Where is this girl jumping? And Why?

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Where is this girl jumping? By the end of this, you will see images of kids near a beach on the coast of the Black Sea in southern Ukraine. They come from families who have been displaced by the war. For ten days, they have been quite happy.

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This is the second year This Child Here has funded the Peace Camp. DSC_0051There was time to swim, to play, to dance, to make crafts or make friends or photos or puppets to put on a play. There was time for programs they designed themselves. The camp has a specific purpose: to give time for these families to rest, to talk with each other, to separate themselves from painful memories and make new ones. In the right conditions, the sea serves as a place of healing.

I arrived eager to interview people about their experiences of the war and status as refugees, but soon learned that these people are tired of such conversation and not so willing to dig into those DSC_1328memories. I learned only generalities: a boy is here who underwent heart surgery for a valve not developing; his dream was to go to the sea; a grandmother was reunited with daughter and grandchildren after two years of this war. Families left homes because they were forced to abandon them. The father of a family with three teenage sons showed me video of their home near the battle zone of Donetsk. A explosive landed in their back yard. With great pride, he told me that no one had looted his home. He showed a second video of where they now live in a large building with other DSC_0807families outside a city named Kharkiv, a former shelter for children turned into a dormitory. They can’t afford gas for heat in the winter, so they survive the cold with firewood.

I learned of their gratitude, as these people came individually to me to say “thank you” for these ten days by the sea. It’s a remarkable thing we are doing for these families with children. Many asked me why Americans give money to help in Ukraine and who are Presbyterians? I suppose it’s good PR in both cases, but the real benefit, as the conflict still simmers, will be the healing between individuals, of Russian and Ukrainian origin, character, and identification that is already beginning, in a place called Ukraine.

Robert Gamble

 

See these two ladies below?  The one in white, Alla Soroka, created, organized and managed this project.  Katya in orange is part of the team.

Alla and Katya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now why is this guy jumping and scaring all those people???

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Here’s some beautiful people with flowers in their hair… and more…

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photo by Oksana Xarkovenko

 

 

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photo by Oksana Xarkovenko

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photo by Oksana Xarkovenko

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photo by Oksana Xarkovenko

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Here above is our camp doctor.

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And here’s a bunch of happy people:)

 

 


THIS CHILD HERE, June News 2016

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Happy faces from a concentrated two day workshop for kids of foster families in Odessa, Ukraine.  See more below. We not only work with parents who receive these kids but with the youth and children themselves.  What we teach is centered around improving self-esteem, gaining trust in relationships, knowing how to manage disagreement and communicate with respect.  I made these images during our visit in March.

My time here in New Vernon as the Interim Pastor is nearly finished.  I will soon be able to devote all energy to our work in Ukraine. We return to Odessa July 20th and stay until August 29th.  Two camps are planned for the youth and children, and our Peace Camp is planned for refugee families from the eastern region of Ukraine.  Look for us in the fall as we will begin our trip around the states to visit churches and people supporting This Child Here.

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Can These Women Bring Non-Violence to Ukraine?

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Congratulations to the women of the Alternatives to Violence Project in Odessa, Ukraine on Women’s Day!

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On Saturday and Sunday, I saw again how important is this work you do. I was grateful to be one among you. This has been and is a time of violence in our world (especially in Ukraine). Peace, justice, understanding and non-violence changes hearts and minds.

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I am proud to know you and have your wisdom in the work of This Child Here.

You create the place where hope begins for a better and more peaceful Ukraine and world.

Robert Gamble, March 8, 2016

(AVP is a voluntary organization that offers programs to strengthen self-esteem, build trust and teach non-violent solutions in times and places of conflict.  In Ukraine, a large percentage of AVP volunteers are women. Most of the staff people who work for This Child Here are members of AVP Odessa)

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Moscow: Russians and Ukrainians learning together

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Ukrainians and Russians in Moscow with common goals: to learn to train foster parents and to learn alternatives to violence. See our Alla Soroka, top left, (with the teddy bear!), and Arina Litvinenko, second to the right of her.

