One Woman's Experiences at Summer Camp By Anya Koniuch, OMS II This item first appeared in the "Communique," a Michigan
University newsletter in the Spring 2007, Volume 34 No. 2 Issue
Recently, I traveled to an orphan
camp in Ukraine with an organization called Ukrainian Children′s Aid and Relief
Effort (UCARE). The purpose of this camp was to provide orphans with a rare
break from the walls of their orphanage and to educate them on the principles
of self-care and self-esteem.
Much to the children′s delight, we
took them swimming in the Black Sea, hiking in the Crimean Mountains, and to
museums and water shows at nearby towns.
In addition to having a little
fun, they also attended workshops led by the camp counselors. My workshops
included educating the children about health issues such as hygiene, smoking,
first aid, drug and alcohol addiction, and most importantly AIDS. Ukraine has
the highest rate of infection in all of Europe. Teaching in a second language
to children who have had little exposure to these topics was challenging and
mentally exhausting. I tried to make certain every child learned and
As the camp "medic," the children
would often approach me with cuts, bruises, headaches, and all types of
injuries. When one of the children has to go to the hospital, the orphanage has
to dip into its limited funds to pay the often expensive care. Ingeniously, the
directors have discovered some effective folk remedies to cure as many of the
children′s ailments as possible. For instance, we used a honey mixture to treat
a large abscess on one of the girls. After one day, it was nearly gone. In
general though, the best cure for many of their ailments was comfort,
attention, love and the occasional Jolly Rancher − all of which they rarely
Thanks to the donations from
individuals and organizations, the children received new clothes, pens,
bracelets, and handbags and other personal items − all of which brought joy and
excitement to the children.
This camp was a learning
experience for me, but for the kids, it was the highlight of their entire lives
thus far. Their day-to-day life is drastically different than a typical
American child′s life. Though they receive an education, it is most often
dismal. The knowledge that they gain rarely provides them with any skills to
function within society.
Furthermore, once these children
reach 18 years of age, they "age-out" and are forced to leave the
orphanage.The government rarely
provides funding for additional educational or vocational opportunities for
them after exiting the orphanage.Often, the future of these children is grim and unpromising: over 80% of
them will end up on the streets, in jail, or conned by human traffickers into
slavery.UCARE′s goal is to
encourage education, self-esteem, and opportunities for them.We constantly reminded the children of
their high potential and encouraged them to continue pursuing their dreams.
Leaving was emotional for both Councelors and children. The childrens′ ease of attachment and difficulty with separation illustrate their longing for family and need for human bonding. We gave the orphans an experience of a lifetime, bt they also changed our entire outlook on life. Orphan children are in increasing need worldwide. I encourage anyone who is interested in helping to get involved with these types of organizations and see for yourself.