A children’s ministry is the natural result of Jim’s work with health-care professionals here in Ukraine. As a pediatrician, he related most quickly with other pediatricians and having been a pediatric hematology-oncology fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, connections began with those treating cancer and blood-related diseases. One of the most prevalent infectious diseases in Ukraine currently is HIV/AIDS.
Jim’s contact with the physicians created an opening for Marianna to begin work with hospitalized orphaned HIV+ children. And by being present at the hospital, Marianna met Viktor Grachov, a key member of the UMO team. He had seen many young addicted mothers choose a fix over the welfare of their own babies, and he was determined to help these children in some way. Together we have made arrangements to care for all but the medical needs of hospitalized HIV+ (or suspected of being HIV+) children at an area hospital. This includes providing sheets, diapers, clothes, shampoo, baby wipes, lotions and additional food. The most important way we help these children is by being available to take them outside, play with them, feed them in our arms rather than with a propped bottle. We are thankful to employ two women, Katya and Olga, who each spend three days a week in the hospital room as surrogate mothers to these children. We model that even these children have value and are worthy of personal attention.
Ukraine Medical Outreach has also begun a regular ministry at Okmatdet, the national children’s hospital, in their HIV+ ward. In addition to providing crafts and games to break up the children’s routine days, we’re also ministering directly to the parents/caregivers of the children there. We’re thrilled that Tanya has joined our team and provides encouragement, education, fellowship and a listening ear to otherwise isolated parents. The atmosphere on this ward is unmistakably brighter!
An outgrowth of the hospital ministry was a desire to offer summer camp experiences specifically to children who are HIV+. Few (if any) camps look for these children. After several summers of permission to bus children to day camp just outside of Kyiv, and also to spend several days taking camp to the inpatients in the HIV/AIDS ward of the national children’s hospital, the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine caused international teams to cancel travel plans. Our prayerful hope is that these camps will begin again in the near future.