Friday, April 23, 2010


Bright red tulips everywhere we look, blossoming trees, buzzing bees, singing birds, serenading dogs - spring has arrived! In the space of a few days the face of earth has been transformed. Spring, the season of new life and new growth sends our thoughts winging toward youth again.

In the last week we visited several young people living with disabilities. We had the joy of celebrating Katya Samofalova's eighth birthday. She suffers from cerebral palsy, but there is nothing the matter with her mind. When we arrived she greeted us in three languages, - zdrastvuitje, guten tag, hello. Katya is a second grade student living in the village of Dolina. Due to her lack of mobility teachers visit her home each afternoon. Not only is she a good student, she also writes poetry. We presented her with a little booklet including her own poetry and pictures of her classmates. The following poem is a translation from Russian to German by her principal and then to English.

I Love

I love nature
and beautiful weather,
children's laughter
and being together -
all that makes the world
a wonderful place!

I love all the animals
and all the birds
which God our Father
made in love.
He always thinks of me!

Katya has a way of winning the hearts of people. Her principal, Marina Romanova, dreamed of providing a computer for Katya. Little by little, money was raised. Marina lobbied for funds as far away as the government in Kiev and Katya is now the proud possessor of a notebook. Three years ago FOMCU provided a wheelchair. Katya is a very special young girl with a zest for life.

Alyona Obernikina is 10 years old and lives on the outskirts of Molochansk. She was born hearing disabled - on the scale of one to four she is classified a three. Her father is one of our night watchmen. Monday through Friday she stays in a facility close to Zaporozhye. Here, among other studies, she receives one-on-one instruction in language, lip reading and learning to speak audibly. This is possible because FOMCU pays for her tutor. There is an optimum time for this type of learning and we don't want her to miss out. Alyona is capable and also artistic. When we visited she was a little shy initially, but warmed up and showed us booklets of her artwork and penmanship. She has a beautiful script. Also it was exciting to hear her and her mother hold a short verbal conversation.

Were this 120 years ago Alyona may have been attending the school for the deaf built by Mennonites in the village of Tiege, a half hour drive south of Molochansk. In its time this was a state-of-the-art institution and had the reputation of being the best school for the deaf in all of Russia. Teachers were trained in places as far away as St. Petersburg and Frankfurt. The building still exists but is in poor condition. Busts of Marx and Lenin hold pride of place in the front yard. The last time we were there the mayor, showing us around, pointed to these statues and remarked "Which one is deaf and which one is dumb."

Sasha Mezunsky is not disabled but became disfigured due to an accident. He is 13 and lives in the village of Novokhorivka 45 minutes north of Molochansk. Three years ago his parents brought him to the Centre asking for help. Sasha had been watching his older brother working on a motorbike when an accidental explosion caused severe burns to 65% of his body. Sasha was hospitalized for 2 months and had much skin grafting done; other donors were required. As time went by and he was growing it became evident that the scarred areas weren't stretching. What Sasha needed at that time was a surgical implant to administer silicone. The family asked for financial assistance; this procedure could only be done in Dnepropetrovsk. We were able to help them and today Sasha is a well-adjusted grateful boy, shown here with his school principal.

To be continued next week.

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