I think I have been hesitant to start sharing the news, because after months of dead ends, my plans for Ukraine in July are suddenly becoming a reality. Some of you have heard, but a lot haven’t because I couldn’t get any concrete answers and thought I would have to forgo the trip…I will be headed to Lviv for about 10 days -2 weeks to continue some of the work and investigations I began last summer. Last summer, I was in Ukraine and got to work with the St. Nicholas Foundation via Oksana Leseiko, as well as met two amazing guys, Brett and Mike, who were all doing work in the orphanages/exploring what resources there are for these children. “Orphans” in Ukraine or places for these children are not always because the children have no parents. Some do not, but there are varying degrees of facilities. Some children are taken away from their parents as well due to alcoholism or other abuse in the home. What I didn’t know until my first hand experience, was that a lot of places referred to as orphanages are actually places where they keep children with various disabilities or illnesses. Some children are sent away by their parents because they are not wanted for this reason (the stigma based on religious beliefs is sometimes that this is the work of the devil), some are taken from their families by the government, and for many, there are no other resources for their circumstances and this seems like the only solution. While some homes have great providers and offer schooling and a proper environment for the children, many are indescribable. The fact that these are human beings at all is disregarded. Nutrition, clothing, hygiene, medical attention are given little or no consideration. Part of this is corruption of the people in charge, part is a stigma against disabilities or illness, and some a simple lack of education. It seemed like there were so many combinations of factors and extremes that all of us visiting the various facilities felt a bit overwhelmed and unsure how to help or where to start. What I was able to process at the end of it all was that I really wanted to provide resources for these children through movement. To build on the work I am doing in India, and to continue partnering with Promethean Spark International to make a change by teaching life skills through dance. What I realized though was that there are many children who would benefit from movement but are not physically able to “dance” in the standard way we use the term. This is where I hope gaining an education as a physical therapist will help me bridge the gap between bettering lives through movement and the population of children like those in Ukraine.
That was a long background in how I arrived at wanting to return to Ukraine, but I realized I never really had a chance to express that. Again, I also think I was hesitant to speak it and then have it all slip away. But at last some of my plans are coming together. My exploration into how these programs can become a reality continues as I have gained the amazing opportunity of being able to work with the Dzherelo Rehabilitation Centre in July. They are a rehabilitation center on the outskirts of Lviv that “give children with special needs the opportunity to develop their talents and social skills allowing for maximum integration into society. This is done through the use of progressive study methods, physiotherapy, psychotherapy and social work, maintaining open communication with parents and providing the highest standard of care by supporting staff through professional development.” Children and their parents travel from all over for the services provided at the center. For the time I can spend, I will have the opportunity to learn more about how they implement their programs, what they are treating and how, and to also run some movement classes for those that are medically cleared to be involved with my level of training at this time.While pioneering new programs take time, I am really excited at taking the next steps. My hope and long term goal is that we can incorporate more programs like the one I am working with in India for these children and that I can expand my knowledge and education to become qualified to create movement programs for a broader range of capabilities. Welcome to the journey.