Message from the Shirokolanovka Boarding School, Ukraine

Bettsy Madison Williams, e-mail message to Michael Miller, 30 September 2003.

Hello Everyone,

This past May, my mother and I had the wonderful opportunity to spend six days at the Shyrokolanivska Boarding School for Orphans and Abandoned children where Maria Honcharenko is the assistant director. My previous visit to this orphanage was in June 2000. There is a tremendous difference in the children of the from that time to our recent visit. In 2000, the children were very thin and receiving half of the minimal nutritional standards as set by the
World Health Organization for proper child development. NOW, they receive an adequate diet, and their health has improved. I found the orphanage to be a place brimming with goodness, hope, and beautiful, friendly children. True, there are many needs, but there is abundant love and caring for the children. The children are not as skinny as they were three years ago; they smile lots, and are polite and charming. They study diligently their lessons and are becoming literate in both the Ukrainian and Russian languages. The staffs that teach and work at the orphanage are to be admired for their dedication and hard work. They are very successful in their endeavors.

Thank you so much for your continued support. Here is the latest letter from Maria.


July 27, 2003

Former German village of Landau, Beresan District

Dear Bettsy,

Time goes by so quickly! It has been two months since we parted. I enjoy the memories of the time we spent together. It’s a pity that a moment of bliss is so short. I will keep those unforgettable splendid impressions throughout my lifetime since I have seen so much and was blessed to be able to communicate with you.

I returned to my daily work. There’s always much of it, especially during the summer time. I go to school each day. June 16 we sent the children to the camp for a rest and began preparing the school for the new school year. We have finished whitewashing the walls, painting the windows, doors and floors. One part of the staff went on vacation; others are working with the children at the camp. The children like the camp, and the directors at the camp are pleased with our kids. We gladly go and see them at the camp and listen to them telling their news. It is so enjoyable to see the happy children’s smiles. They all send you their greetings.

We held the bid for the washing machine. The company issued the bill and promised to deliver the machine within 20 days. We will have it by the beginning of the school year. We thank you, Michael, and everyone who was so kind to help us purchase this washing machine. You cannot imagine how nice it will be not to do the children’s laundry by hand.

We are finished with the design of the gas boiler-house and soon the construction will start. Some of the funds were allocated from the state budget; the rest is being sought for with sponsors. We hope to have finished this job by the oncoming of the cold weather. We look forward to heated classroom this winter.

We had a very hard winter this past year. All winter crops were lost, became frozen, while the spring brought a new surprise- draught. The grain crops are very poor. We are experiencing a food panic. The food prices exploded and continue to rise. we are purchasing long-term food for the children: cereals, flour, pasta; we are preserving vegetables, cucumbers, and fruits. We have a food store that should last for 4- 5 months. The fear of the years of famine sits deeply in us, and we don’t want it to repeat.

We have also unpleasant news. Tetyana filed a resignation from the director position. It was accepted and she hasn’t even been asked for reasons. I’m always shocked by the arrogant and indifferent attitude of our officials. She made so many efforts to improve the life of our children. Many things have turned better, but those are not appreciated here. She simply felt exhausted both morally and physically, and besides, she has to look after her old mother whose health worsens each day and needs to be well taken care of. I still cherish the hope I will be able to persuade her that she made wrong decision.

After the work at school, my duties at home are waiting for me. Those are endless. I don’t like summer for the heat and for the heat around my stove. Even at home I have to remember that winter is coming. So I make jam, preserve fruits and vegetables (I have a generous crop of cucumbers this year). It rains often In July and weeds are growing fast so that garden takes a lot of my time. I purchased goslings and chicken that need my care as well.

So it comes that while you work times flies very quickly, to be exact, there’s always not enough of time to fulfill everything I planned. This is one of the reasons I write so seldom.

All the Honcharenkos give you their greetings.



Note from Bettsy: Tetyana did resume the directorship of the orphanage at the beginning of this school year. As she is an excellent director, everyone is most grateful. The children returned from camp and began a new school year September 1. There currently are 121 children at the orphanage.

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