Dnipro Kids Update – September 2019


September saw two of our committee members, Stevie Carr and Duncan MacRae, travel to Ukraine to visit the orphanages and take the kids on a hotly anticipated trip to the country’s south coast.

But, in the days leading up to the journey south, we once again teamed up with Dnipro-based volunteers to take war-affected children on an amazing kayaking adventure to a remote island on the river Dnepr.

Dnipro Kids first got involved in supporting these children, who have lost their fathers in the war against Russia, back in 2016 when we assisted with a project to bring 20 of the children to Edinburgh for a short break.

Since then, volunteers have continued the work to help the children deal with their personal trauma and recover emotionally, and we have been delighted to support their efforts.

September 8
On the day of the kayaking expedition, the children met down at the bank of the river Dnepr where they were given safety instructions and coaching on how to handle the inflatable boats.

After being seperated into groups of three, they had to get to work on inflating their kayaks before setting off on the 5km trip to the Shevski Ostrov island, escorted by the Dnipro River Police (which would would later be extremely thankful for!)

On arrival at the island, the children were given various lessons in survival skills, including navigation, cooking and shelter construction.

And, once they had prepared lunch for everyone, the kids were very happy to get the chance to relax and recharge their batteries after a tiring morning of activities – and another 5km kayak trip back to our starting point still to come.

On the journey back, the sun began to set fast and the police very kindly offered to tow some of the more weary children back to the river bank.

The kids agreed it had been a fantastic experience and will no doubt all have slept well that night! We’re looking forward to continuing to support volunteers in Ukraine with their work to help these children.

September 9
The following day, Stevie and Duncan (with aching muscles after their exertions on the river) visited the Hasanskaya orphanage where one of the boys, Dima, was celebrating ‘graduating’ from the orphanage as he was turning 18.
Dnipro Kids has supported Dima since 2007 when he was at the larger Odinkovka orphanage.

It has been wonderful to have been a part of his life growing up, and we wish him all the best as he turns 18 and moves on to college life.

At his graduation party, Dima was presented with gifts from Dnipro Kids, which will hopefully help him to settle in to life in college dormitory.

We were also joined by the Shevchenko orphanage family, which is based just a couple of minutes walk away. As has become tradition at the Hasanskaya orphanage, graduation kids have to endure a slideshow of photos of themselves and their orphanage families from years gone by.

It was an emotional experience for the members of the orphanage as they recounted previous trips Dima had been on with Dnipro Kids. There were more than a few chuckles at some of the more embarrassing photos, but Dima seemed to enjoy the experience.

While visiting the orphanage, it was great to see the classroom and play park, which orphanage dad Yura has constructed for the kids – both of which are also utilised by the Shevchenko kids.

Following their visit to the Hasanskayas, Stevie and Duncan had time to visit the Shevchenko orphanage where they were able to see how some of the kids are settling in and check the status of some orphanage renovation work.

Nadya and Sergei Shevchenko transformed their home into a family orphanage in 2017 when they took in four boys. More recently, following the closure of the Igren orphanage due to Slavik and Yana relocating to Poland for employment opportunities, the Shevchenkos took in another six children.

Since then, the Shevchenkos have begun some construction work to create more bedroom space for the kids, although this work has been put on hold as Sergei has sadly taken ill and begun chemotherapy. However, we were delighted to see that the boys are all happy and being very well cared for.

September 10
The next day, the big trip to the south coast began – with an overnight train journey. Although some people might dread such a journey, the kids always see it as part of the adventure and, with all the excitement, encouraging them to get some sleep can be a challenge.

Fortunately, though, after an hour or so of socialising, everyone soon called it a night, meaning they were all raring to go the next day.

September 11
The kids arrived in the city of Mykolayiv at 7am and, after a spot of breakfast to get the energy levels up, they began a morning of excursions, which included a visit to the city’s ship building museum situated in Ancient House.

Built in the style of the ancient Russian classicism, it once served as a base for the main commanders of the Black Sea Fleet from 1794 to 1900.

The museum details the entire history of shipbuilding in the area, from the earliest navigation attempts in ancient Rus through Tsarism and the Soviet era right up to the modern-day independent Ukraine. The museum boasts almost 3,000 exhibits, including a variety of model ships and collections of cannons, which the children found fascinating.

