When I got to Ukraine from the airport, the first thing I noticed was the fresh air and the weird smell. Looking around it looked more rural than Fresno and there weren’t very many people around. Driving to the HFO house I noticed a lot more “free” greenery (weeds/freely grown grass) throughout the streets, with simple smaller roads and houses around with different architecture. Each house appears to be individually made as opposed to commercially made, like suburbs in the states. As we explored the city, there was a lot more older architecture, with old cobblestone and huge statues throughout the city, commemorating famous poets, playwrights and previous government officials.
The locals usually know right away that you are American and might make fun of you for being a foreigner, but they will help you with whatever you need. The thing that stuck with me the most was the “freedom” that exists here. There are a lot of small businesses and fewer regulations than in the U.S.
One thing I’m really jealous of is the simple state of mind that exists here. It seems the people here care more about family and relationships than materialistic things or reputation. The locals are really independent, but will lend a helping hand when needed. This simple lifestyle is something I wish we would adopt more in the U.S.
The thing I’m looking forward to is working with the kids in the camp. Last night we spoke with girls who were part of the Ukrainian team, and they told us that last year they had a lot of kids with disabilities (visually impaired, deaf, and mental disabilities). Nobody really knew how to interact with them, so they ended up keeping them separated from the general population. This really surprised me after learning so much about the importance of inclusion of people of all abilities while working at Break The Barriers.
I see how God wanted our team to come out here to help with this issue, and I’m very excited to get to work. I began teaching a few girls how to communicate with kids on the autism spectrum and how to interact with those who are blind and deaf, and I look forward to continuing to educate them when we get to camp. Please pray for us as we head into camp, that as a team we love these kids well, teach them about the gospel, and educate everyone here about importance of inclusion. Thank you for your continued love and support, and God bless.
- Steve S.