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My two trips to Borzna -- October, 2005
10/14 - Friday
What an emotionally draining day...those kids just kill me.
We got into Borzna around 12:30 and stopped to buy some flowers for the teachers. I stood on the street corner for about 20 minutes and just watched daily life pass by in this tiny little town: a few cars, a small flock of ducks waddling across the street and grazing on the grassy curb and a horse drawn cart....and many people riding old bikes and walking. It definitely had kind of a surreal “timewarp” feel to it.
We pulled into the school and instantly kids were running to our car and the truck. It was like a mob scene on the news...it was difficult for our driver to get to the front of the school to park!
I got out of the car and was just mobbed with kids saying “hello” and “pree-vyet” and who knows what else...just a flurry of excitement and anticipation. I saw my little friend from May, Alina, and she lit up when she saw me. I went over and gave her a big hug and we talked for few minutes. I asked her if she knew where Yaroslava was and she told me to follow her. We walked around the building and she pointed...about 100yds away, Yaroslava recognized me before I did her and she squealed “Chad!” and came running full speed into a big hug that literally almost knocked me over! We haven't seen each other since Aug 3rd...it's tough being away from my kids for a few days, let alone a few months... this must be very hard for her.
I met the new director of the orphanage, Nadiya and she was very nice. Also very grateful for all that we AAA sponsors and Big Family, and now Orphans Hope Foundation, do for the kids in Borzna. I took her shopping at the local market in Borzna and we bought two complete sectional sofa sets and a nice carpet for one of the lounge areas. This was about $ 800.00 total and since we had the truck with us, we were able to deliver it all yesterday. She also picked out about $ 60.00 worth of school supplies, paper, chalk, markers, crayons, paint and paper. She and the kids were very excited. They certainly don't have very many things like these. I told her we were just getting started...she will make a list of the things she wants to improve and we will start tackling them. She couldn't thank me enough...I assured her it wasn't just me, that I had lots of friends and family helping as well!
Next I went with the wood working instructor to see the wood shop. He showed me many of the things the kids have made and some the awards they have won for their work. They have almost no tools...4-5 small rough cut hand saws and maybe 15 or so assorted chisels and a few beat up wood planes. The work they have been able to accomplish with these limited tools is pretty impressive though...I will get some pictures up when I get back. I will be looking for some tools this weekend while we are shopping and will purchase and take as much as I can with me on Monday. The tools we were planning on buying are a bit expensive and they need more of a variety of tools as well. If anyone has any saws, chisels, wood planes, hand drills, etc that you could donate, the shop could certainly use them. The teacher was very frustrated showing me how little he has to work with to teach the kids.
Next I met the gym teacher. He was speechless when I unzipped open the big duffle bag full of soccer equipment. We provided them with 16 complete outfits: awesome blue and black “Borzna” jerseys, black soccer shorts and socks, shin guards and cleats. He was very moved by this and just kept saying “spaseeba” (thank you) and putting his hand over his heart. He asked if he could take the stuff right then and go get the kids to put it all to use. I got some video of the kids playing in their new outfits...very cool and quite a rewarding feeling! He is going to arrange for us to take a posed team picture on Monday.
The rest of the day was spent taking pictures and video taping the kids opening all their packages. I received a phone call from one of my friends, a fellow sponsor and I let her angel Alla answer the phone...it was the first time they had spoken. It was emotional for me just watching and listening. Alla was a bit frustrated that she couldn't communicate that well and I pulled Lucy aside to translate. The things these kids feel and say is just unbelievable and within a minute Lucy and I were both crying. I actually found myself on the verge of tears most of the day, just walking around these kids and seeing what their daily life is like.
On that note, I don't know if it was the damp weather or what, but the outhouse was exceptionally “ripe” yesterday. You could smell it from just about anywhere outside...definitely not something we're used to in the US. It's quite an experience “using the facilities” in Borzna.
We had another very emotional experience before we left...2 of the children (brother- about 8 and sister, 10 or so) lost their mother this summer while they were away at camp. Their sponsor had sent a couple of special cards and cross pendant necklaces with me for them and wanted Lucy and I to deliver them "specially," in person. Lucy kept herself together but it was rough. The 10 year old girl started crying and was telling how her uncle came and got them from camp and told them that their mother was very sick. She died before they got to see her and now they are alone at the orphanage. Lucy delivered the messages and the pendants and we gave them each a hug and a kiss...rough. I feel so bad for these kids. And there are so many more like them.
