For the past three years since 2002 Mark Flowers has worked with two charities called Today‚Äôs Family and Sunny Wave in Kyiv (Kiev),*Ukraine providing publicity photography as well as helping a team of members
from New Horizons Church, Coventry distribute computers, clothes and toys to several orphanages associated with Today‚Äôs Family and a cancer hospital for children. The team has also entertained children
with music, face painting, circus tricks and puppet shows.
Ukraine ( –£–ļ—Ä–į—ó–Ĺ–į ) is a country with an area of 603,700 sq.km with a decreasing population that has been falling
from about 52 million in 1993 compared to 50 million in 1999. Ukraine is mostly flat steppe land that is highly
fertile, causing it to be known as the ‚ÄúBreadbasket of the Soviet Union.‚ÄĚ Major crops are wheat and corn, but other
crops include sunflowers and sugar beet, and hemp is also grown to the east of Kyiv. Ukraine is also rich in coal and iron deposits in the far east and south central regions.
Kyiv ( –ö–ł—ó–≤ ) on the River Dnipro is the capital city, having a population of 2.6 million and is divided into three
districts: Podil or Lower Town, which is historically the merchants‚Äô quarter and river port, Pechersk, which is the
historic ecclesiastical centre containing the Caves Monastery, and The Old Town or Upper Town near St. Sophia
Cathedral. Communist planning has resulted in an urban sprawl of modern tower block buildings across the river.
Major Issues Affecting Ukraine
Although the fall of Communism has brought about considerable personal freedom, the Ukrainian economy has suffered hugely. In
Ukraine the average monthly wage is $401 and that‚Äôs if one is lucky enough to find work. High levels of poverty, unemployment, alcoholism,
inability to cope and other problems contribute to the parents being unable to care for their own children leaving thousands to be abandoned. According to official 2003 statistics provided by the
Ukrainian government, approximately 50,000 street children live in Ukraine, 12,000 of which are in Kyiv.2 Once
on the streets many become victims of drug and solvent abuse. Many are also becoming infected by HIV and developing AIDS.
Ukraine now has the fastest growing rate of HIV infection in the world.3As of 1999 an estimated
200,000-240,000 people in Ukraine had been infected with the HIV/AIDS virus, according to the U.N.-sponsored
UNAIDS organization that is working on the AIDS epidemic in Ukraine, along with an additional 7,500 children
age 15 and younger - a number that is increasing at an alarming rate due to illegal drug use, sexual activity among
children as young as 10 years old, as well as insufficient education regarding safe sex and drug use.4
Large numbers of street children turn to prostitution as a means of survival. Kiev together with Moscow is one of
the two major centres in the former Soviet Union trafficking in the sale of young women (mainly between the ages of 15 and 20) into prostitution.5
In 1986 a huge explosion at the Chornobyl nuclear power station 100km north of Kyiv blew radioactive fallout over 23% of Belarus and 7% of Ukraine.6 Although the wind was blowing north and west of Kyiv at the time,
some 10‚Äď20 million people were affected with 28 workers at the station dying within two months from acute radiation sickness.7 135,000 were evacuated from a 30km radius to Kyiv. Because it took two days before the
authorities informed the people, many were happily sunbathing and swimming in the Prypyat River and so were
exposed to significant amounts of radiation and have developed cancers. The Dnipro basin from which 30 million Ukrainians take their water immediately showed traces of radioactivity.
Since Chornobyl, Thyroid cancer among children has exploded to a level 10 times higher than normal in Ukraine7,
and in some areas, more than 80 times higher than normal.8 The accident has caused significant chromosomal damage in foetuses and birth defects have doubled in Ukraine since 1986.
Mortality rates in Ukraine (14.8%) now exceed birth rates (8.8%)9. The population in 1995 was 52 million. In
2000 it was 50.4 million, in 2001 it was 48 million. Chornobyl is a major factor as is industrial pollution; in the
former Soviet countries, emissions of toxins from industrial plants tended to be about 10x greater than in Europe.
