Everywhere We Go! – Ukraine, October 2006 (Donation 17)

Kiev School of Arts
Kiev City Orphanage – Kiev, Ukraine

Wednesday 11 October by Carey McEvoy

This fixture caught our imagination more than most, thanks to a large Ukrainian expat population in Scotland, and also the 20th anniversary of Chernobyl.

During the 6 months prior to the match we raised almost £12,000 to add to the normal Sunshine Appeal donation, a range of activities and donations culminating with a dinner dance which was equally attended by Scots and Ukrainians.

We were able to identify two children’s charities to donate to….with the help of the Ukrainian Consul  in Edinburgh and Alina Kisina, a Ukrainian photographer now living in Edinburgh.

Alina suggested the Kiev Special School of Arts for Children with Impaired Vision, which turned out to be an inspirational place. Home to 120 children with no more than 3% vision, by working on crafts and music they provide the children with the means to make a living when they grow up. This in a country where there is no State support other than what’s necessary to barely keep the children alive, and where most disabled and uneducated children are destined to a life of poverty and misery.

The Consul suggested one of the Kiev City Orphanages, asking that we support a particular home which functions as a rehabilitation centre – homeless children brought off the streets are shaved and scrubbed, their clothes burned, and then they’re looked after for 3 months. If they have recovered sufficiently psychologically they are then placed in a permanent orphanage.

What did we donate?

With Alina’s help we had found out before the trip what the Special School required:

Repair work to fire escapes; A new medical room; Glasses; Special stationery; Medication

After a bit of chat we decided to donate £5,000 towards these items, plus cash for a slap up meal to make our visit a bit more memorable for the children. Also, in the build up to the trip Tartan Army and friends began to flood Tartankiev with donated clothes, toys, sweets, stationery etc. In the end we were able to arrive at the school with over a dozen kit bags full of good quality donations, plus 120 bags of sweets donated by Kirkaldy Tartan Army.

Of all the practical items that our donation paid for, the medical room will have the biggest long-term benefit. Essentially what is now a run-down cupboard will be transformed into a room where children who feel unwell will be able to head off for a wee bit of TLC and a lie down.

The City Orphanage had come to our attention almost on the eve of the trip, so we had less idea what they’d need. However we thought it would be fair to donate the same amount of £5,000, and also to try and make their week as much of a treat as possible with food, drinks and treats.

The Trip

Monday 9th October

The week started with a taxi ride to the Special School of Arts for children with impaired vision. After 20 minutes the taxi wound it’s way up a narrow, shabby residential street. As we started to wonder if we were lost the school came into view – a large red-stone building, and a lot nicer than we’d expected.

I was accompanied by Oleksa, Christine and Leshia Demianczuk – parents and sister of Alex Demianczuk who had co-founded TartanKiev. Oleksa and Christine both left Ukraine after WWII to settle in Edinburgh, and were proud to be back representing their adopted home. They were also extremely useful translators!

We were met there by David and Heather Giles from the British Embassy – Aberdeen fans but ok despite that, their assistance during the week was vital.

Galina, the Governess of the school, met us in her office. After some quick introductions we got down to business, confirming what the money would buy and arranging the party for Thursday. We were then given a tour of the school, meeting some of the children in their classes and having quick look at the room that would be converted into the new medical room – where children who feel unwell will be able to head off for a wee bit of TLC and a lie down.

Galina then took me to her Bank where I deposited £5,000 into the School’s account, paid some invoices for them and also changed some cash into Ukrainian shoogles to pay for a slap-up party meal for all the children on Thursday (and probably Friday, Saturday…)

In the afternoon we met up with a Government official who had us driven to Kiev City Orphanage (Pritulok) Number 5, which was about as nice as it sounds. If the inspirational Special School deserved help, then No. 5 is a place that desperately needs it. Stuck out in an estate well out of the centre of Kiev, this place brings to mind all the old Soviet, Eastern Bloc images.

We met the Home’s Governess, who made it clear that she couldn’t accept any monetary donations – anything they received would have simply been deducted from their already meagre State funding – so instead they compiled a list of what they needed. Later, David Giles was kind enough to volunteer to do the “shopping”. Nice of him, especially since he’d just spent 2 hours getting lost on the way out.

We were then treated to a show – singing and dancing by children, with another 50 of the shaven-headed weans enthusiastically clapping and singing along.

Tuesday 10th October Tuesday started disastrously as I scrambled around to collect all 20-something kit-bags of donated clothes, toys, bedding etc which a small army of TA had volunteered to carry over for us. Just to make it more challenging I managed to lose my mobile in a taxi before I’d managed to recover any of the bags.

The upshot was that we travelled to Kiev City Orphanage (Pritulok) Number 5 with nothing to give them, except Spud the Piper and change from their daily routine.

When we arrived near the home, 3 of us (Lesia, Bob Shields and myself) made an impromptu visit to a nearby supermarket, where we loaded up as many shopping trolleys as we could with party food and drink – this hopefully provided the kids with a few days of treats.

Once at the home the children waited to treat us to another show, but while they sat in the hall waiting for us the first thing they heard was Spud the Piper.  This was great fun for the children, wondering what the hell the racket was as Spud led us up the stairs, down the corridor and into the room. The previous day’s “rehearsal” had worked a treat because the kiddies put on a better performance and seemed much more confident, moving quite a few of their TA guests to tears.

Afterwards we got a quick tour of the accommodation (see photos) and then agreed that the Governess would provide David with a shopping list.

Returning to town I just felt numb and depressed for those poor children.

Note: David has put a massive amount of work since the trip, buying as much of the stuff on their list as possible with the £5,000 that we donated. (See what we donated)

Thursday 12th October Thursday was a much happier affair. Somehow i’d jammily managed to cobble all the kitbags together, thanks to people lending me their mobiles and also by just bumping into folk.

The Embassy kindly provided us with a minibus onto which we loaded around 20 kitbags, along with several TA – Chris Turner, Big Al, Tartan Sheep (Lynsey Menzies), Mr Sheep, as well as drummer Gordon Brown and his friends.

After another quick tour of the school/home Gordon drummed us into a large room where all the children were sitting. That was followed by an impressive concert by the children, including a brass-instrument display by 4 lads who it turns out have won many awards.

It was really nice to watch the kids together. Although they race around the home, on closer inspection you spot that their all holding each other, guiding each other round the place. Highlight for me was watching them watching the show – they really love the music, clapping along the whole time….and also teasing each other – one wee lad in particular finding it hilarious to wave his hands right in front of the faces of other, blind kids. After a moving speech by Galina we had a peak at the dining room, which had been prepared for a party for the children….have to say the food looked terrific.

The Crack of Dawn TA turned up just as we were leaving but they got a tour after us, a reward for their fantastic fundraising.

And that was that. Half a year of organisation, fundraising, exasperation and eventually some success, topped-off with the usual mix of sadness and happiness. Happiness to be able to help, but sadness at seeing the situation of these children.

Oh well.