We recently received a note from Charity Jacobson who took 89 quilts to the Romaniv Orphanage for disabled boys in Ukraine. She also sent us some pictures. We sometimes find that the people who run the orphanages don’t always let us personally distribute the quilts to the children, and when that happens, we’re always happy when we get pictures later, which was the case here.
Great thanks to all of the wonderful quilters who made this delivery possible!
Here are the pictures Charity received:
Early this year, toward the end of August, I was able to make a trip to Ukraine. While there, I had the opportunity to visit Romanov orphanage. This orphanage is home to 84 boys all of whom are physically and/or mentally challenged. The boys range in ages from 5 to 30. In Ukraine, typically people who are raised in an orphanage do not ever escape the orphanage system, but they spend their entire lives there. As a whole, orphanages are sad places with little care actually being given to the children. Oftentimes, the children (especially those with special needs) are looked down upon as sub-human and unimportant. People who get jobs working at orphanages will often steal from the orphans. The boys’ orphanage in Romanov is a special place. The director of this orphanage has worked hard to make it different from the “normal” orphanage in Ukraine. He has planted lots of flowers all over the grounds, he has painted walls, and he allows people to come in and interact with the boys. He has worked hard to keep the orphanage from becoming corrupt. All of the gifts given to the boys are recorded and kept track of. Thus, it is difficult for anyone who works there to steal.
Almaz (or diamond) Church in Kyiv, Ukraine has taken this boys orphanage as one of its ministries. They have been diligent in raising funds for the orphanage to help feed the boys real meat, to help get them some dental care, and to bring some joy to their lives. The Mercy Ministries team at Almaz tries to visit these boys as often as they can. They visit them at least 4 times a year and seek to visit them more often. The boys know these people and they look forward to hearing Bible teaching and taking part in some games/activities with the visitors from Almaz.
When I went to this orphanage in Romanov, I partnered with Almaz Church in order to get there. We went as a team of five people. Before leaving the States in August, I had sent the quilts on ahead because there was too many to keep track of on a flight. With the help of some very generous people here in the U.S., I was able to pay for everything including shipping and the cost of a day trip.
Early Friday morning, I woke up and was driven, with my translator, to the metro station (about 30 minutes away). We then rode the metro for about 45 minutes across and under Kyiv. I was jostled around as I tried to keep myself from falling over amid the swaying of the metro. It was a good time to study the people of Ukraine as I silently stood watching the masses going to work. Finally, we reached the western side of Kyiv and walked to a McDonalds to await the rest of the team. Sasha and Ina, a newly married couple who work regularly with special needs people and have a great desire to serve these boys, met us first. Not long after, Vladimir – our driver – arrived with the van full of shoe boxes from Samaritan’s Purse to also gift to the boys. Our car was full as we sped along the roads of Ukraine to the village. It felt like we must be Saint Nicolas with our van packed with quilts and other small gifts. However, instead of the smooth ride in the sleigh, we jostled and rumbled along the pothole-covered dirt roads trying to keep the boxes from falling on our heads as we went.
Finally, about three hours later, we arrived at the orphanage. I’d been there before and was thankful that I knew what to expect. We tumbled out of the car and stretched our legs a bit before gathering in a circle to make our plans. I strained to understand the Ukrainian/Russian chatter of the other four. Finally, we were ready. The assistant director met us and brought us to the warehouse where we could unload our gifts. He explained that he would need an exact count of everything we were bringing for their records. We popped the boxes of quilts open and did a final count of how many were there. I was surprised and pleased to find that there were a few extra. I can’t swear by it, but I believe the final count was 89! Every one of the quilts had made it safely through! At this point, the assistant director informed us that he was going to put the quilts in storage for another time. I worked hard to explain to him (through my translator) that we had come to give the quilts to the boys ourselves. It had been pre-confirmed by the director that we could do this. However, despite arguing for twenty minutes with him upon this point, I got nowhere. The deal was, we were not to give the boys the quilts because there were government official at the orphanage that day who were doing an inspection. Something about handing the quilts out was contrary to the normal ritual and thus could put a black mark on their report. Alas, I had to submit to this sad state of affairs and just go along with it. I would still see the boys and leave the gifts to be distributed another time. After our long argument, the assistant director finally took some pity on the frustrated American and said that we would act out giving the quilts away for pictures and then he would put the quilts away. I was not very interested in this as I didn’t want the boys to have false hope. I was assured by the rest of my team that this orphanage was honest and that, as the weather got colder, the boys would get their quilts. I could do nothing but trust. The next few hours we spent talking with the boys, listening to Sasha preach a little sermon, and playing a few games. They were so happy to have us all there. We shook many hands, gave many hugs, and were happily received by the boys. They were very thankful for our visit and asked that we return very soon.
I went away that day sad at what I saw and disappointed that we could not have been able to give them our gifts personally. We so wanted them to know that we cared for them and loved them. After getting back to Kyiv and talking over the trip with the pastor and the other team members, we settled on a plan that another group of people would go back to Romanov in a couple of months and get an update on the quilts. They would make sure that they were being use and that the boys were allowed to have them.
Just this morning, as I was sitting down to write to the pastor at Almaz Church and inquire on the status of this latest trip, I received and email from him. He informed me that he had just recently received some un-staged pictures of the orphanage and that the quilts were obviously being used! Not every boy got a quilt because some of them are so destructive that they would ruin it quickly, but those who can appreciate it and take care of it without immediately destroying them are being allowed to have the quilts on their beds.
Not every person will have the opportunity to see their quilt in the arms of a happy boy and I am very sorry for that. Thankfully, however, the diligent work of Almaz Church and the cooperation of the orphanage director has assured that every quilt that was given to this orphanage will be used and loved by one of the orphan boys who live there. Each quilt will find its way into the arms of a needy boy who can enjoy, not only the colors and warmth, but the love that was poured into his quilt.
Again, thanks to all the wonderful quilters who made this delivery possible! I would also like to thank those of you who have responded to our request for quilts for Syrian Refugees and for the Forgotten People of the Bennett Freeze Area. We have reached our target for the Forgotten People, and the effort to get quilts for Syrian Refugee children will be on-going for some time.