‚ÄúToday‚Äôs Family‚ÄĚ Social Action Charity
Today‚Äôs Family was established by Reverend Albert Kitcher of the World Transformation Church in Kyiv in
response to many of these issues. Today's Family is registered in Ukraine as a non-governmental non-profit making
Social charitable organization whose aim is to help the homeless and less privileged, particularly orphans. In trying
to address the problem of street children Today‚Äôs Family is in close collaboration with several state-run and private
orphanages in Kyiv including ‚ÄúKyiv Kids ‚Äď Sunshine‚ÄĚ orphanage, Vorzel orphanage, as well as the Aspern Crisis
Centre for children and Vulcan Stephania homeless feeding station. One orphanage in particular is devoted to
helping children who have been sexually abused and contains about 150 children. A couple of the orphanages e.g.
Ostrov Sockrovitshch (Treasure Island) are run as summer camps on islands in the Dnipro River, where the children can have a fun time living in tents and have the freedom to play adventure games in peaceful woodland
Support for the charity‚Äôs activities comes from voluntary contributions of individuals and collective organizations
amongst which is a popcorn factory established by the World Transformation Church called Ukrtech Kompleks
which as well as providing employment for about 70 people, also helps the orphanages. Their products are starting to be exported to Germany and Canada
During my stays with the group, I was able to visit several of these orphanages and witness at first hand the ongoing
work of the charity. One of them is the Aspern Centre. This is a permanent home to around ten former street
children, but also provides food and clothing to many more who still live on the streets due to the huge demand for accommodation.
To see the smiling faces of the children as they greeted the rest of the team and I made it hard to imagine the
hardship they must have come through. The children seemed very street-wise and had learnt how to survive but
paradoxically some were too young to dress or wash themselves. Many had also been weaned off glue sniffing, a sadly too-common addiction.
Today‚Äôs Family has helped to take in lots of children often from the streets, and have given them a more stable
environment where they can become properly adjusted and educated. Besides basic education, the charity has set
up programs for computer training and a Print Production School to provide teenagers with necessary skills for working in the outside world.
The poor state of the economy has left the state run orphanages quite run down due to lack of money and Today‚Äôs
Family is trying to attract funding and provide medical supplies. One particularly harrowing area in one of the state
orphanages that I visited was the Baby Ward. Many of these babies have been given up because their parents
could not afford to raise them and no longer want any contact with them. Typical of them is Christine (19days)
brought in by her mother and left after 2 days after signing a form saying she no longer wanted her and leaving no
address or contact details. Like all the babies, she was kept in a tightly bound state in swaddling clothes.
The state discourages staff from physically holding the babies in case they become too attached and does not allow
time for individual attention. Inside the ward, they have little stimulus and one child I visited and photographed did
nothing but stare blankly and forlornly into space. Today‚Äôs Family through developing links with state run institutions
such as this is trying to release them from this wretched existence by providing these babies with caring families.
At the state-run Vorzel orphanage a number of children exhibited various birth defects, a legacy no doubt of Chornobyl. During my first visit, I met one child
suffering from Treacher - Collins Syndrome with no inner ear bones or outer ear trumpet and he had a badly deformed face. The staff wanted to send him away
for surgery, but they had no money. Some were also affected by muscle-wasting diseases.
‚ÄúSunny Wave‚ÄĚ Cancer Charity
I was also able to see the work of Sunny Wave, a small independant charity set up by Svetlana Tsybizova, Natalia Gubar, and Daniel Galetkin that has
developed close links with the Paediatrics Department of the Institute of Oncology of the Academy of Medical Sciences in Ukraine (Cancer Centre).10Sunny Wave has its roots in a project started by Svetlana Tsybizova in
1998 while working for the Centre for Leadership Development in Kyiv, a subsidiary of the Global Corporation in
Knoxville, Tennessee, USA. Its original aims were to help with the rehabilitation, education and re-integration into
mainstream society of former street children.It assisted the children in improving their educational status, paving the
way for additional opportunities; and helped them fight a variety of addictions they suffered from through different
activities, along with care and attention. Most of these children live in the Father‚Äôs House Orphanage and Ms. Tsybizova‚Äôs involvement with these children continues today.
