Over the years, as we have cared for orphans, families, and their communities we’ve encountered an overwhelming and often unmet need. Many orphans face pressing medical needs, including emergency surgeries and life-changing procedures, but they lack the funds to pay for them. While the Ukrainian government may promise free medical care for all, the realities of rampant corruption, poverty, and subpar medical facilities make this promise fall drastically short.
Recently, we shared Anton’s tragic story on our Facebook page. Anton was an orphan at Shpola Internat, and after completing 9th grade, he “aged out” of the orphanage and “graduated” to yet another institution. Following Trade School, carrying the stigma of an orphan, no one would hire him locally, so he travelled to Kiev in search of employment. In his younger years at the orphanage, Anton had a USA sponsor and he enjoyed receiving letters & packages and especially his summer visits to Kompas Park camp. Towards the end of Trade School and into his transition into adulthood, he drifted away from us.
However, in March, we got a terrible update from Anton’s older brother. Anton had been in a horrific construction accident; he fell 5 stories from a rooftop down to the ground, nearly crushing his skull. He was in dire need of emergency medical care to repair damage done to his head and body. Taking advantage of an orphan, Anton’s boss refused to accept any responsibility and would not help pay for his medical bills, even though the accident happened under his watch. Anton and his brother’s young family had no funds to pay for the necessary surgery to save his life. Frantic, they had nowhere else to turn.
When we heard about Anton’s desperate situation, we called on our faithful supporters to raise $3,000 for this life saving surgery. We prayed for Anton’s salvation and waited for days as the funds came in. Finally, through the giving of generous donors, we were able to help fund Anton’s surgery. On March 16, Anton underwent surgery to place a titanium plate in his skull to protect his damaged brain. So far, he is recovering well, and his body is not rejecting the plate. Anton’s brother, his wife (along with their 5 small children!) are caring for Anton in their meager home. Anton says he is reading the Bible a little each day, but it is difficult as he is now blind in one eye. Our volunteers are ministering to him on the phone on a regular basis, and Anton says he is now a Believer! Praise God!
Anton’s medical needs may seem rare and extreme, but sadly, they are not. It is not unusual for an orphan in our program to face emergency medical needs without any funds to pay for them. Over the years, we have seen many orphans deal with painful hernias or be rushed into emergency appendectomies. Although the government of Ukraine is supposed to pay for these procedures since the children are wards of the state until age 18, in reality this is not the case. So, the orphanage director or guardians of the children turn to us for financial help.
One of our sponsored orphan graduates, Diana, recently was in dire need of oral surgery to remove her wisdom teeth. Impacted, they were growing sideways in her jaw, cramming all of her other teeth into each other. Diana was in serious pain, and it was only getting worse. Although Diana was told her surgery would be paid for by the state since she has full orphan status, she quickly found out this was not true. When Diana discovered she would be responsible for the cost of her oral surgery, she used her initiative and started a fundraising campaign with her own classmates at her Trade School and with our Youth Group. While her friends gave generously, they could not raise nearly enough to cover the $200 cost. Reluctantly, Diana also turned to us for help, and we were able to contribute what was needed.
While we are thankful for the opportunity to come alongside these orphans in need, we can’t help but be disheartened by the way the State has failed these children and teens - some of the most vulnerable in society. These kids have either been abandoned, orphaned, or forcibly taken away from their parents by Social Services. Then, they were placed in the care of the State. However, when the children face medical needs, whether life-saving surgeries like Anton or necessary procedures to save the quality of their lives like Diana, they are abandoned again by those who are supposed to take care of them. We have seen this problem again and again.
Although orphans are most often the ones in need of financial help to pay for medical procedures, we have also stepped in to help our volunteers and their families in similar situations. One of our most faithful and long-time volunteer families in Ukraine recently faced an urgent need for a medical procedure. Mama L needed emergency kidney surgery to remove a large tumor, so family members immediately scrambled to collect funds. Even though this hardworking pastor’s family had been employed their entire adult lives, they struggled to collect enough money for the surgery.
In Ukraine, most financial transactions are cash-based, meaning it is not easy to borrow money or open a line of credit like it is in the United States. All medical fees must be paid upfront in cash to doctors, nurses, surgeons, anesthesiologists, hospitals, etc.… before any treatment begins. We believe it is part of our responsibility to care for and protect the Ukrainian families who make our ministry possible, so we contributed $2,000 to cover the remaining costs for the surgery. We are grateful to God that Mama L is now recovering at home, although prayers are still needed for her to remain infection free, as she battles to keep her temperature down.
Going forward, we will continue to try to equip and meet the needs of orphans, graduates, and our ministry community in Ukraine. In order to better provide holistic care, we are creating a Hope Now Medical Fund. Our goal is to keep $5,000 in this fund at all times, in order to be ready to respond to medical situations that urgently arise.
How can you help? Give to the Hope Now Medical Fund on our donation page! We believe God has put these medical needs in our path for a reason. Through gracious donors and prayer partners like you, He has provided the resources to help these children and families in need. Ultimately, we know God is Our Healer, and He is the One who creates and sustains life. Will you take a leap of faith and help us provide hope to the sick and vulnerable in Ukraine?O Lord my God,