If you have made another person on this earth smile,
your life has been worthwhile.
-Sr. Mary Christelle Macaluso 
Myko Trip to Kiev

For three days January 9 – 11, 2009, 20 children from the Mykolaivka Internat in the Donetsk Region of Ukraine traveled to Kiev Orphanage 12 for a special trip funded by An Orphan Smiles. Here is a recap of the three day excursion from Bogdan Bashtovyi who graciously organized this trip for the children.

Photos from the trip can be viewed at www.orphanage12.shutterfly.com.


The train: This was an adventure in itself as many of the children had never been on a train before. Excitement and fascination are the two words that Valentina used to describe the children's emotions...I know, those of you who have travelled on Ukrainian trains would probably use other words but hey...the children loved it!

The cool bus: Alyosha picked the group up at the train station and took them to a beautiful shiny bus that was waiting for them. I don't know about the girls but the 13 boys on the group were totally blown away by all the lights and buttons above their seats, the big wheels and windows and other stuff...The 30-minute ride to the orphanage was all dedicated to studying every details of the tour bus and talking to the driver (a really cool guy). I knew the bus would be a hit.

Arrival at the orphanage: When the children arrived at Orphanage No.12 they were greeted by O12 director Svetlana, and settled in their rooms. O12 kids are at the winter camp right now, so Myko children are sleeping in their rooms. Our great volunteers - Irina and Galina (Orphanage 12 worker and the Support Center accountant) - made fried eggs and hotdogs for breakfast. The children ate up and rushed downstairs to get on the bus and go to the city.

The Tour of the City: The bus took the group on a grand tour of the city. Among other things, the children got to go to the oldest Orthodox church in Eastern Europe (over 1000 years old) and to the caves. Valentina ordered a special requiem service in memory of her husband. She felt very content to do something in her husband's memory at the most sacred place for Orthodox people - the Lavra.

The lunch at O'Panas: Those of you who have been to Kiev may have visited this Ukrainian restaurant. This is a very nice place in the very heart of the city. The children enjoyed a hearty meal (for a GREAT bargain price) and played with snow outside. For ALL of the children this was their first time in a restaurant. They were very proud of the fact they ate there.

The metro and the 'walking stairs': After lunch the group went to take the metro to go to the Christmas Play, escorted by Alyosha and two Orphanage 12 staff - Natasha and Anastasia. Well, we knew the escalators would impress the children but nobody expected just SO much excitement. It was like riding the biggest and scariest ride in Disneyland - so much creaming and yelling. The people in the metro seemed to have enjoyed the show...I am not sure about Valentina, Alyosha and the girls who were trying to first put 20 screaming children on the escalator and then catch them downstairs.

The Christmas Play: The play was at the Ukraina Palace - the biggest concert hall in Ukraine. Lots of lights, marble etc. The show was great and the children really enjoyed it. At the end everyone got a box of chocolates.

The Pizza: Since my favorite Canadian pizza place does not deliver to the district where O12 is, Alyosha went to pick up 7 large pizzas for the children. Irina and Galina made a salad and we all had a great pizza party, followed by a dessert.

Tomorrow the group will be going to the movies to watch Bedtime Stories, McDonalds and the Dolphin Show. The older children will go to the downtown area to hang out, too. Everyone will be taking public transportation except for a couple of really tiny kids who get tired very quickly - Alyosha will have to drive them around. I don't know what we would be doing without him...and the other volunteers who help cook and escort the children.


It was another exciting day in Kiev for Myko children. After having pancakes with hot tea for breakfast the group went to the movies to see Bedtime Stories. The movie theater is one of the newest one in Kiev, located in a big shopping mall with lots of nice stores, water fountains and - most importantly - escalators! The children enjoyed the movie and then took about 50 rides up and down the escalators. It was a good training before taking the metro...

Then the children had lunch at McDonalds. Everybody got a happy meal and a toy. The real fun part began outside when all the children wanted to play on the playground which designed for very young children. It was quite a picture - a crowd of wild teenagers going down the slides together with 2 and 3 year olds.

The group then ventured out to the downtown area on the metro. The ride on the metro was an adventure in itself, as on Day 1.

The weather was much warmer today, so the walk around the city center was very comfortable and fun. The children got to see the country's largest Christmas tree, a lot of nice stores, buildings and churches.

At 4 p.m. the group went to a dolphin show. Of course, it was no Sea World but the children were thrilled to see live dolphins, sea lions and other sea animals for the first time in their lives.

Tired but excited the group returned to Orphanage 12 at 7.30 p.m. and had a nice dinner, prepared by Orphanage 12 volunteers.

Alyosha had to drive Valentina and 4 smallest/weakest children all day - it was too hard for them to do so much walking. In general, one of my observations is that many Myko children are very weak and unhealthy. Several kids vomited after being on the bus or metro, some got tired very easily, one kid had fever today, another had a severe allergy reaction to food. We have never had to deal with so many health issues with children from any other orphanage.

Tomorrow the group will be going to a family fun center to watch a 4D movie, take a ride through Dinosaur Land, play games, etc. Kids love that place.


Today the Myko group went to the Dyvosvit (Wonderland) family recreation center and enjoyed several hours of fun playing arcade games, going on various rides, winning prizes etc. Boys finally got a chance to do some laser and video gun shooting. The 4D theater was a big hit and some of the children even tried to keep the glasses (in hopes to make things come alive once they go back to Mykolaivka, I guess. :) After everyone ran out of money on their cards, they all enjoyed another dozen of rides on the escalator.

After the group came back to Orphanage 12 they had a farewell lunch with home-made pies made by Orphanage 12 staff. Everyone got a small present - a soccer ball, a small radio, a watch etc. Everyone seemed to be happy with what they got. We also gave boxes of chocolates to the Orphanage 12 staff who have been cooking and escorting the children during these 3 days.

At 4.30 p.m. we all went to the train station. Jane Mitchell, who just arrived from Australia today, came to say 'hello' to Valentina and the group, which was a very nice surprise. The kids were very happy to see her.

I think I have told you everything. Once again, an enormous thank you to everyone who made this trip a reality. The amount of positive emotions that the children received during these 3 days is invaluable.