Sweaty hands – warm hearts
On my very first visit to Shpola orphanage, in November 2014, I fell in love with the Pikuyev kids.
That visit was a blur of meeting 170 excited children plus Directors, teachers and caregivers. I didn’t have much time to spend with the children, as I was there to finalize plans for our first summer camp scheduled for the following week. But as I was touring the grounds, I felt hot, sweaty hands gently clutching mine. That’s when I met Dima & Bogdan – two of the Pikuyev brothers – and from then on, they were always at my side.
Over the next two years, our teams of Ukrainian and USA volunteers made numerous trips to Shpola, where we got to know all 7 of the Pikuyev children. Everyone who meets these kids, simply falls in love with them. They are all so open, loving and sweet spirited. This summer, we got to know their mother too.
Many orphans at Shpola have a parent or family member, but for a variety of reasons, the kids have been sent away to an orphanage. During the school year children live at the orphanage, but most are released to their guardians during the summer holidays. That is the case with the Pikuyev children. Their single mother, Natasha, lives in poverty. She loves her kids very much but her job in a glass factory does not provide enough income to put food on the table year round. Often times, there is not even enough food for the family through the summer months.
In July, Mama Natasha gave us permission to bring 5 of her kids to a week-long church camp in Hootery, about 2 hours away from Shpola. A meeting point was arranged and I rented a bus to collect them. We spent the day together in Cherkassy, with McDonald’s being the first stop. They loved it – especially the playground! Then, we went shopping. Their shoes were literally falling apart and had to be thrown away. We had a great day and even went on a boat ride before the short trip to Hootery. There, they were hosted by the families of Luda & Natasha -- 2 fantastic Ukrainian volunteers that have been to Shpola with me many times. That night the Pikuyevs had their first baths with hot water, bubbles and in a real bath tub. Luda & Natasha couldn’t get them out!
Needless to say, the kids had a wonderful week full of attention, good food, giggles, music, new clothes, toys, fun, fellowship and love. They heard the Gospel throughout the week, and prayed together each day. They experienced the warmth of a Christian family and witnessed how a mother and father can live together in peace and love. Bogdan became very sick, and we took him to the hospital for tests. He insisted he did not want to go home and his mother agreed. In fact, he had to stay in the hospital the entire week, and we are still waiting for a diagnosis. At the end of the week, our rented bus returned to take the kids home – and that’s when we met Mama Natasha in person and saw where they lived. The photos speak for themselves…
Mama Natasha trusts us and has agreed to accept our help. Luda & Natasha’s church will provide the labor to make much needed repairs to the home. They are also searching for a used refrigerator, as the family has none. We have brought food, medicines and other supplies to the home. Luda and her mother will visit Mama Natasha regularly to encourage her. Even though it was a long walk, on Sunday the Pikuyev family went to church in Shpola for the first time. Please pray for this precious family, and for their journey forward.
To help this and other families having similar living situations, click the link and donate to Family Assistance on the Donate page