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Children from eastern Ukraine on last day of stay at Caritas-Spes camp in Zarichan.

Over 100 children aged five to 14 from the families of internally displaced people from the war zone have visited the Christian camp in the village of Zarichan in Zhytomyr Region. The children were given a holiday to relax and recuperate among the woods of picturesque Polissia. The camp is not the first example of fruitful cooperation between the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine’s Caritas-Spes mission and the campaign Father for Ukraine.

“Thanks to our first joint activity together with the Father for Ukraine campaign, in which we provided children from the families of forced refugees with shoes, we acquired a lot of contacts. After that, gathering together kids who wanted a holiday at the camp wasn’t hard,” says President of Caritas-Spes Ukraine Father Zharkovskii. “These were mostly children from families now living in Kyiv and Zhytomyr regions. In addition, our sisters received information from social centers and directly contacted displaced people themselves. We collected the kids, brought them to the camp, and they were very happy.”

Sister Lyudmyla Domanska of the order of the Sister Servants of the Sacred Heart, one of the organizers of the camp in Zarichan, said that it has a Christian direction in that the program includes morning prayers and interaction with spiritual themes.

Camp participants and Sister Lyudmyla (Left in black) during a competition.

“I think that many of the children belonged to the families of non-practicing Christians.  Participation in the morning prayers was voluntary,” Lyudmyla explains. “However many kids came to the prayer sessions on their own.  We also included a spiritual retreat in the program, and everyday watched parts from the cartoon film Pinocchio. Then we conducted group discussions about, for example, what is a conscience, what is good and evil, how does one choose good, and what is sin. The children happily took part.

Every day there were various competitions, sporting events, evenings of fun and arts and crafts. The children would go on outings to Zhytomyr to visit the Cosmonaut museum, the Tradesman’s Yard, or to Berezivku Village to see the local mini bear zoo.

Students and graduates of the Berdychiv Pedogical Lyceum as well as some of the parents who were active in the program, took turns working with the children, giving them a helping hand and even at times joining in on the competitions. One displaced mother offered her services as a camp psychologist.

The children painted a lot at the camp


“The children are all very kind; however, because each of them has his own war experience, psychologically, it was very difficult for them,” says Lyudmyla. “They didn’t want to talk about it, and we saw that they first and foremost came to get away from it all.

On the other hand, their parents were very interested in issues of faith. They shared their problems and met with the priests. One mother said that she was very happy at the camp, that she was able to relax body and soul. For people who have been forced to abandon their homes because of war, it’s very important for them to put aside their problems and difficulties, to be in another environment, to be able to relax.

The next camp organized by Caritas-Spes with support from Father for Ukraine starts on 23 July in the village of Yablunytsya.

Ivanka Rudakevych

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