Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Today is the mid-point of our stay in Ukraine.  We continue to enjoy the beauty of the season and the surrounding landscape, nature itself camouflaging many things that have fallen into non-function and disrepair.
Lush gardens due to plenty of rain
The rain also obscures the depth of the potholes
Wild poppies and purple larkspur line the roadsides.  Early potatoes and cucumbers are being harvested. There are still fresh strawberries.  Olga Simeonovna, our former receptionist, has a cherry tree in her yard.  We've eaten our fill.

It has been a week of celebrations marking the end of the school year. We accepted invitations to four different events.  We know that Ukrainians love to celebrate and this year was no disappointment.  On Friday we attended the "Last Bell" at the Russian school.  It is a traditional ceremony full of pomp and circumstance celebrated after all studies are finished, but before final exams.
Graduates are dressed in a school uniform similar to what they wore when they entered first grade - the girls wearing white aprons over dark dresses and white bows in their hair.  The event began at 8 a.m. and lasted a full two hours.  The student body, relatives and teachers gathered around the plaza in front of the school.  There was singing, dancing, many speeches and symbolic traditions such as releasing balloons and also doves into the air.


Rudy was asked to say a few words to the graduates.  The celebration concluded with a first grader on the shoulder of a graduate circling the school ground ringing a bell.  This is the last bell - the torch is being passed to a new generation.  We hope that these beautiful young people will have opportunities to "soar" when they leave school.  It may well be in their power to help bring about change however there are very few local opportunities.  It has been our privilege this year to provide all the necessary technical equipment for a 15 student language lab.  The state pays teacher's salaries but little else in terms of upgrades, repairs, new innovations.  A lot lies on the shoulders of parents.

Students are taught academics in the mornings, 8:30-12:30.  In the afternoons they have the option of attending a music school, sports school, or craft school.  These institutions receive very little government funding, parents again have to subsidize.  We were invited to attend the final concerts of the Tokmak and Molochansk music schools and were so impressed.
Tokmak Music School
Molochansk Music School
Ukrainian children love to perform.  They are taught rhythm and music almost as soon as they learn to walk and talk.  They are such graceful dancers.  Their teachers sew all their costumes.  On occasion they have requested our help to purchase fabric.  We have made it possible for them to enter competitions where they have often excelled.
Prishib Orphanage graduation
Another organization we have helped over the years is the Prishib orphanage located near Molochansk.  We are told that typically 20% are orphans whose parents have died and 80% are social orphans - having been abandoned, parents living in poverty unable to care for them often due to alcohol and drug abuse.  We attended the graduation ceremony of 11 young people.  These must leave the orphanage at age 17.  Some will go on to trade school.  Statistics for successful community living are not very encouraging.

This morning the Molochansk Music School band came to the Mennonite Centre to entertain seniors that come for lunches twice a week - the final concert of their school year.

It was a bright sunny day.  The band set up in our yard and played for an hour to a very appreciative audience.  Many of the senior band members have graduated and left, therefore the current band is young, but enthusiastic.  Over the years we have provided most of the instruments for this band, allowing them to do well in regional competitions.  It was a joy to hear them perform.  Our gratitude to those who have donated to enrich the lives of these young people who are already making a positive impact in their community.

For more information on the work of the Mennonite Centre, please go to 
http://www.mennonitecentre.ca/  Also check out Mennonite Centre Ukraine Facebook page
(Click on pictures to enlarge)

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