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Amber Harvieux of Tilbury with her nephew Wyatt. (Handout)
For her first international summer trip, Amber Harvieux is planning on taking “the route less traveled”.
Amber, who just turned 22 last week, will be departing for Krivoy Rog in Central Ukraine on Aug. 1 where she will spend 16 days working as a volunteer at the Krivoy Rog Children’s Rehabilitation Centre, one of a network of orphanages serving over 1,000 children in the Eastern European city. While the decision to join the mission has been a few months in the making, the actual plan came together just last week on very short notice.
“The trip came together much quicker than I originally expected but Ed (Dickson), the man who runs things there, said the first two weeks of August would be the best time in the near future,” Amber said. “Ed has been in the Ukraine for 22 years. He’s originally from Chatham.”
Loads of Love works to improve the lives of orphan children and “forgotten” seniors living in government institutions around the world. In Krivoy Rog, Dickson is the overseas director for Loads of Love, coordinating, among other things, the mission work with several orphanages in the region. Together, he and Amber have been coordinating her trip via text messages for the past week.
“Krivoy Rog Children’s Rehabilitation Centre has 55 children aged six to 15,” Dickson told her. “There are other orphanages – with over 1,000 that we serve in that area. You will also be helping Aug. 7 to 11 with a summer camp for about 30 children from poor families.”
Amber, who works at Hudson Manor in Tilbury, expects the experience is going to change the way she looks at the world.
“When I first heard about the work Ed has been doing, the people telling me about it said the orphanage used to be referred to by locals as ‘the place that God forgot’,” Amber explained. “It all made me think about my nephew Wyatt, and about all the love and attention he receives every day from all these different people... and I guess I just need to see for myself what life is like for these orphans, and try to make a tiny bit of a difference, even if it’s only for a couple of weeks.”
It was as a new member of a group for young adults in Chatham that Amber first heard of Ed and his work in the Ukraine. Ed himself was where Amber is today more than two decades ago – heading to the Ukraine as a young volunteer, but moved to the Ukraine to work with Loads of Love on a permanent basis.
With a population of roughly 700,000 people, Krivoy Rog is a Russian-speaking community. It’s an important industrial hub, especially for the steel industry, and not just for the Ukraine, but all of Eastern Europe. Like many Eastern European cities, alcoholism and drug abuse are serious issues there.
When she initially began researching Dickson’s work with orphans in the Ukraine, Amber had planned on hosting some sort of fundraiser to help with her mission expenses and help support the work there. Then just over a week ago Amber received a call about an opening to make the journey leaving August 1st, so now, there will be no time for that.
“My family has made contributions toward the trip, and I’m hoping to find some sponsors so I can bring things with me that these kids need, or purchase when I arrive,” she explained. “The trip itself, with travel, meals and an interpreter is going to be around $2,500.”
In the most recent message from Dickson, Amber was informed that she will be the only foreigner on this mission trip.
“You will fly into Kiev and then travelling to the city of Krivoy Rog on the train with another girl who speaks English and will be your personal translator,” he told her. “You will be joining our Loads of Love team (about 20 local Ukrainians who work for Loads of Love) in Krivoy Rog. The local church is called the Church of Praise. Loads of Love has helped them to plant over 250 churches in Ukraine. The orphanage is a government orphanage that Loads of Love has sponsored for over 15 years.
At the orphanage you will be supporting Loads of Love’s local workers who work with orphan children every day doing crafts, Bible lessons, English and physical fitness. Over 25 Canadian churches are linked with Loads of Love helping the orphanages in Ukraine. The main Canadian church is Evangel Community Church in Chatham.”
“When we’re given the opportunity to change things in the world we should, because when we’re given so much we should learn to share,” Amber added. “Knowing that there is a change I can make, even if it’s a small change, that’s enough for me to go... to do what I need to do to help others. All I ever want to do is put a smile on someone’s face.”
According to their website, Loads of Love coordinates over 10 short term mission teams each year. Team sizes range from up to 27 members with team activities generally split into three main categories: reaching out to orphans and seniors; renovation and building projects; and – evangelism, teaching and preaching.
“Loads of Love recruits committed workers to develop creative assistance programs for state-run orphanages,” the site states. “It is through superior, long-term relationships with orphanage directors that our workers are able to identify critical needs and open doors.”
Loads of Love is currently active in Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Russia, Afganistan and China.
“We are currently focused on three targets: helping orphans, reaching out to forgotten seniors, and sending messengers of light into dark places.”
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