Today was filled with a lot of work, but it was worth it knowing we helped change the lives of those who needed it. We started the day by going to a construction site through Restoration Project. Kaylee, Luke, Cody, Cole, and I tore down a brick wall that was nearly one hundred years old with sledge hammers. We worked hard for a few hours in the snow and showed our strength and that we can get our hands dirty.
After we left the construction site, we went to the Day Center and ate lunch while watching crazy Ukrainian and American music videos. After we ate, we went to the market/mall to collect items to make sandwiches for students at two different trading schools. While we ate and played games with the kids, I learned that the kids were too young to be living on their own. Many were fourteen to sixteen years old and living in dorms with the responsibilities to take care of themselves. Yulia and Abram were the LBM staff members with us, and the love they had for these kids was immeasurable. They serve them so well and make them feel part of a family.
Finally, after a long day of work and play, we went to the Day Center with our small group and took about a thirty minute nap. We later woke up and left for a shelter to eat dinner, where many of the orphan moms lived with their children. There we saw the nice living conditions these moms were given by Last Bell and I thought that was a really cool thing. Today was a long but impactful and fun day.
This morning, after breakfast, our team split up into two groups. One returned to Oleg and Tolik’s house in the village near town to do Restoration Project work and the other (including me) went to visit several young moms and their babies. We went around to different apartments owned by young former-orphan parents and got to meet them. We were privileged to hear their stories and experience their homes, even though it was heartbreaking to see and hear. One story that I heard that I will never forget consisted of a family of a mother, father, their daughter and son. Shortly after receiving his measles vaccination, the six year old boy started having some seizures. They continued and got worse and he was diagnosed with an unknown seizure disorder. It has been going on for twelve months now. Last Bell and their church raised money for the boy’s hospital bills and medicine. But there were problems. The mother had to fight against the local government for housing near the hospital, and the doctors weren’t being cooperative. They suggested the family just let the son die so that they can donate his organs. Luckily after Andrey and Oksana advocated for the kid with the doctors and the government, he received some medicine and his seizures started to get a bit better. Even though he is still in the hospital today, still without a certain treatment, there is now hope he will survive and recover.
After visiting the moms, we visited a local business that builds manufactured homes. It is owned and operated by a Christian family Andrey and Oksana know in Zhytomyr. We went to visit because the Restoration Project may work with the company (called “Ukrainian Dream”) to replace some homes that are beyond repair or build a small village of homes for a Last Bell Community in the future. We saw several finished home floor plans and watched them constructing homes in their factory.
Later we went to the day center where I had the privilege of playing cards and foosball with non-English speaking Ukrainian kids and staff while the others were playing ping pong or soccer video games.
After lunch at the Day Center, we went to the social dorm at a trade school to meet former orphans around my age. They were very light hearted and talented. One even showed us her drawings and paintings; we asked if we could buy a few of her pieces of art and eventually she agreed and her pictures were almost sold out by the end of our visit. We shared our fears and how fears are important in life no matter how much they might scare you. On the way home we learned that she couldn’t attend her university classes last week because she ran out of supplies and didn’t have the money to buy more paper or pens. Now she does have the money to get some more supplies and continue her studies!
Lastly, we had dinner at a shelter for moms and their children with the Last Bell staff. They made us a cabbage-rolled rice and meat eggroll type food called Golubtsi (“Go-LUP-see”). It was AMAZING! We might’ve watched a bit of Ukrainian Monsters Inc. afterwards. We made it back to the hotel barely able to keep our eyes open and with proud hearts.