The last thing we did, because we had so many requests from the kids, was to video some “requests for sponsors”. We had 8 or so unsponsored kids introduce and tell a little about themselves and some even sang songs! Several said they liked to dance but I couldn't get any to perform on camera. I hope some of these “pleas” for sponsors will be answered. The kids are all so cute and it's so hard to believe the situation they are all in. It was a great, very successful and emotional day. I have many pictures and almost 3 hours of video of my trip. There is a lot to be done in Borzna and we need all the help we can get! I did get to see the new indoor bathrooms (sinks and showers) in the little kids bedroom area...many have new beds too. This was the work of the Italian charity we heard about and I have video of it...very nice, but now it makes the older kids' rooms look even worse.
It was very rainy today and the driving conditions were pretty bad. The road conditions in Ukraine are bad even on a good day, especially out in the country away from Kyiv. They make New England roads seem like the Autobahn. Lucy even wore her seatbelt! That is the first time I have seen anyone wear a seatbelt in Ukraine and I don't think I've ever even seen them in the back seat of a car.
We pulled up in front of the school and the kids started flocking around us again. I found myself completely surrounded by about 20 kids who were so excited to see me...”Chad, Chad, Chad” pulling on me, literally fighting over who was going to hold my hand. Begging me to take their picture and to have their picture taken WITH me. I tried to oblige every request...got some video of this chaos too. One little girl named Alla seemed to be the mother figure and was scolding the other unruly kids, telling them to leave me alone, to stop fighting and to be quiet. Artem, sponsored by my mom through Big Family Charity, made it a point to come see me, shake my hand and say in English “Hi Chad, How are you?” Of course my little friend Alina, wearing a white knit hat and her ever-present-million-dollar-smile was always close by, as was my new little friend Tania from Friday. She was never right in the middle of the chaos, “bugging” me, but for almost an hour she was shadowing me and always close by.
There were so many boys I can't even keep them all straight. They are definitely rougher than the girls and were wrestling to get close to me for a picture or handshake or to say in English “ hi, My name is...”. I have to tell you I was so overwhelmed by all this I was fighting back tears even as I was having fun... One boy about 10 or so, grabbed me and said in English, no pauses or punctuation : “what is your name my name is Sasha where do you live I live in Borzna” ...how cute is that? Then in a brief lull in the chaos, this little boy appeared right in front of me, probably 7 or 8, but not much taller than 40 inches or so, and said : “Hi, my name is Serozja.” (nickname for Sergei. It was so cute I took out the video camera and got him to say it again...this launched into everyone wanting to demonstrate their English abilities...and they got a huge kick out of me speaking, trying to speak or mis-pronouncing Russian well.
I managed to pull away from all of them and took some pictures of the newly-fully-uniformed Borzna soccer team....You can see how cool they look in the picture above. The coach and all the boys were so grateful and just kept thanking me. I then went with Lucy and shot some video and pictures of the new lounges, furnished with the new furniture purchased on Friday.
After this, Lucy and I went to go say goodbye to Nadiya, the new director of the orphanage. She was very emotional and was so thankful for everything that we do for these kids. She said she was so glad to know that there were people like us in the world. She started crying and was saying that she has only been there a short time but she sees that there is so much to do for these kids and she feels like she was sent there for a purpose. She said her whole life has been about her 2 boys and she recently lost one of them and it seemed her life was a mess and falling apart...and then she ended up at the orphanage in Borzna and realized she had a new purpose.
Let me tell you emotional drain of these trips is unbelievable...
She said her biggest worry right now is the heating system...it's broken. It was probably 50 or so outside and not much warmer in the dormitory rooms. There was supposed to someone coming today (Tues) to give an estimate or figure out the problem. I told her to let us know how much and we would see how we could help. They have recently been awarded a grant 300,000 Grivnya (about $60,000) for a new gas heating system to replace the coal furnace. The current problem has to do with a pump or the water pipe system or something and will have to be fixed anyway...she's hoping that the repairs will fit into the 300,000 Gr grant. She'll let us know and she's also putting together a list of all the things that need to be done from the big expensive projects to the smaller non-essential things that will really brighten up the place and bring the kids some joy and fun activities.
Lots of work to do…It was quite a trip…