village may be greater than they were in Illichevsk. In the village, everybody knows everybody. I think that many people know about me already, even though I have only met two people from this village of Galitsinovka.

Sveta and I are pushing ourselves into the reality of the vision that we have talked about for the past year. Exercise for the elderly will begin with Sveta and me encouraging each other to exercise. Once the garden is finished, we will have a large area to exercise in. We are almost unpacked, so we will begin soon.

2013-05-28 11.35.132013-05-28 11.34.47

 

The first week of October we will be in the cold northwest at the Dobromel Orphanage. It is always interesting to me to see new and old buildings beside or across the street from each other.

 

The results of Soviet times effect the buildings as well as the people. What a great contrast of these two pictures that are across the street from each other in Dobromel.

The second week we will visit the Angelina Foundation Maternity House near the city of Zhytomyr, east and bit north of L’vov. Marina narrates their story. Take a look!

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/73537937[/vimeo]

Our goal is to better understand the lives of girls from the orphanage system, the problems that they face after leaving the orphanage, and what is available for them. It has been on my mind for about nine years as we ministered to the children at the Marganets Orphanage.

Sveta’s Journey
DSCN4849A
I am waiting for our visit to the orphanage. I am thinking, “What can I prepare for the children when we will have meetings with them? What interesting and instructive things can I do to leave a good mark on their lives?” I remember a year ago; I prepared a few games and tried to get the children to play them. I was not successful. I was saddened to tears.

Under the terms of the game, children were divided into two teams in a competitive manner and as quickly as possible they were to bring some balloons to the finish point. I explained to them the rules of the game, but the children were focused on the fact that each of them wanted to have a balloon. There was a disappointment among the children. The children did not want to join in the game; each child wanted to have his or her own balloon.
DSCN4869A

Mark said that I have a talent of very good communication with the children, asking about their lives, their dreams, and encouraging them. Therefore, I decided not to create games. We would bring God’s love through us, through our communication with them.

Living my dream,

Sveta

You can see all of our videos at our YouTube site. http://www.youtube.com/user/smmuch

Thank you for continuing with us on our journey of service to the people of Ukraine, particularly the children.

Blessings of love and healing,

Mark and Sveta

January 2013 Newsletter

Hello family and friends,

Happy New Year 2013! Our Christmas fundraiser this year fell short of our total goal, but we will be able to operate the computer classes for the complete goal of one and a half years.

Learning will be eciting for us!
We (picture to the right) are very excited about that! The remainder of the funds raised will go toward the massage therapy programs at Dobromel and Froonza that will continue from last year. A second part-time massage therapist for the Dobromel orphanage may be possible in the future, if we can find more monthly sponsors.

MUCH had two surprises this Christmas. After reading our November Newsletter, friends from North Carolina offered to buy a sewing machine for the orphanage-school in Marganets. When the assistant director heard this news, she was very pleased. The children will be thrilled with all of the mechanized options that they will be able to use. They will even be able to sew in script to personalize their projects!

The second surprise involves a church, a mission organization, and a new sponsor. Between the three of them, money was contributed to buy two new washing machines for the Transition Home in Marganets. The director and the washwomen were very pleased to receive these machines because they had been washing clothes and bedding for 30 children by hand.

After our two month fundraising and holiday time, Sveta and I have returned to Ukraine exhausted, but we will begin this year with a new perspective on Ukraine. Sveta’s first visit to America did yield culture shock for her. For me, I saw America through her eyes, which in turn, helped me to see Ukraine with new eyes. After ten years, the cultural differences and the visual effects have become very “normal” for me. When I would visit America in the past, my world, my perspective, was only bigger. Now, seeing through Sveta’s eyes, I see two different worlds.

Our time in America was constant mental activity. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, my niece’s wedding, and family visits kept us busy. Then, there were the many sponsors that we visited and the presentations that we gave. Sveta’s one year of studying English proved to be very successful. She spoke in front of large groups without hesitation. Her Ukrainian perspective of MUCH gave them new understanding of our work with the children.

