One of our orphan graduates wants to give you an update! You may remember Marina was in the hospital about 3 years ago when she had plastic surgery on her neck and legs to remove painful scars she has carried since childhood (you can read our blog post about it here). She has some great news to tell now!
My name is Marina, which means “sea”. I have only seen the sea once in my life. That was the first time I felt God’s kind eyes looking at me from the sky.
I was born in 2000 in a small village. My parents already had a daughter, so my dad was hoping to have a son. Instead, he had me. My birth was upsetting to him, since he did not want to have any more girls at his house. Besides, he insisted on having a lot of alcohol daily. I think he enjoyed drinking almost too much. My parents divorced right after I was born, leaving me with no memories of what a family was supposed to look like. Unfortunately, drinking too much vodka killed my father, who did not help us out even when he was alive. Our broken family struggled a lot after his death. My mom was barely surviving on the miserable amount of money she earned, trying to at least keep us fed. Eventually, she also started drinking, trying to forget about the constant lack of money and the stressful life of a single mom.
One day she left for work, where she was hired as a factory seamstress, and carelessly left me and my sister under the supervision of her newest boyfriend. At that moment we were young, 8 and 10 years old, and were making decisions on our own without anybody else looking after us. We decided to make tea, which turned into a painful and traumatic experience for my whole family. We splashed boiling hot water on ourselves, severely damaging our skin with life-lasting scars. Our neighbors heard the blood curdling screams from our house and called Social Services, who offered my mom the chance to send us away to an orphanage. Me and my sister were terrified with the idea of being taken away from our only mother. Despite our tears, we left our house because Mom willingly let us go. The separation process was emotionally hard and tiring for me and my sister, resulting in the feeling of longing for a safe family and home.
I studied at the orphanage school for seven years. Even though it was a school, the orphanage aspect to it clearly made a difference: there were many kids from broken families and children with no parents. However, there was always an opportunity for the children to go home for the weekends. Sadly, our mom only took us home when we were in 3rd and 4th grade. She never attended any parent meetings or school events. It was clear that she was ignorant towards her own daughters. Seeing other kids leave to go home while we stayed in the orphanage was heartbreaking. Most of the time I felt weak, hopeless, and unwanted. I missed having a caring, loving, and affectionate mother. Sometimes I wondered why other children had nicer clothes, better opportunities, and more money than me and my sister, who still had a mom that was alive. Despite my childish desire for a caring parent, I was embarrassed by the mom I did have.
The only person who seemed to be interested in our lives and felt sorry for our circumstances was our grandmother. However, she was an old village woman who had no job. This is why I spent most of my vacations with my grandma, always doing some sort of physical labor: collecting wood, planting vegetables, cleaning her house, plowing the soil, or gathering wheat and barley on other people’s fields. Usually, one of the ways to earn money was helping other villagers during the harvest season. Even though I gave most of the money I earned to my mom, she would always spend it all on alcohol and never on us. Sadly, my grandmother died when I was in 8th grade. After her death I was told that me and my sister had no place to live, since my mom decided to go live with another man in a place unknown to me. There was no place I could go to if the orphanage was ever closed. I did not have a place I could call my home.
Years spent in the orphanage were the hardest times of my education. Unfortunately, I only learned about the sorrowful, unfair, anxious, and humiliating parts of life. I prefer not to think or remember about those years. To be honest, the orphanage school was a place of heavy tears, short-lived joy, and hopeless dreams. However, as an upperclassman I noticed that I enjoyed learning. That was also the time I realized how much I loved making art. I learned how to sing on stage, sew clothes for myself, and draw beautiful things to surround me. Finally, I found the strength to decide for myself that I would not give up on my dreams that easily.
During my last year at the orphanage I met Cyndee and others from Hope Now, who offered me the opportunity to attend their Christian camp, Kompas Park. Surprisingly, my mom was against this idea without giving an actual reason. However, I found the courage to convince her to say yes. The summer spent at the Christian camp was filled with meeting new, exciting, and kind people who slowly brought light into my dark life. I was thankful for the time Cyndee was by my side, supporting me, encouraging my ambitions, and giving wise advice for my future dreams. Eventually, I learned that people are good if you love them and treat them first with kindness and respect. After that summer, I was thankful I could look into the future with less fear and regret.
