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Founders of Ukranian orphans charity tell Rotarians what drives them

February 13, 2007, 0:00 2928 Author: Robyn Skinner Royal Gezette After witnessing the awful conditions of that orphanage which helps children with stories like these, Olena and Evan Schemenauer formed the Bermuda registered charity, ‘Hope for the Orphans Foundation’

Orphans of the orphanage #3 of Zaporozhye

Two boys - even though they have been in an orphanage for two years - have not spoken a word after witnessing their father decapitate their mother.

In the same institution, two girls aged nine and six, were brought there after travelling from village to village four years begging for food. The orphanage was able to find the girls because the villagers knew their route.

After witnessing the awful conditions of that orphanage which helps children with stories like these, Olena and Evan Schemenauer formed the Bermuda registered charity, ‘Hope for the Orphans Foundation’.

The couple, who were married in 2003, told the Hamilton Rotary Club yesterday that they started the Foundation after visiting the country and vowing they would do more to help.

The couple first visited the Murovanokurhylovtsi orphange in the Vinnitsa region of central Ukraine in September 2005. It helps children with cardiovascular problems.

They arrived with a $1,000 donation from the Lions Club of Bermuda so that Olena’s mother could purchase clothing and other supplies for the children.

Mrs. Schemenaur said: “The living conditions are in complete disarray. When I visited I couldn’t stop crying, though I didn’t want to in front of the children.

“The clothes the children are wearing are triple second-hand and they wear it until it is completely worn out and barely even there.

“The orphanage is only two rooms. One is for boys and one is for girls of all ages – infants to sixteen year olds.

“The children also have lockers, but they have nothing to put in them. There is one bathroom, one shower for all of the children and there is a big mould problem.”

Ukraine broke away from the Soviet Union in 1991 and subsequently suffered a collapse of the social security system and economy - meaning many parents could no longer support their children and orphanages started filling beyond capacity.

Mrs. Schemenaur grew up in the Vinnitsa region where her mother, father, and grandmother still live. Her mother, Nadiya Chornousenko, is a professor at three small regional universities and also co-ordinates buying goods that the orphanages need.

Mr. Schemenauer added: “We couldn’t run a charity in the Ukraine without someone on the ground. There is a lot of bureaucracy and corruption.”

Mr. and Mrs. Schemenauer visit once or twice a year and Nadiya visits the orphanage once a month and brings about 25 of her students at a time to interact with the children.

To date the Foundation has provided the orphanage with clothing for about 50 children and a few beds to meet their needs. The Foundation has expanded to include four different funds to which donors can earmark their donations: The Building Improvement Fund, Medical Facilities Fund, University Education Fund, and General Needs Fund.

They have set up a bank account at the Bank of Bermuda to handle the donations which can go a long way because they purchase the goods in Ukraine.

Mr. Schemenaer added: “We go to the markets to buy the supplies because it is cheaper than the stores. When the vendors know what we’re doing they will give a discount and sometimes free stuff.”

If you would like to help the account number is 010-257469-001 for Bermuda dollars and 010-157469-501 for US dollars. For more information on the charity and donations you can contact Mr. Schemenauer at evan_schemenaueryahoo.ca or Mrs. Schemenauer at elenacheryahoo.com.

Happy Child foundation - effective help to the most needy children of the Zaporozhye region, Ukraine, since 2004

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