Sunny Wave was formed and registered in April of 2003 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Its mission is ‚Äúto assist in the spiritual
growth of the Ukrainian nation through helping those in need and engaging as many people in volunteer work as
possible.‚ÄĚ Sunny Wave is a registered non-profit charity organization in Kyiv, and also in the Province of Saskatchewan, Canada.
With Svetlana, I have been able to visit and see at close hand the situations facing some of the children. Several of the children were in advanced stages of cancer and many had
no hair as a result of chemotherapy or had had limbs amputated as a consequence of bone cancer. The curse of Chornobyl is never far away. I have seen paintings by a
couple of kids which seemed fairly innocent at first glance ‚Äď they were pictures of houses and apple trees in the countryside and in one there was a big dog. Looking closer, one
could see that the dog was crying, the windows of the houses were boarded up and there were radiation notices and messages saying, ‚ÄúDon‚Äôt eat the apples.‚ÄĚ
Former Soviet hospitals lack the finances for many of the fundamental things we in the
west take for granted and so conditions inside the hospital were quite basic and the surroundings quite dingy and depressing, but Sunny Wave is trying to make a difference
through the provision of medication and medical equipment, and is working towards establishing a link with cancer clinics in Canada to provide essential diagnostic training
for oncologists in Ukraine. Eventually, they hope to establish an exchange program for personnel from both Canada and Ukraine to share experience, techniques and technology in the area of Oncology.
Sunny Wave uses art, music and game activities as a therapy for the children. These forms of palliative care help
both children and parents emotionally and psychologically, and counselling is another important role that the charity is providing.
Through the dedication of volunteers and paid staff from Sunny Wave, the charity has been responsible for saving the lives of many children in Ukraine.
Much has been achieved by both Today‚Äôs Family and Sunny Wave to make big differences in the lives of many.
The orphanages and the cancer centre struggle to find funding even with the charity‚Äôs help and although the staff try
extremely hard, the houses are often quite dingy and depressing, and surgical operations are often too expensive to be carried out. There is consequently a great need for more funding.
Gallery of Team Activities
Beside taking computers, clothes and toys down to the orphanages in Kyiv, the team from New Horizons Church
also entertained the children with music, face painting, circus tricks and puppet shows as well as well needed support for the dedicated but overworked permanent staff.
click on above row for complete gallery
Gallery of Orphans
All of the children shown here had been abandoned. Some were living rough on the streets and some were drug
addicts before being taken in and helped in orphanages run by Today‚Äôs Family. Yet each child is an individual and each one is special asking for love and care.
click on above row for complete gallery
1 Steve Vetterlein, December 23, 2002 Founder of UOCFP
2 ADRA (Adventist Development & Relief Agency International) News Release May 30, 2003
3 Roman Woronowycz,The Ukrainian Weekly, December 16, 2001, No. 50, Vol. LXIX
4 Andrew Nynka, The Ukrainian Weekly, May 19, 2002, No.20, Vol. LXX
5 Freedom House, December 14, 2000
6. Russia, Ukraine & Belarus, 2nd edition (2000), published by Lonely Planet Publications
7. Dillwyn Williams, Nature 2000, 2:543
8. Alex Kuzma, The Ukrainian Weekly, April 22, 2001, No16, Vol. LXIX
9. Dr. Galina Maistruck, Dr. Vladimir Bannikov, NGO (Womens Health & Family Planning), Ukraine, Report 2002
10. Alfred Zumpano, Press Release, Sunny Wave, 2003