Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday, July 30, 2011
            Today was a busy day—some things were difficult to experience, but there was some fun sprinkled throughout the day as well. We began the day by traveling to a nearby town and visiting a hospital in the area—I cannot include many details because of the hospital’s wishes. We saw several kids who have been abandoned by their parents—suffice to say it was difficult to see those beautiful babies who are unwanted by their own mothers and fathers. There was a baby who was just lying in his bed, sobbing. He wanted so badly to be held and loved by someone. Another one was just a few months old, maybe younger, and was upset when he wasn’t held. There just aren’t enough nurses to provide the proper care for these babies. When we came back for lunch, Vasya was telling us a little about the government system and the birth of a baby in a family—when a baby is born, the family receives money from the government. With each additional child, they receive more money. Vasya was saying for the third child, you receive $1000 (all monetary figures will be USD) when the child is born and an additional $150 every month for three years. This may not seem like much when you consider how much it costs to raise a child in America, but to put it into perspective, the average salary in Ukraine is less than $200 per month. Usually much less than this—the doctor in this hospital today was telling us that an average doctor in Ukraine makes only $100 per month. To compare, that is like saying in America, a doctor would be making a teacher’s salary—the people who are performing surgeries on a daily basis! So, in Ukraine, it means a lot to receive this money for a child. It would seem logical for the family to stop receiving money if they give up a child, but according to the law, the parents only have to visit their child in the orphanage once every 6 months to keep receiving the money. This is only one example of the corruption here.
            Today we also went to Mukachevo to tour a castle that has been there since the 9th century, I believe. The view was spectacular, and you could look in several directions and within just a few dozen kilometers were the borders of Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia. It was nice to tour something so historic and interesting.
            After the castle tour, we returned to HOM for lunch. I’m not sure they could have prepared a more tasty lunch—borscht with sour cream and crepes—two of my favorite Ukrainian dishes! Смачно! Tasty!
            Our last visit of the day was the inner city Roma camp—a different settlement than the one I visited on Sunday—I thought I was prepared for this, but it was still heartbreaking to see the conditions. When we arrived in the van, I wish I had my camera ready because the kids began chanting, “Vasya, Vasya!” It was so sweet to see that they recognize and love him. We came today to scout out the area where we will hold camp, so we could know what kind of space was available to us. People immediately wanted to show us their houses, presumably to make the needs known to Vasya. I was shocked at the filth these people were living in and around; in one corner of the settlement there was a large trash heap. Children were playing on top of the trash like it was just any other dirt hill and the people were telling Vasya that the heavy rains have produced a river of poisonous water running through the settlement and into homes. I thought I would be prepared after visiting a different settlement earlier this week, but in the other place, it was dirty just because it had rained and the mud was deep. This place, though, was covered in absolute filth. I cannot imagine having to live in these conditions with the risk of diseases that these people face. I am looking forward to having camp here; I had a chance to play with the kids while the Canadian team was planning for the camp and I think it will be so fun to play with the kids. They were just so happy and had beautiful smiling faces, just wanting to hold hands and have their pictures taken. I wish we had more time in places like this.
            Tonight when I went down for dinner, Joma put his arms up to me to be picked up, and he started singing to me, “I like to move it move it…” It was so cute—he is still learning how to speak clearly, so it was just a mumbled jumble of words. It made me happy to know that these kids are so well cared for here, and so happy despite their situations. At dinner, two kids prayed before the meal; Vasya says every child here, in every prayer, prays for Natalka’s (Natasha) legs and Joma’s back. How sweet that they care for one another so much.
Sweet baby

So tiny...big brown eyes

View from the castle in Munkacs

Team picture with Vasya

The dog looks as if he's suspended in midair :)

Interesting statue...too bad it's pagan (maybe? Our unofficial guide wasn't sure...)

Interior of the castle grounds

And then the monsoon came...started out just a little trickle...

Then a small waterfall...

Then a full blown waterfall down the steps...

Poor bride had to make a run for it while it was only slightly pouring...


...and crepes...with strawberry jam...this meal couldn't get any better...

Can you find the kite? Wayyy up in the sky...

The water these boys are standing in is toxic; poisoned by...

the trash heap these boys are playing on

Posing...such a pretty girl for such an unappealing backdrop

Crowding in for a picture

And again

This little girl followed me around so she shows up in a few...Donya is her name I believe

Vasya said the cross at the top of this Orthodox church was struck by lightning and fell down...maybe a sign from God?

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