Resume of my trip to the Ukraine,
funded by the
Loughborough College of
Education Commemorative Award

Gemma Toze (Department of English and Drama)

The money I was given for my prize contributed to fund my trip to Odessa in the Ukraine. The principle aim of this trip was to act as a volunteer for the aid project ‘Mission Possible’. Mission Possible is a non-profit Christian organization providing humanitarian aid, education, leadership training and Christian Ministiy. My role covered numerous areas of their work. Daily, a team of us would go out to serve on the feeding programme for the street children. We would bring them basic food and first aid supplies and play various sports with them. We also took a guitar along and sang with them, and they in turn played to us too.

These young people (Aged 9 to 20) have been forced to live on the streets often having been abused by their families and failed by the authorities. Being forced to live independently, they turn to sniffing glue for consolation from their painful existence. In Youngsters enjoying face painting session the summer they are able to cope living on the streets, the temperature being warm, but during the winter they have to live in the sewers to escape the freezing temperatures outside. Though it took time for them to trust us, the joy we were able to bring these young people in our small efforts was so inspiring. Their desperate need for love was more than evident. One day we took a group of the street children to the coast and had a wonderful day with them. We did face painting, played many sports, sang some songs, and enjoyed the sand, sea and woods. We took Ukrainian barbeque food and cooked over an open fire. The children were so polite and grateful, none of them, despite being starving, would eat until we had eaten our share.

Over the two weeks, we visited several state care establishments. With us we took a programme of musical and dramatic performances to entertain the children as well as sharing our faith. The children’s homes and tuberculosis hospitals we visited, despite the best efforts of staff, were very clinical and not particularly welcoming homes for the children.

We also visited a children’s prison and decorated a room for them. The young boys greeted us with warm smiles, despite the hostility of their stone cold surroundings. The children in the prison were generally street children who have been arrested for petty crimes. One 9 year old boy particularly sticks in my mind. We met him in the prison, where he told us how unhappy he was living there due to cruel treatment and little food. Then, when we went out on the feeding programme a few days later, we met this boy who had that morning escaped from the prison. He told us that he had ran all the way back here, about ten miles, and now he had to escape the area as the authorities would be looking for him. Knowing his punishment could be quite severe, he left us tired and scared.

This is just a taster of the work I was involved with and it’s very hard to explain the gravity of some of the situations I witnessed. But I am very grateful to have had this experience, being able to grow personally as well as sharing some of Gods love in a place that so desperately needs help. My church is now attempting to raise the money needed to build a centre for the street children to come to when they need assistance and I hope to return over the next few years.

December  2003
Prizes Committee
Loughborough University
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