If you had asked me about orphans in Ukraine five years ago, I would have had very little to say. If not for a lovely lady that I met through my church, I would not be writing this story. I write this story in support of Hope Now Ministries.

About 3 years ago, Cyndee Knight, the president of Hope Now USA, was standing in the lobby of my church manning a table covered with photos of children, both boys and girls. These children were all living in an orphanage in Shpola, a small village in Ukraine. She was asking members of the church if they would like to sponsor a child. Sponsoring a child consisted of writing letters to your sponsored child, maybe sending a gift of two throughout the year and a small financial contribution each month. As I looked through the photos of these children, I could see in their eyes that they needed to feel loved. I spotted a little 9-year-old boy named Slavik, and I immediately fell in love with this child. I asked Cyndee about the child’s background, and, like most of the children, he came from a dysfunctional family that consisted of an alcoholic mother who had five children with five different men. Like his brothers, Slavik does not know who his father is. Being a very bad alcoholic, Slavik’s mom could not take care of her children so they were taken to the orphanage in Shpola.

Children at the orphanage have very little. They have minimal clothing, minimal education, no psychological evaluations and no one to love them. They are forgotten. You see, most people in Ukraine have very little. There are virtually no jobs available and the suicide rate is the 13th highest in the world. Then came the opportunity of a lifetime and opportunity that changed my life. I was asked if I would like to go to Ukraine on a mission trip. I would be part of a team that would take the children of the orphanage to Kompas Park for one week. Kompas Park is a camp built almost entirely with Hope Now financial assistance that offers these children a week of camp. Camp consists of swimming, sports, fun and games, good food and most of all love and companionship. These beautiful children had the chance to be normal children and I could be part of this. Of course, I had the added gift of getting to meet Slavik in person. These kids are not only wonderful children but are precious gifts from God. It’s true that they do not have the blessings that other children may have but they are happy, loving and grateful for what they do have. To see the smiles on their faces and hear the laughter in their voices has made me so very grateful for the opportunity to spend time with them. Holding hands, giving hugs or just laughing with them is the only type of love most of these children will ever receive.

I cannot express into words what Hope Now has done for me. They have given me a wonderful gift; a gift no one can ever take from me. To see these children interacting with their counselors as well as with each other brought me nothing but joy. Working, playing, crying and worshipping God together allowed me to see the good in people. In a world filled with disappointment and chaos there really are people that care and are capable of loving those who are less fortunate. A hug, a smile or maybe a pat on the back gives these kids a week they will always remember, a week that is theirs forever, a week that no one could ever take away from the forgotten children. I cannot honestly communicate to you the feeling it gave me to see a child who possibly felt love for the first time. I will never forget the hard work, passion, effort and time put into one week by so many men and women who were all part of Hope Now to ensure that these children had the time of their lives. For me, it restored my faith in the human race. I am so proud I was able to be a part of this experience.

Hope Now continues to help the orphans of Shpola. They make repairs to the orphanage whenever there is a need; they provide medical attention for the children; they continue to make improvements at Kompas Park so the children have more to do each year; in many cases they assist the families of orphans who need repairs to their homes; and they are always there providing food, clothing, school supplies and whatever else is needed to comfort these children. In addition, Hope Now also assists the children whenever possible after they leave the orphanage. They are always there to help out and without them, there would be little hope for these forgotten children.