USNOF Pt. 2: Level 3 Facility

Children enter orphanages for any number of reasons here, one being that the parents decide they are not capable of raising the child. When I first arrived in country, it was hard to fathom how a parent could do that. After a while, however, I started to think “Imagine how hard this was for the parent to decide!” With salaries what the are in most of Ukraine, in some situations it actually is better in the long term: the child will receive treatment and potentially be adopted by a family that can meet his or her needs.

In Ukraine, special needs are divided into four levels: 1) minor physical disabilities, 2) more severe physical disabilities, 3) any type of cognitive or mental disorder, and 4) a combination of severe mental and physical disabilities. As part of our time in Rivne, each morning we traveled as a group to a level three orphanage. The role us Peace Corps Volunteers had was amazingly simple really: Play with the kids. Like any children, they were hesitant at first, however by the end of the week some of us were being used as human jungle gyms!

Needless to say, it was fun…

The kids loved Dave's beard
The kids loved Dave’s beard
Close range kickball...
Close range kickball…
...the kick...
…the kick…
...which inevitably ends up with me chasing the ball
…which inevitably ends up with me chasing the ball
Jen showing off some of the toys
Grace doing the same
Dave showing off a camera
Dave showing off a camera
Tim is American and might possibly be the happiest human on the planet. He came with his mom with USNOF and couldn’t wait to share his story with anyone who would listen…warning, he won’t stop once he starts 🙂
Just enjoying the slide
Sergei and Kiril
Badminton quickly turned into homerun derby…here’s your winner
Fascinated by my belly button…
Wanted to show me he had one too
He’d push it and make a “bbpt” sound with his mouth…
Balloon animals were a huge hit!
Sasha and Marina playing some catch
A little girl time
The sounds Grace made entertained him for a good 30 minutes
The sounds Grace made entertained him for a good 30 minutes
Yet another way to play "Pete, fetch"
Yet another way to play “Pete, fetch”
After every kick, “Молодец!” (Well done!)
At the beginning of the week, he wouldn’t let anyone touch him…this is how the last day was spent
Kiril loved being held, especially by Greg
Kiril loved being held, especially by Greg
What kid doesn’t enjoy a good tickle

One thing that all of my experiences keep enforcing is that people are people, and especially, that kids are kids. I used to think differences were needed country to country, otherwise we would be a planet of clones, right? Sure, here in Ukraine, language and cultural barriers exist at times, but there is the common language of laughter and it can break down almost any wall. Leaving this facility on the last day was hard, but we left knowing we had somehow impacted these kids. I wonder if they have any idea the impact they had on us…




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