"Hobbits and Friends" evangelism camp for kids with mental disabilities

27 Jul, 2017 | Ukraine
OM International
The Hobbit, summer evangelism camp for special needs kids with mental disabilities, in Ukraine.
Summer camp and more - Hope for kids with mental disabilites in Ukraine

From May to July OM Ukraine Odessa team held seven evangelistic summer camps. Two of these camps were specifically for children with a variety of mental disabilities.  Our team, in cooperation with a local charity, The Heritage foundation, and two local church volunteer teams have been reaching out to two orphanages with special needs and have been receiving them at summer camp “LELA”since 2014.

Recognising that these kids need special care at camp LELA, we started to organize specifically designed camps in 2015 with a camp called “Alice in Wonderland”. During this camp OM Odessa Team leader, Slavik Puzanov, was approached by a volunteer, who was mother of a child with autism, asking whether we were prepared to do a camp for other children like hers. We discovered many families in and around Odessa with autistic children for whom there are no services, no support and very little understanding of how to help their children.

Thus we held a short three-day camp for kids with autism.  After camp season, Slavik could not ignore the situation, so we started dreaming together about opening a center for mothers and kids with autism. It started as a small club at our base, where mothers could bring their kids once a month. A couple of times we were able to organize outings for them, such as renting out a play area for a couple of hours where they could play together.  Parents are afraid to take their autistic kids outside amongst a community that does not take kindly to anything out of the 'ordinary'.

Since then, the Heritage Foundation has employed a couple of people who run a regular Saturday club for about 20 kids with autism. They provide some therapy, psychological support for parents, music therapy and much more. OM Ukraine is so proud to be able to work along side Heritage with our summer camps!

This year about 40 of the 120 children who attended out two special needs camps were kids with autism. Some of them live in orphanages, and are shunned by society.  Some of the kids live at home; most of them have never been to camp, and some rarely leave their homes. One teenage boy had not left the confines of his home for years, had never had therapy and left his parents almost at the end of their strength and resources.

Over the past year, the leader of the autistic ministry has visited him at home. Before camp, he went for walks around the neighbourhood.  This year he was able to attend five days of camp, swim in the swimming pool, attend Bible lessons, sing praises to God and just enjoy camp! 

We were blessed by one specialist from the US Theresa Cianciolo, who visited Ukraine to help, train and set up a therapy room, and also travelled to Ukraine for camp this year. 

On the last day of camp, a group of parents (most of them unbelievers) arrived to pick up their kids, bringing home-baked cake for the team. Some shed tears of thankfulness. God is doing wonderful things, but there are still so many in need. Truly the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few! Please pray for our need of specialists willing to train our team and volunteers.

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