As a 9th grader, I graduated from the orphanage with an incomplete school diploma, which is usually not enough to be hired as a full-time employee for any job in Ukraine. Therefore, I started looking for a Trade School where I could essentially complete my high school years, which would also prepare me for a future career. As I mentioned earlier, I decided to pursue art as a possible job option. First, I applied to a Music Academy where I could only pass one out of two entrance exams. Leaving the dream of becoming a musician behind, I took a place at a local two-year Trade School to become a factory seamstress. I spent hours sewing different fabrics until I realized I had a severe allergic reaction to artificial fabrics. My mouth and my teeth were in such pain it was unbearable to eat and talk. Once again, I had to find another place to study, since I knew I would never be able to survive being a seamstress for a living. I had to start over at the high school level, and I was now 2 years behind everyone else.
In the midst of figuring out what my next steps in education should be as an orphanage graduate, I kept in touch with the church that introduced me to Jesus, His merciful love, and forgiveness. I also faithfully attended the Hope Now Youth Group, which I now consider my real family. Cyndee got me out of the horrible Trade School dormitory I lived at and instead secured me a place at the Hope Now Girls Flat, where I still live to this day.
After a long journey of finding a suitable educational institution, I got accepted into a local Art and Technical College after successfully passing several entrance exams. Even though it took a long time to finally get accepted into this high school, I am thankful that God made it happen despite all the difficulties. After being here for 18 months, in December, my head teacher told me how disappointed he was that I never had anyone show up for the parent / teacher conferences. My English teacher also loudly complained about how lazy I was and didn’t understand why I didn’t know whole sections of grammar. In my frustration, I told Cyndee these things and she immediately asked for a meeting with my teachers. I couldn’t believe it, and I was so excited that finally I would have someone come to my school as my loving family and advocate. Now, my teachers understand more of my social and educational background, and that the reason I am missing certain sections of my education is not due to laziness on my part but rather the neglect I suffered under my previous teachers.
After struggling to constantly raise enough funds to pay for the tuition, the school has also now awarded me with a merit scholarship. I am so grateful that I no longer have to worry about scraping together enough money to cover this vast expense. I really enjoy making art, especially drawing. Since art and technology have become so inseparable from each other, I have slowly started learning digital design, acquiring only some of the most basic skills. As a side hobby, I write blog posts for the school, since it involves creative writing. However, I do not own a laptop or computer of my own, which makes the process of creating and cultivating my art skills complicated and uncomfortable. Currently I am not able to earn enough money to purchase my own laptop without the help of others.
I dream of becoming a skilled designer and learning from professionals how I can develop my own vision for beauty in the world that God created. Every day I think about how thankful I am to have friends and people who truly care about me. Through their love for me I know that God loves me well and always hears my prayers. One day I dream of being able to afford traveling, seeing different art works of famous artists of this world, and hopefully making a small contribution of my own pieces of creation in the art of digital design. My childhood was full of tears, but I believe that God offers me a different world full of His light, open to anyone who searches for it, even me.
Would you like to bless Marina in a practical way? She needs a laptop with a Ukrainian keyboard, so that she can learn how to create digitally. As a senior, Marina has 1 year left at the Art and Technical school she attends, and then we are hopeful that she will be accepted into a university level institution to study CAD. Please go to our donate page and click ORPHAN GRADUATE PROGRAM to make a donation towards her laptop or to purchase it entirely; the cost in Ukraine will be $550. Thank you for helping orphans become valuable contributors to society.
This week would have been our Kids’ Camp at Kompas Park. The happy sounds of laughter, gleeful shouts, and worshipful singing should be reverberating loudly through the camp today. Instead, it is silent. While those of us who have been to Kompas Park Kids’ Camp can picture what this week would have looked like without COVID-19, we realize that to many of you, a day at Kompas Park is unfamiliar. So, we’d like to share what a typical day at Kompas Park Kids’ Camp looks like through the eyes of a camper.