Additional stress visited us in the last few days of our journey. My passport was at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington DC, waiting for a Visa D to be attached. When I called, I learned that I had sent the wrong amount of money, too much, and they couldn’t accept the postal money order. Mom sent another while Sveta and I were out of town, but the adventure heightened as we tracked the return express mail envelope. After great efforts by two gracious postal workers, (unbelievable in Sveta’s eyes), the envelope was available to be picked up at 7AM the morning that we were to fly back to Ukraine.

My heart sank as I opened my passport to learn that I had only 45 days on my Visa D. I later learned that this is normal under the new law. The second step is to register with the government office for a one-year Visa D in the city where I live and work. After I get this, my next step will be to apply for full time residency, not citizenship, as the spouse of Sveta, a Ukrainian national. This will be available after we are married two years, January 10, 2014.

Our next adventure met us at the JFK International Airport. Our connecting flights to Odessa included two stops in European Union countries, Germany and Austria. This was not a problem for me, carrying an American passport. On the other hand, Sveta had a Ukrainian passport; therefore, she needed a Schengen Visa to fly into more than one EU airport. The clerk at the Austrian Air desk was able to give us two options for flights that would go directly from JFK to Vienna where we could connect with our final flight. We were blessed with the first option, standby tickets for a 6PM flight that would leave in two hours, and a $316 change fee, versus a $1016 change fee for a flight the next day. As we waited patiently, we were invited to the 6PM flight. On we went.

Our focus in 2013 will be to create videos of the work that we do with the children, particularly in the massage therapy programs. These videos will be available to view by way of the internet or a number of our sites, such as Flickr, YouTube, our blog, Facebook, and Twitter. The massage therapy video that I made for the presentations on our trip opened new eyes of understanding for many people.

Sveta’s Journey

Our two-month trip to America is over, we returned to Ukraine, and of course, I am very glad to see my family and friends in Ukraine. I was a little sad that I had to leave my wonderful new family and friends in America; they gave us attention, love, and support. I enjoyed socializing with people; I saw a lot of care and a desire to give us their valuable time. I was bathed in love.

After talking to people and reviewing what they saw, I learned and saw many differences in their culture and way of life. First of all, I was very impressed with the people. They were very welcoming, friendly, discreet, ready to help, and to encourage. I did not feel lonely or outcast in this new culture; I felt the love and acceptance in a great family where there is love.

Today it is considered that the experience of a new culture is a shock, because it is unexpected and can lead to negative evaluation of one’s own culture. I do not appreciate my Ukrainian culture in a negative manor. I love my country, and God has put love in my heart to help Ukrainian women and men of retiring age when Mark and I retire. We will help them find hope for the future, because it is usually the time when the Post-Soviet people retire to a meaningless life. Children are grown, the grandchildren are adults, and they have no work or hobbies. There is no further purpose in life, having completed all previous goals (attending university, having a good job, a family, a baby, raising grandchildren) the people are at a loss – how to live on?

Mark and I are thinking about the time when we will retire. We want to help these people regain confidence that life can be rich and fruitful, even after the person has retired. We already have a plan to do it. While in America, I saw a perfect example of people in the retirement age having an active and productive life.

All the people we met in America were eager to know about the children in the orphanage. I know many stories because I know many of the children. Each child has their own unique story; they have experience with big blows of fate for their young age.

I finished school, now it’s on to trade school
R. (to my right) is a boy from the Dobromel orphanage. He looks older than his years. Maybe it is because he was found on the street many years ago when he was a little boy. He could not say his name, age, or give any information on who his parents were. R. was given his name by the boarding school, along with some created identity where they recorded the year of his birth. Police were looking for a long time to find his family, but did not find anything. The boy is an orphan only in words. Because of the lack of true documents, he cannot have the financial help benefits of being an orphan, as there is no proof of the death of his parents, or their rejection of this child.
Please pray about my future
Last autumn, R. (to my right) finished boarding school and now attends trade school as a builder. He lives in a dorm and gets a very small $30 monthly stipend. Since the law does not considered him for an orphan pension pensioner, after he finishes all of his education, he will no longer be entitled to the stipend, much less any other government aid. The director asked us to help him. We know a Christian family that has experience working with children and helping them adapt to life after the orphanage. We think that they will help R.
Visual stimulation and massage are changing my life
K., (left) 7 years old, has cerebral palsy. He can say only one word “mama”. K. has respectable parents, but they are very busy and very seldom visited the child, and of course, the boy misses them and has become very closed. When the massage therapist gave massage for him, the first few days he was very stressed and did not want to be touched. Now K. is gradually beginning to open up and blossom like a flower that was drooping for a long time without water.
Computers will help us with our language skills.
Two brothers, I. and P. (right) are special. I love them very much. When Mark and I come to the orphanage, the elder brother is always beside us; the youngest brother is shy and follows us at a distance of several meters. They cannot speak well. Their parents are alcoholics. When it is vacation time, parents take these boys home, but it is really better for them to stay at the boarding school. The boys told me they do not like their mom, and they do not like to be at home.
Every adult has a destiny that he can change. Children are dependent on their parents or other adults who are involved in their lives, whether positive or negative. Particularly dependent are the children with physical and mental limitations. These children have little ability to change their own destiny, but their parents or other adults in their lives may have big influence on their future.

