Sunday, 26 December 2010

Ukrainian Orphans Arrive In Alabama Hoping For Families, Better Life

BILLINGSLEY, USA -- The chil­dren run around in new paja­mas, learning the English words for butter, cheese and tea, writing on a dry-erase board and some playing "fut­bol."
They are Ukrainian or­phans, ages 6 to 15, and ener­gized on just an hour or two of sleep. But it's a new day in a new country with new hopes, dreams and wishes.

The 10 children -- four boys and six girls -- came to cen­tral Alabama from orphan­ages in the Kiev region of Ukraine. They arrived about 5 a.m. Friday and by 10 a.m. were already learning to say "hello," "dog" and, in 55-degree weather, "hot."

It has taken three years for the trip to become a reality for the Millbrook-based Bridges of Faith Internation­al. The organization, which has done mission work in Ukraine since 1995, spon­sored the trip for the 10 Ukrainian orphans at a total cost of $65,000 -- which paid for travel, legal costs and all documentation.

The money was collected door to door, and from church to church.

"Many of the kids have not seen a functioning family," said the Rev. Tom Benz with Bridges of Faith. "We want them to become Christians, yes, but we need them to find families.

"We are not an adoption agency," Benz stressed. "Our task is to bring kids here and let families meet them. If families are interested, an adoption facilitator takes over the business side."

The children will stay at BridgeStone Prayer and Re­treat Center, a ministry of Bridges of Faith Internation­al, until they fly back to the Ukraine on Jan. 16.

Families interested in meeting the children -- families from Kentucky, Alabama and Cali­fornia have been in contact with Benz -- will have that opportunity.

There is Sasha Bidyak, 12, who, through translator Val­ery Dashevky, said he very much wants to have a mother and father.

"All the children, they do," Bidyak said. "And I do not."

Bidyak has lived in an or­phanage since he was 8 years old, after both his parents died from being "hard drink­ers. Especially my mom, she was a harder drinker."

In Bidyak's room at the Centerpoint building -- the 12-bedroom, four-bath re­treat center (funded solely through Centerpoint Church in Prattville) -- hang his life's belongings: a jacket, hat, backpack and one change of clothes.

Most of the children ar­rived in the United States with only one bag -- whether it was a backpack or a plastic sack. Some didn't have a change of clothes. Toiletry items were donated to them and placed in their rooms.

Around the main living and dining area, packs of Goldfish crackers sit on a ta­ble. One pack is open and al­most full. A bowl holds four green apples. One apple is partially eaten and had been placed back in the bowl. Rai­sin bread sits on a plate.

"Often, kids in Ukrainian orphanages are abandoned," Benz said. "I see in the eyes of these children potential to be wonderful if just given the chance. Every time we are (in Ukraine), I can't cope with the ways their lives would turn out."

That includes the lives of Irina and Olga Przhepolska, ages 10 and 15.

They don't know where their father lives, and their Polish mother died a year ago from kidney problems. The girls don't discuss being adopted, Dashevky said, but even if the group of 10 doesn't talk about it, they know that is why they are in America.

"There's not the same in­terest in adoption in Ukraine," Benz said. "Here, there are people on a waiting list to adopt children. In East­ern Europe, kids are ready and available."

"Here, we give them a great camp experience, teach them English, share Christ and incubate adoption. These kids, especially at school age, the chance for adoption plummets. That's why we bring them here ... we call them the forgotten kids."

What Bridges of Faith wants to do, Benz said, is de­velop a broader sense of sup­port for bringing the orphans to Alabama. While it took three years to get the first group flown over, he wants to do this four to six times each year.

Still, he said one of the most heartbreaking things is when one is packing up and the others tell (Dashevky), "Will you find a family for me?"

"We hope that every single one emphatically experi­ences God and also finds a 'forever home' with a great family," Benz said.

No comments: