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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Alla Amgad Karen Morey Ellen Smith

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.


They All Look Like Angels

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They all look like angels.

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but youth and children in orphanages, shelters, along with “at risk” kids in public schools have needs like any other youth person and more so: healthy self-esteem, a strong sense of identity, personal boundaries, and the ability to trust.  You see them here above and below along with foster parents from Ukraine we train to take kids in, the staff (bottom) and Project Manager, Alla Soroka, who make the work of This Child Here possible.

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krasnova 4 in march 2015

 

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alla soroka project manager   Alla Soroka

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Refugees from the East

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I took these photos in Odessa in March: children from eastern Ukraine who know nothing of the politics of war or a crashing economy. Transported from Lugansk, Ukraine to a region called Kuyalnik, they live in what was once a premier health clinic (called a sanatorium) and place of rest of the Soviet Union, located on the edges of Odessa, Ukraine. The Way Home, a Ukrainian charity, funds a kindergarten program. This Child Here, our American non profit pays for English lessons for elementary and high school students. Most families in this location have a member suffering from physical disabilities, but not due to the war. In the background is home, a tall apartment building. According to The Way Home, 32,000 refugees from the east are living in the city of Odessa and 42,000 in the Odessa oblast, or state.

 

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