Thank you very much for your financial support of the computer program that will operate for a minimum of one and a half years at the Dobromel Orphanage-Boarding School. After having more than 20 computers sit idle for more than a year, the children will now embark on a new adventure in learning. It is all because of your generous contributions that this has become a reality.

Your love, prayers, and financials support, our friends and partners, help us perform many projects to help children. Thank you very much!

Living my dream,

Sveta

As we enter 2013, we see change happening in Ukraine that will affect the children. The government is closing many of the orphanages, mainstreaming the children into regular schools. Our focus on health care, education, and clothing will remain our objective. Our ability to reach out to more children this year and next will depend upon people with hearts for the children.

If God is nudging you to make a monthly commitment to help our children, please understand that $5 or more dollars a month will make a difference in the lives of our children.

As we work together to build a stronger Ukraine through caring for its children, we work together to build a stronger world! Thank you for taking an interest in our children who look to us for help.

Blessings of love and healing,

Mark and Sveta

December 2012 Newsletter

Hello family and friends,
Christmas draws nigh and children dream their dreams! Let’s rally our support to make this Christmas Fundraiser a success to provide a computer teacher and additional massage therapy services at Dobromel Orphanage. We are short of our goal, but with your help, their dreams can come true.

The MUCH team in America, the MUCH team in Ukraine, the MUCH Board of Directors, and Sveta and I wish you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or Happy Holidays. This season of joy and giving inspires the heart and brings joy to family and community. We send you the spirit of love to share with each other during this season and into the new year.

In Ukraine, New Years is celebrated as a national holiday, whereas Christmas is celebrated only in the church. The New Year Season is a time of anticipation for the children with disabilities in Illichevsk. Each year the mayor provides funds for a celebration for these children. There is dancing, a magic show, and toys for the children to take home. This is a very big event for the children. Many spend most of their time in their homes, hidden from the general public. Others spend very much time visiting doctors and therapists.

At one end of the main street, there is a Christmas tree and life-size figures of Father Frost (similar to Santa), and some of the traditional characters of the New Year story. The moral to the story is that good children will receive many gifts, whereas bad children will receive nothing.You may ask, “Why is it different than the spiritual American experience?” In Soviet times, the goal of the Soviet system was to enforce atheism and to crush all spiritual beliefs and practices. Christmas was down-played and the New Year’s celebration replaced everything spiritual about the Christmas Season.

During the past ten years, I have been watching the economy change and commercialism develop and grow. More and more stores now carry Christmas items for decoration, wearing apparel, toys and gadgets. Ukraine is becoming more like America every day. Cash is still the most common currency in the market place, but large company debit cards and local bank credit and debit cards are becoming more common. Ukraine appears to be growing as a consumer society. This is most interesting for a country whose people are about eighty per cent poor.

The Children love Sveta
Sveta’s Journey

At this time, Mark and I are in America. Here, I take a closer look with my new wonderful family and wonderful people. We feel an atmosphere of goodwill, love and acceptance from all of them. We thanked these people for their prayers and for their financial support for the ministry, and, it was amazing! They thanked us for our work. I felt uncomfortable when I heard the words of gratitude. It is my duty and calling of God to be an assistant to my husband in working with children with disabilities. I thank you very much for your heart filled with love!

