This summer ServeNow was able to provide the experience of a life-time to about 250 orphan, refugee, disabled and extremely disadvantaged children in Ukraine. The life situations and conditions these children come from are very difficult as you will read about. For many, it was their first and maybe only time to come to a summer camp like this and even to hear about God’s love for them in Jesus Christ. Many in fact, placed their trust in Jesus and will go back home where their families will be impacted as well! During this last camp we were also excited to have a new team come from Epic Church in Florida.
Here are some of the life stories of the children at this last summer camp. Please consider partnering with us to continue serving those in need in Ukraine, hosting more camps next summer and even joining us on a mission trip to Ukraine to meet first-hand those being served!
Zhenya (14 years old) and Fedya (11 years old)
Three years ago these children and their family had to move from a city in the east of Ukraine, where hostilities were going on at that time. They live in a very small rented apartment and the situation they are in is really distressful. The church supplies them with home implements, clothes and food. Their dad can’t find a job in a new place, so the family lives very poorly. They can’t return home until the war is over. Fedya has some post traumatic stress because of the shocks of war and having to leave their home. But the boys felt safe in the camp. They liked the fact that they have opportunity to eat a lot and feel full. The conditions in which they lived in the camp really surprised the boys. The boys prayed with all the kids every evening and learned about Christ through the attitude and care towards them.
Olya, 14 years old
Olya’s dad is a former drug addict, was in prison, and for a few months was treated in the rehabilitation center. But now he began to attend the church. Olya’s mother left and went to another country long ago and has a new family there. While her father was in prison, Olya grew up in an orphanage. She was always surrounded by older children, so she doesn’t know how to play and behave simply as a child and she doesn’t have the concept of what is “right” and “wrong”. She smokes and goes around with adults. At first in the camp she didn’t play with anyone and wanted to create her own team. But, gradually the atmosphere of the camp influenced her. She began to play as the rest of the kids in the team and even didn’t remember she smokes. At first she tried to clash with everyone, but gradually became friends. In the camp she learned to cut out of paper. She had never made kid’s handicrafts before. She really liked the camp and the mountains, which she saw for the first time in her life.
Sofia, 10 years old
Sofia is raised along with her siblings, by her mother. From the moment when the war broke out in Donetsk, the family came to the free territory of Ukraine. But the plan to start a new life failed. They came back and continue to live in occupied Donetsk. The shelling continues in the city and people live without confidence in the future. Sofia saw the shelling of residential quarters and came under fire when she was in the hospital. She saw the death of children and adults. Sofia liked the fact that there is peace and no shooting in the camp. She really liked nature and it was her first time in the Carpathians. She liked to weave bracelets and is doing it everywhere now! The camp gave her peace and quiet and the sense of security.
Masha, 12 years old
Masha has only a mother to take care of her, because her father is in prison. Her mom doesn’t have a job however but cares for a very sick mother and does all the chores. There is an elder brother who drinks, beats his mother and sister, arranges scandals in the house and steals money. The family lives in poor conditions in the village of Glyboky. The girl never saw mountains before and has never been outside of her village. It wasn’t easy for her to start communicating and to overcome the fear of rejection. She had never been to the camp. Masha ate well and always asked for extra food. She doesn’t have such a varied meal at home. Masha really liked the English lessons and sports time. She learned to play in a team and support friends.
Vadim and Dima, 14 and 11 years old
These two boys live in the village of Glyboka. There is no g
as or running water and in winter they burn wood in the stove. The parents misuse alcohol. There are four children in the family. The father works at a construction site, but this is not enough to feed the family; there is no good job in this area. The children stuffed themselves every time they were eating. Even simple food is a treat for them. It is very unusual for kids to have someone in their life that cares about them and shows selfless love. Their mom wept and thanked us for the opportunity that her s
ons were receiving to come to the camp. She would never have a chance to give such a gift to her kids. Vadim really liked the Bible discussion group and the interaction during it.
Katya and Nastya, 12 and 9 years old
Their mother divorced their father. The girls love their daddy very much. But after he visited the war-area on the east of Ukraine the psychological problems started. His behavior would scare the children, and the relationship in the family has completely fallen out. Now the children live with their mother. She supports the family alone, because the father can’t get a job after all the events at war. These children have never before left their village. It was a real trip for them and they saw the mountains. They enjoyed each day of the camp and felt the care and love from adults and children.
Maxim, 12 years old
Maxim has been in a care center for three years. His father died when he was only one year old. Maxim is a child with a disability that he was born with. It is very difficult for the mother to support the family alone, so the boy spends all the time in the care center. He is very active boy. He really enjoyed talking with interesting Americans, so he decided to learn English: “Let’s go home and start learning English”. Despite his disabilities and health problems, he climbed the mountain and overcome his fear during this camp!
Roksolana, 11 years old
Rokoslana lives with her mother, brother and sister and grandparents. The mother supports the family alone. Roksolana’s father died when she was 7 years old. The family lives very poorly and needs help. Roksolana liked bed time stories with Americans and to tell all about herself.
Nazar, 10 years old
Nazar recently came to the Care Center. He has only a mother. His family is in a very difficult financial situation and the mother doesn’t have a permanent job. They live in a rented apartment, as they don’t have their own home. For a while Nazar was in the rehabilitation center, because of difficulties with speech. The first days in the camp Nazar was afraid of everything. He did not want to play with anybody and he was afraid that he would not succeed. He played with himself and hardly ever talked with adults and children. Nazar often screams at night and is afraid of the darkness. Only on the third day in the camp did he fall asleep calmly. Gradually, he began to get used to the people, loved to cuddle with adults and began to trust them. He tried to play games with everyone, and made friends with the children in the camp. It was a real feat for him to climb the Mount Khomyak being in the lead!
