Children from Donbass begin their second week of recreation and learning at the Hope Center in Zarichanakh, Zhytomyr Region, as part of the campaign Father for Ukraine.
The recreational center recently opened its doors to children from Myrnohrad i Pokrovska in Donetsk Region, providing them with comfortable lodgings, recreation and learning activities.
The children, victims of the war, have been orphaned, sometimes because their parents are no longer able to adequately support them. Now they can enjoy a safe environment and clean air, find out new and interesting things about Ukraine, and learn to see the world with fresh optimism.
Thanks to the efforts of Caritas-Spes Ukraine and the campaign Father for Ukraine, 38 school children from the first to the fourth grades got the opportunity to come to Zarichan.
Back home, most of the children live in an orphanage in Myrnohrad. Five of them live in a shelter. They had to travel around 700 kilometers to get to Zarichan. For many, this was the farthest that they had travelled from home, and the first time they had travelled by train. They described their journey as interesting but very long.
The group of 38 children includes 29 boys and nine girls. During the first week, the children got acquainted with the center’s grounds and staff, settled in to their new regiment, and took in the fresh air and natural environment. They like Zarichan but soon grew homesick.
Such feelings are not new to the children. The ones who live in an orphanage only see their families on weekends, while for the ones from the shelter such contacts are even more seldom. The children say they love the time that they spend at home, going out with their parents, helping them around the house.
Sergey, a first grader, says his parents work in Poltava. They only call or write him from time to time. He’s just seven years old but already perceives life like an adult. “My life is ok. But when I was four things started going crazy. My parents sold everything and went to Poltava.” Sometimes life compels children to grow up while they are still very young.
The children don’t like to talk about life in the orphanage, except when speaking about their schooling. More often they talk about their adventures in Myrnohrad. Yaroslav and Vlad, for example, shared a story about how they had stepped on a hand grenade while out and about in the town. “At first, I didn’t move. Then, I grabbed a large stone and pressed it against the grenade and we quickly got out of there,” Vlad says calmly. The boys want to be policemen when they grow up, working as partners to catch criminals in their town. There’s no shortage of criminals in Myrnohrad, they say.
Shortly after arriving, the children received presents. Now each of them has his own stuffed animal. Another boy named Sergey never parts with his stuffed animal, which he calls his friend. After all, these kids are sorely lacking in genuine friendship, love and human bonds. Each has his own story that has left a negative mark on his life.
Third grader Alina is a fragile little girl who likes to draw. She tells how she dreams that her mother and father were back together. “Mama has another papa now. But I want my real papa back.”
And so it is with all of them: different stories, difficult life paths, individual dreams and outlooks. For three more weeks they will remain in the wooded area, with its fresh air, in an atmosphere of friendship and caring.
The education and recreational activities provided to children from eastern Ukraine at Caritas-Spes Ukraine camps is organized and carried out with the help of the Little Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and volunteers from the Your Palms Project, which conducts comprehensive aide programs for orphans from the war zone in eastern Ukraine.
Seen in photos: President of Caritas-Spes Ukraine Petro Zharkovskii (center), Manager of Caritas-Spes Ukraine Pavlo Loskutov (left of center), Head of the project Your Palms Oleksandr Ivashkov (to the right), children from eastern Ukraine, church people, volunteers and camp staff at the Hope children’s center of the Caritas-Spes Ukraine mission in Zarichan, Zhytomyr Region.
During lessons: Orphans treasure their toys and won’t part with their toy snowmen and teddy bears even while taking part in outings.
And what presents did everyone else get? This is really interesting.
During an outing to a unique museum: The craftsman’s Courtyard