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After four trips to Moscow, our people will have the skills needed to train foster families in Odessa. This training for us comes cost free because we in exchange are training Russians to have the skills of Alternatives to Violence in their work with children, youth and families.


This Child Here invites Bill Kennedy to lead workshops in Odessa, Ukraine

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On our last trip to Odessa, This Child Here sponsored workshops led by Bill Kennedy, from Maryland, below left talking with Pearl von Herder, his interpreter: public speaking, business management, business idioms, and conflict management. Here are attendees on the first day, all high school students. If you want to know what high school students look like in Ukraine, scroll down. Bill donated his time to this effort, classes were held at The Impact Hub, a center for business and non profit training in Odessa, Ukraine.  Bill, a Russian speaker, has led classes like this in Kiev, Ukraine, and in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, Russia.

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A day at the beach with kids from The Way Home

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In late August, we went to the beach at Kobliva, a town about an hour east of Odessa. Vova who works for The Way Home is tireless with kids, as he launches them in the air to splash into the sea.  Alla, our Project Manager and Natasha who recently joined our staff, stroll the beach; Below are the faces of a couple of girls, the first one had a birthday; Emma is a volunteer for The Way Home from Germany who works at their kindergarten program. More kids, staff and my face also below.

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“World Without Rage,” The Camp for Peace called White Sail

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“World Without Rage”, it reads in Russian, from the Camp for Peace, White Sail, designed and directed by This Child Here at the beach near Odessa, Ukraine.

world without rageFrom July 15-26, ten families displaced by military action from the eastern regions of Ukraine , gathered by the Black Sea for a camp they labeled: White Sail. The camp was designed and directed by Alla Soroka,Project Manager for the work of This Child Here, with the idea to create a safe space in which people can feel at ease, rejuvenate, relax, and strengthening family relationships, but the idea goes back to Soroka’s conversation with Roland A. Rand, a Quaker from Estonia with the dream of a peace camp for people in Ukraine.

Funding for the camp came from This Child Here, Presbyterian Churches (USA), British and European Quakers through Friends World Committee for Consultation – Europe and Middle East Section; and Beyond Our Borders of the Unted Methodist Church. Photos were by Oksana Harkovenko (below) Camp was held at the Recreation Centre in Syčavka just outside Odessa, Ukraine.

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“One evening we planned a disco, for the young, but adults came too. We had a good DJ. He made music for youth and children and it was loud. We turned off the lights so that no one hesitated to dance. We brought yellow balloons to start the fun! Children were running one after another to burst someone’s balloon; others fought with balloons like swords, dancing. When it was late, the DJ it was time to go to bed. No! the kids did not want to. So he said all must lay on the floor and now there will be something slow. We lay on the carpet in the hall. Soft music began to play; it was lyrical rap, a poem about love, difficulties, pain and life. It was quiet….. We closed or eyes, and it seemed to me that we all thought about the same things, we were good and sad at the same time. It seemed there were no adults and no children. We were all adults and children, our souls open to something that was happening, something good, something that brought us together. Then Sasha switched on the light, and all shouted at him, but he laughed and said it was time to sleep. – Alla Soroka, Camp Director  (photo below)

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Alla Soroka, Camp Director

“The first few days I went into the sea, I was crying from happiness – it was precious to feel human again.” -The family Lyaschenko

“We were unique in this experience. I was glad for the time to be in the lives of these people; to be privy to such events is happiness. As a wise person once said, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness!” We lit it together!” Alla Soroka, Camp Director.

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The flower called: “It never dies”

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A visit from the Presbyterian Church USA Mission Agency

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A visit from the Presbyterian Church (USA) Mission Agency, from left to right: Ellen Smith, Mission co-worker based in Germany, serving also in Russia and Belarus; Karen Morey, a member of Presbyterian Church of the cross in Omaha, NE; Alla Soroka, Project Manager for This Child Here; and Amgad Belawi, World Mission Area Coordinator for Middle East, Central Asia and Europe. We are honored and privileged to have them come to visit and hear about the work we are doing in the Odessa region of Ukraine.