Anton, 8 years old
Anton’s father died so the mother is raising him herself. The family lived in difficult circumstances. The father drank, mocked the children, drank away all their money and because of drinking died in front of his son. The boy is afraid at night and afraid to sleep alone. He was withdrawn and bit his nails from excitement. But in the camp he came to life. Here he began to communicate with the other children. He overcame his fear and climbed Mount Khomyak. He also really liked to communicate with the Americans whom he described as “unusual people.” This was the first time for him to be in a summer camp and far away from home. The first few days he cried for his mother. But then his mother saw the picture where he was smiling and said: “I’m happy that my child began to smile. He is doing well and comfortable in the camp.”
Volodya, 8 years old
Volodya is from a large family and he is the oldest. All the children are brought up by their grandmother. Their parents work a long way from home. They drink, and spend all earned money for drinking. They do not support their own children and have very little contact with them. The child did not eat some foods in the camp, because he had never seen it at home. He is not used to eating well. At first the child behaved habitually for himself – cursed, was at odds with children, fought, because this is the model of behavior in his family. Gradually he began to communicate with the other children and made friends with some other boys. He learned to work in a team and felt responsible for others. Volodya is for the first time in the mountains and in such kind of camp. Volodya is very fond of Bible stories and began to read the Gospel, which he received in the camp, asking a lot of questions about God. He performed on a talent show and played the pipe!
Lisa and Dasha, 13 and 11 years old
Five years ago, their mother stole the family’s money and left the kids. She doesn’t take care of her own girls. As the girls say: “Mom is busy.” The girls live with their grandparents. Their father also has a new family. Lisa and Dasha had never been anywhere before, they were waiting for their father to take them to the sea, but he took his new family instead. These relationships made the girls more “grown up” than others. They faced non-children’s problems. In the camp, the children became more open, they began to smile and have fun with other children. They began to participate in games and communicate with American guests. They felt kindness towards themselves and learned about the Lord and His love. The girls climbed Mount Khomyak and defeated their fears.
Dima, 8 years old
Dima is being raised by his mom only. Mom, Dima, her mom’s sister and her husband, two children, grandfather and grandmother – they all live together in a three-room apartment. The boy doesn’t have the social skills to communicate with other children. He attracts attention in his own way – he speaks loudly and quarrels with the children. In the camp, the children taught him how to communicate in a different way and to behave friendly. This was his first time at a camp. He always sat on the front row during Bible and English lessons, so as not to miss anything and learn everything. He learned to make friends and communicate with others.
Lev, 15 years old
He is from a large family and they are immigrants from Lugansk, fleeing from war. He doesn’t want to talk about it at all. Mom is engaged in raising children. At first, Lev worried it would not be interested in the camp. But then he really liked the games and competitions. He is very active in volleyball and team games. He is very comfortable with the other kids. At camp he began to pray for his mother.
Paul, 16 years old
Paul has lived in the orphanage since he was 10 years old. He has cerebral palsy. The family is very poor, so Pasha lives in the orphanage almost all the time, and on goes home on holidays. “I thought it would be boring here, because I won’t be able to do anything. But I really liked that people spent the time with us, played, taught us to make crafts. And the food is very delicious. The children helped me to be with everyone in the team.” This is the first time Pasha is in such camp. He is glad that he did not spend all this time as usual. For the first time in his life he rode on a ski lift and saw the mountains.
Alina, 11 years old
Alina has problems with hearing, she uses a hearing aid and studies in a special school. She has never been to any camp, because it is difficult for her to communicate with peers. And most often she’s just afraid. She liked very much to play with the children and be in the team, perform tasks and complete them. Her mom said: “My child was comfortable, no one hurt her, she learned to play table games and to be independent. She posed for the camera with pleasure, and she liked face painting.”
Petya, 14 years old
Petya’s dad is an alcoholic. At home he causes many problems and beats his wife. He drinks away all the money, so the mother keeps the house herself. When she was packing her son’s stuff for the camp, she cried and said: “Thank you so much. My child will have some peace from all the alcohol and abuse at home.” She wanted to give Petya some money for the trip, in fact she had saved a little especially for this purpose. But the father had found it and spent this money on alcohol. Petya is for the first time in the mountains and in a camp for kids. He took part in Bible scenes with pleasure and learned many things together with the other kids. “I really like handicrafts and hiking in the mountains!”
Misha, 10 years old
He came from the occupied territory, from Gorlovka. Misha’s parents came to Ukraine, but the chance to get settled in failed. But they couldn’t live in the occupied territory. The family now is in the search of housing and work and is living with friends and acquaintances. The child got a chance to rest and to visit the Carpathians for the first time. He asked very serious questions about God and salvation. Even though only ten years old, he has seen a real war and death, he knows what war is, and where you need to escape during the shelling.
Ilya, 12 years old
Llya is from a family of immigrants from the war zone. He is a very thoughtful boy. It is very difficult for the family to settle in a new place and start life from the beginning. Ilya pondered on serious topics and took seriously all the Bible stories and evening fellowship. He liked the hike and the forest; for him it was the first time in the Carpathians. He also liked to talk to Americans and learn English.