The children need hands-on methods of learning
Our last visit to the orphanage of Dobromel identified the need for sponsors for a teacher for a computer class. The government bought computers for the orphanage, but did not provide a teacher position and payment for his labor for this class. Therefore, these children have computers but can not use them. I am sometimes surprised by the education system, but this is one more reason to pray for the government.

I decided to explore the topic of “computer and children with mental disabilities.” I found a lot of information on the internet about the computer’s role in the life of a child with developmental delays. I want to share with you a little bit of information.

This is not yesterday’s telephone
“Nowadays, modern technology plays a huge role in the development of children who are unable to learn. Use of computers will help these children to read and write. Also, the use of computer games, tasks, and slide demonstrations will help teachers bring learning material to children more effectively. It will become much easier to manage and care for unstable children by increasing interest and increasing the activity of children in the classroom.
The use of computer technology encourages creativity and contributes to the development of mental processes in children with mental disabilities. Personality development of the whole child improves the quality of his or her learning. Computers can become a means of communication, a means of play, and a means of providing educational activities for children. During the computer activity, the child develops positive emotional reaction. Moreover, the immediate correction of the child’s work contributes to development of his or her mental processes. ”

For me it was amazing how educational software can reveal a child’s capabilities and even help them catch up with their peers.

I recall an example. I was giving therapeutic massage to children while I was living at the Dobromel orphanage/boarding school for a month. The children passed my room every day on the way to their meals. Each evening children came to my room. For them, a favorite toy was my phone, even for the few who have one. They enthusiastically pressed the buttons.The children who did not understand the functions of my phone asked a lot of questions about how it all works. Modern technology fascinates the children: they are hungry for knowledge.
iPad touch screen tablet
Then Mark came to visit the children with a new “toy”. He brought an iPad. For the next two weeks, the children admired the program which he showed them. I saw surprise in the children’s eyes and a thirst to know new things. Each time that we visited after that, they remembered the many programs and games in this little computer.
Teachers of the boarding school in Dobromel treat children with love and patience.They believe that through education, the deviation in the development of these children is no longer a frustrating circumstance for the child, his or her family, and for society.

Non-verbal boys need computers for communication
Thank you, dear friends for reading our letters and responding to the needs of children with whom we meet and then tell you. Your support will be a great help for the children!

Living my dream,

Sveta

We have demonstrated success of massage in improving speech last October at the Dobromel orphanage. Here, there are five mid-teenage children who are non-verbal. They never received massage or experienced the computer world, which may have facilitated their language skills during their early development. Sveta and I would like very much to work with them using massage and the computer to develop their communication skills.

Can you imagine the potential that computer and massage will offer for the younger children who have communication disabilities? With your help this Christmas Season, MUCH can open a whole new avenue of communication possibilities for them.

If God is guiding your heart to help our children this Christmas Season, send a check to the address below or make an on-line contribution at our website,
www.muchhope.org
Please write Christmas in the memo.

Blessings of love and healing,

Mark and Sveta

Doing the Wash

When I first arrived in Ukraine, I had a mindset of how things would be. The first four weeks fit my expectations according to the correspondences that I had before I moved to Ukraine. The modern conveniences were not available everywhere that I visited. It was common to see a wash basin perched on wooden rack on the back of the bathtub. This was for washing the clothes.

Weeks five and six presented a very different situation. I stayed in an apartment with a family who had a very modern looking atmosphere. I the kitchen, under the counter, was a roll-out wash machine. I was treated to this modern convenience, but it seemed strange.

During my three months in missionary school in Ternopol, Ukraine, there was a washing machine. There were eleven students and eight children. I decided to embrace the earlier culture that I had experienced, and do my wash by hand. As I watched the other students rejoicing in their freedom from the doldrums of washing by hand, I wanted to understand their lives better. So I continued to wash my clothes by hand.

When the time arrived for our Outreach practical experience, my team was once more in a more normal Ukrainian situation. This time, not only was there no washing machine, but water was only available at certain times during the day.

In April of the following year, I set up house in an apartment in Illichevsk, Ukraine. I have been living her for six and a half years. After starting a massage clinic for children with Cerebral Palsy, I looked at my own need for exercising my left hand. My bathroom is ready for a washing machine, but I have decided to wait. When I find that special woman, then I will buy a washing machine. Until then, I will do wash by hand, getting the exercise that I need, but have to force myself to do.