September 26, 2008


Do you ever wonder what the church's Humanitarian Program does worldwide? This post is about what we have been doing recently here in Donetsk as Humanitarian Volunteers with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


We just completed another 3-day training on "Strengthening Families". This time it was held here in Donetsk. Our Humanitarian Country Directors, Elder and Sister Lee flew in from Kieve to teach it. Elder Kinghorn and I were the Project Managers which essentially means, we were "the gophers". Sister Lee has been invited by the Ukraine Ministry of Family, Youth and Sports to teach this seminar in 8 cities throughout Ukraine. She will have taught a total of 11 seminars by the time her mission ends in December. This is so exciting because that means in each training she teaches 30-40 participants who will be able to use these skills in their professional practices to help Strengthen the families that they work with. The seminars are offered to Social Workers, Psychologist, Educators, and Foster Care Workers. This last training also had some participants from various private facilities like a drug rehabilitation program and a street children facility.We feel so happy to be here during this time when the Ukraine Ministry has decided to focus their efforts on "Strengthening Families".

Some of you may remember how heart wrenching it has been for Elder Kinghorn and I to see the institutionalized children here. 100,000 children a year live in orphanages in Ukraine. Some of these children admit themselves to the orphanages after being abandoned by parents. Other children choose to live on the streets with other street children. The statistics are just as staggering for the numbers of children who live on the streets, over 100,00 throughout Ukraine. Sister Lee has told of stories of visiting day facilities where street children can come to have a hot meal and bath and meeting children who live on the street that are as young as 5 years of age. One day she visited a center that had over 30 children and not one of them was over 13 years old. These children are growing up not only homeless, but without parents. The other deeply disturbing thing we have seen is children being placed in facilities because they are born with a disability. It wasn't long ago we toured a facility that was one of the better equipped "baby houses" that we have seen. A baby house is a place that children under 4 years of age are brought if they have been abandoned by their parents, or parental rights have been removed. They said that most of their "healthy" children are adopted , which is wonderful. What disturbed me was when we entered the wing where the "invalids" ( their term for children with any disability) were it was like we had entered a different facility. The rooms were lacking the same cheery feeling that we had felt as we had toured the other wings. Groups of 4 or 5 children sat in large playpens with absolutely no toys. Some of them had developed ways to provide self stimulation by rocking or banging their heads, others quickly stood as we approached and reached out their hands to us as they tried to speak. One little girl saw Elder Kinghorn and began to cry hysterically and scoot as far away from him as she could get. One little boy asked Elder Kinghorn over and over again, "are you a bad man?"

The solution to these problems is not to build more facilities it is to find ways to keep children in their homes. It is to teach people how to parent. We are teaching husbands and wives how to be good examples to their children, and how to express love to each other and their children. The concepts we teach are common to many of us but very new to the families in Ukraine. Some of the topics are, Communicating with Love, Discipline without punishment, Helping children be responsible, Having fun as a family, Family council time, Family traditions. So that is why we are so glad to see the Ministry placing the emphasis on "Strengthening Families". We are even more excited that the Church's Humanitarian Program can help contribute to the solution of a very disturbing problem.

When we first arrived here in Ukraine I felt like the problems were so huge and that there was very little we could do to change the way the Ukrainian people treat their children. I have seen Heavenly Fathers hand in the work we do here. Some days I feel like I am walking along a beach filled with starfish that have washed ashore. I look out and see so many that I will never be able to save, but then I remember that the one life that I do affect will make a difference to that child. So each time we do a training, I think,

aybe there is one woman here who will decide not to hit her child tonight. Maybe there is one mommy who will read her little one a bedtime story and tell her "I love you" for the very first time. Maybe tonight one mom will go home and call her family together for their very first Family Home Evening. Maybe one mommy will decide that even though it is hard she will do all within her power to keep her family together".
I am so grateful to be an instrument in his hands. We are so blessed. Kiss your children tonight. Thank your husband for being a good daddy and good example to your children. Thank all of the people in your life that help you to raise the children our Heavenly Father has placed in your care.

9 messages from friends and family:

dixiewhitehead said...

Beautiful message!

Jane Anne said...

It does seem overwhelming...I like what you said about thinking about it one person at a time. It's such a sad situation, and I imagine it is emotionally difficult to deal with everyday. You're doing a wonderful thing!

Melinda said...

Thanks to both of you. Your comments are always so encouraging and uplifting. When I wonder if anyone is reading the blog I always know that you two are. Thank you so much for the support.

Hey it's Amy Shipp said...

I just found your blog! How sad yet hopeful this post was... Our son just got his mission call yesterday to Donetsk. I would like to invite you to read my blog also. email me please for an invite. sandrubysparkles at gmail dot com

McEwens said...

You are doing a great work there, I can feel it in your post, your passion, your love for the kids and Heavenly Father. One at a time.. the same way the Lord helps us....
You post touched me about all the children brought to the states to be adopted out, and the pain they would feel when they had to go back home..
I dont know how long you have been out....but I am glad you are sacrificing to be there
Pam McEwen

yul'ka said...

Wow. You make me miss it so much and wish I could be there to serve again. My name is Julie Kinghorn (Cectpa Hiltunen when I served in the Donetsk mission 97-99). Is this Elder Kinghorn related to Todd Kinghorn-- the Kinghorns from Idaho? He served in Siberia, and we married 6 years ago. Just wondering. Wouldn't that be even more special? :) Pres. McQueen posted this blog address on the mission site, and I can assure you that I will be visiting it often. Thank you so much for your words. You write and describe it well, which can be a difficult thing at times. My love to you and everyone there.

Lisa said...

Great blog! I'm over in Poland living with my young family and my Polish husband. I'm sure we have many of the same struggles as you do in the Ukraine, although Poland is more westernized. I wish you guys the best in your work. It sounds like you are already making a difference there! Keep up the good work. I will pray for you guys and think of you now and again, even though I don't know you.

Mother Goose said...

The children in the orphanages are they able to be adopted? Are any siblings? Does the church handle adoptions through these orphanages? I feel such a ramat of emotions. sadness, hope, frustration, and love.

Miner Notes. said...

Thanks for your comments. I am a former sister missionary (served in 1999-2001) and felt those same feelings. This is the first time I have looked at your blog and I really love it. Thanks for working hard to share your experiences with us. I found your blog through our mission website. Keep up the good work!!

Saints in Ukraine (put music on pause)

My music

click on the photo to see the captions

Armenia Trip

Our last Zone Conference

Some of the faces we will miss

Our trip to Mariupol

March Zone Conference in Donetsk(click on photo to view a larger version)

Missionaries helping the International Relief Development unload a container from America

Health Fair click on the photo to see what is coming up

To listen to this talk you will need to put the music on pause first

Sometimes we forget what divine gifts we have been given. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, 2nd Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


Look at the fun equipment we got to deliver to this internat for Special Needs children

Europe East Area District Meeting


OUR APARTMENT (this is not an average missionary apartment)




Click on photo to see more photos of the Open House at the Kalininsky blg