The lucky 11 children visiting the United States from Ukraine looked like happy campers on Sunday Afternoon. The children, ranging in age from 7 to 14-years-old are Ukrainian orphans visiting Northern Colorado as part of the Cultural Exchange Camp organized by the Ukraine Orphan Outreach (UOO) program.
The children have had an exciting whirlwind adventure like nothing they have experienced before. You can read about it on the Outreach website.
Sunday was day 11 of their adventure and marked the annual dinner celebration. The dinner allows the children to particpate and show their appreciation for all the people who made the camp possible. The dinner, held at the Berthoud Area Community Center featured authentic Ukrainian dishes, which the children helped prepare. While the event is open to the public, it was obvious that most of the diners had a hand in the cultural camp. According to organization president, Clarke Stoesz, the highlight for the children is the serving of bowls of Ukrainian Red Borscht Soup, hand delivered to each diner. “This is a way for them to show their love and appreciation,” said Stoesz, “they do not have many material things to share.”
The campers were busy helping and serving. Also doing much of the work were children from previous camps who now have a home in the United States. Stoesz is quick to note that the Ukraine Orphan Outreach is not in the business of trying to find homes for these campers. The children and the volunteers understand that this is not “an adoption orientation” as that would create tension that would detract from this experience. This is strictly a cultural exchange and an enriching experience for these children.
The organizers hope that the experience will allow these children to cope when they leave the orphanage. The children were accompanied by Julia Sergienko who works with Mission Emmanuel in Kiev, a member of The CoMission for Children at Risk (CBN). Sergienko works with the children at home and said they are very excited to be on this trip. She also said that for most children leaving the orphanage to be on their own that “things are very bad.” “Very bad” is right. According to the UOO, 60% of the girls will end up in prostitution, 70% of the boys in a life of crime and 10% will commit suicide before the age of 18. While it may be too early to tell about children who attended the UOO camps, Stoesz has heard many positive reports of uplifting orphan’s outlook on life, and hopes that the experience will continue to give the visiting orphans hope, for the improvement & success as adults when returning back to Ukraine..
While the summer camp is not an adoption arena, there is no mistaking the feelings of the UOO, all of whom are adoptive parents. According to Stoesz, about 10% of campers are adopted and he cautions that potential parents must fall in love with the concept, not a particular child.
The process must be addictive. Felix and Heidi Rogé were considering adoption and ended up joining the UOO and are now in the process of in the process of their fifth adoption. According to Felix, “You just decide to give up fancy cars and big houses.” He seemed quite content with his decision. He also noted that while many people think they want to adopt a baby, his original intent, you just can’t help but fall in love with one of these older children.
The evening was not without entertainment. Appropriately, the Luke Ham Sandwich Family Band, with its complement of adopted children, brought their fiddling and contemporary Christian and Bluegrass music to share. Perhaps sharing the sentiment of most adoptive parents, daughter Danika said that so many people have asked her mother whether the children are “all theirs,” that she has come up with the stock answer, “Well, some of them are adopted, I just can’t remember which ones.” The family put on a great show and if you want to learn more, visit their website, http://www.lukehamsandwich.com.
Natasha is one of the fortunate who have found a home in the United States. She said, “I have been here almost eight months and I like living in America and I like my family.