In Ukraine, children are admitted to hospitals along with a parent. The parent attends to all the needs of the child except for the actual medical treatment. This includes feeding them, changing diapers, playing with them, providing clothing and fresh sheets.
The children that Marianna visits have no parent — and so no extra attention. They are children diagnosed as HIV+ and are either true orphans or abandoned. The staffs in the hospitals are too sparse and too busy to attend to the extra needs of the orphans. It is a privilege to be able to hold these children as they eat, to tickle them, to kiss them, to toss them in the air, and to simply love them.
UMO supplies the funds to hire two workers to actually be in the room with these children six days a week, from 9:00 to 4:30.
Marianna also visits children at Okmatdet, the national children’s hospital in Kyiv. These children are some of the most difficult cases of HIV/AIDS in the country. And many of these children do have a parent or other relative staying with them. Marianna provides a break in their routine week by playing games with the children, bringing along special friends with musical instruments (oftentimes adopting families in Ukraine who have some free time to give to these children), strolling the grounds with the older children and taking lots of pictures to provide periodic slide shows of the children themselves.
As we learned more about these children and the stigma that goes along with the HIV+ status, we wanted to do something special for these specific children. We decided to offer a day camp and we loaded the children on a chartered bus and drove them out of the city each day to a church campsite. They joined the neighborhood children for five days of sports, crafts, Bible lessons, and music.
We met more and more children and eventually Marianna was invited to teach English to preschoolers at a community center where the children are either INfected with the virus or the family is AFfected…someone in the family is positive. What a labor of love to meet with these precious children.
The following summer we again offered a camp and the highlight for all involved was a boat cruise on the Dnieper River. Immediately following the church service (where the children joined the choir in singing one of the hymns), the campers, their families, the camp volunteers and cooks along with the leadership of our church spent a leisurely afternoon on board a boat reserved just for our group.
The week following the day camp just outside of the city, we took ‘camp’ to the inpatients at Okmatdet. They children could do most everything except for the sports. What a thrill to watch the children and their families enjoy time together while also hearing a clear gospel presentation.