[slideshow] It didn't take very much effort to convince Oksana and myself to return to Ukraine this summer. We have started volunteering with an organization called Help Us Help the Children, and hope to be working with this organization as camp counsellors this coming August! HUHTC's main goal is to provide aid and support for orphans in Ukraine. One of its biggest projects is sending orphaned children to summer and winter camps in Ukraine, run by both Canadians and Ukrainians.
This past weekend, Oksana and I went to Montreal to help out at a wine and cheese fundraiser for HUHTC. With virtually no idea what the camps were really about, Oksana and I were very excited to learn more about HUHTC and its camp programs. Thanks to conversations we had in the long and cramped van ride, and at the Montreal fundraising event, we learned a lot!
We learned that Help Us Help the Children has now provided 18 years of aid to orphans all across Ukraine. It first started with providing material relief to orphanages all over the country but eventually led to the creation of summer camps in the Carpathian mountains. Its camps are not only very fun, but also very educational. The children and teens acquire life skills such as sewing, computing, and budgeting money which that they will use in their adult lives. They also receive information about the anti-human trafficking initiative, which tries to raise awareness about women being sold into the sex trade and how both men and women can avoid being sold into some form of labour bondage. We also learned that once the orphans turn 18, they are turned away from the orphanage and must fend for themselves. About 50% of boys, within 5 years of leaving orphanages, become part of organized crime, and about 50% of girls enter the sex trade. It is very scary to think that these circumstances become harsh realities to many orphans in Ukraine. But there is hope that these camps will help some of these children and teens learn how to help themselves.
Help Us Help the Children has also created a scholarship fund where Canadians can donate money for a child to go to school for a year. It costs approximately $1500 CAD for room, board and books (which, in my opinion, isn't very much at all).
Oksana and I are really looking forward to this new (and most definitely emotional) experience and have already started planning an art event that we hope will help raise some funds for this worthy cause.