Interestingly, there was also a ‘St Andrew’s flag’ on display, although it was a blue cross on a white background. The Russian Navy ensign, also known as the St Andrews’ flag, was the ensign of the Navy of the Russian Empire from 1712 to 1918, and is the naval flag of the Russian Federation.

After lunch, much of the afternoon was spent at the Skazka Children Park City. The ’city’ is full of play parks, arcade games, ponds, fountains and much more, but it was a life-size toy train that drew most of the children’s attention.

September 12
At breakfast the next morning, the kids were all asking just one question…were we going to go swimming? The answer was “yes”! There had been talk of a potential storm, which would have put a stop to our planned boat ride. But, with the weather remaining calm and sunny, to the children’s delight, swimming remained very much on the cards.

But first, there were some more sights to see, including a visit to the river Dnepr to check out the stunning views where the water spills out into the Black Sea.

The kids were particularly intrigued by the locals who were quietly fishing on the riverbank, with one fisherwoman happy to pass on some fishing tips. The river is rich in bream, perch, carp, sheatfish, tench and pike, although tiddlers seemed to be the catch of the day.

Next up on the tour of Kherson was a trip to St. Catherine’s Cathedral, built in 1781–1786, making it one of the earliest churches in the region.

The kids enjoyed exploring the cathedral’s beautiful gardens and wonderful interior, as well as learning about its rich history. The architectural design is thought to have been developed by Ivan Starov, who worked extensively for Prince Grigory Potemkin, the founder of Kherson and Mykolayiv. The prince was buried in the cathedral grounds when he died in 1791 during negotiations over the Treaty of Jassy, which ended a war with the Ottoman Empire.

Upon leaving the cathedral, the children boarded their coaches for the journey to Skadovsk where a boat was waiting to take them to Dzharylhach island – dubbed the Maldives of Ukraine.

The kids loved the boat ride, which took about one hour, and were grateful for the calmer waters than expected. And, after docking at the island and stepping onto the clean, white sandy beach, it was clear to see how it had got its nickname.

The stunning 56km2 island, part of the Dzharylhach National Nature Park, is home to a wide range of wildlife, including boars, deer, mouflon, seagulls, cormorants, hunting crabs, whelks and shrimp. It also has more than 400 small salt lakes and a fresh water spring.

The children got their wish – to spend the afternoon swimming in the warm Black Sea, as well as chilling on the beach, playing games and collecting a couple of seashell souvenirs. Eventually, after refuelling with some refreshing watermelon, it was time to board the boat once again and head back to the mainland to rest up for the following day’s excursions.

September 13
A good night’s sleep was needed before heading to Kherson’s Askania-Nova biosphere reserve.

One of the most popular places for eco-tourism in Ukraine, the reserve is spread out over more than 33,000 hectares.
The adventure began with a journey into the reserve’s dendrology garden – a green oasis made up of more than 500 species of trees and bushes. It’s also home to in excess of 200 species of foliaceous and coniferous plants, which were brought from different parts of the world and planted in the dendrologic garden between 1885 and 1902.

The park is also decorated with man-made ponds and lakes, where a large number of birds nest. Animals are also free to graze here throughout most of the year, and it’s not uncommon to spot bison, horses, llamas and zebras.

During the walk, the children were encouraged to collect some acorns and chestnuts ahead of their visit to the reserve’s zoo adjacent to the gardens, as they would be allowed to feed these to the animals.

And, sure enough, the children found plenty of animals that were more than happy to gobble up the treats.

The kids were having a great time and could have stayed here all day – there was certainly plenty to keep them entertained. But after a few hours of exploring just a fraction of massive nature reserve, it was time to head to the train station.

And, with daylight fading fast, it was time to hop on the train for another overnight journey back to Dnipro. Upon arrival back in their home city, there were some emotional goodbyes as always.

September 14
Although the kid’s trip to the south coast was now at an end, their holiday continued, as September 14 was a citywide day of celebration – a day to celebrate all things Dnipro.

Events included live music and dancing, as well as a colourful parade that seemed to go on for hours in a fantastic carnival atmosphere.

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