Saturday, January 08, 2011

NEWS FOR PAST YEAR

November News

ON THE STREETS

This video “On the Streets,” is 2 minutes and 22 seconds. It’s not for children to view. Filmed in a location where street kids live in Odessa, Ukraine it shows the needles, condoms, drugs and living conditions in an abandoned building. I narrate it and close it with a statement of goals for 2011. (see goals listed farther below)

fpc-cumberland-em IN AMERICA

I am writing you from the States. I have taken a postion as the Interim pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Cumberland, Maryland. It is a beautiful church with a history that goes back to 1810, with wonderful people, a progressive theology and an overseas mission program that rivals churches of any size. Any pastors reading this, please be watching for a CIF to be circulated this Spring. While serving with this congregation as they seek a new pastor, I will raise support for This Child Here from churches and individuals in the Western Maryland, Baltimore-Washington DC area. Here’s a photo of Yulia and I from the local newspaper and photo of the church. We will return to Ukraine for several weeks in the spring and in the fall to meet with staff from The Way Home and check on programs.


robert-and-yulia

MARIAM IN UNIVERSITY

Below is Mariam, the first student to go to college from The Way Home. And the first student This Child Here is funding in university. Alla, our psychologist, is serving as a mentor for her. Christ Presbyterian Church in Ormond Beach Florida gave funds for her tuition this year.

mariam-16-em

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mariam-and-others-em

NEW DIRECTORS OF THE BOARD

Please welcome Mary Brueggemann, Margie Schlageter and Gary McAtee as our newest Directors of the Board for This Child Here.

mary-brueggemann Mary Miller Brueggemann is an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ. She is presently working as a Pastoral Assistant at Morningside Presbyterian Church PCUSA. Mary lives in Decatur, GA. She has two sons: Jim Brueggemann and his wife Lisa who live in Davidson, NC with their children Ana and August, and John Brueggemann and his wife Christina who live in Saratoga Springs, NY. They have three children, Emilia, Anabelle and Peter. Along with her support of This Child Here, Mary is on the Board of Directors for Our House Inc in Atlanta, an early childhood education center for homeless children..

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margie-and-emma-jane

Margie Schlageter is an elder at the First Presbyterian Church of Daytona Beach, Fl, and is retired after 30 years with The Daytona Beach News-Journal as a columnist and staff writer. Aside from having two handsome sons, Chris and Matthew, she has two precious granddaughters, and a husband, Tom, who is retired as a math professor at Daytona State College and never gives up on those Seminoles of Florida State.

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Gary McAtee is a realestate developer from Dallas, Texas. Gary came to Ukraine in the summer of 2010 with plans to stay three weeks. Instead he stayed three months. Here he is with a hawke on his arm at the park in downtown Odessa.

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CHRISTMAS GIFTS

Would you like to give a gift on behalf of another this Christmas? This Child Here is offering a list of gifts you can give for the holidays; the form and photos at the bottom of this email give you a better idea of what we buy.

Gift Cost Qty Total
School supplies: $5 Buys a package of school supplies.

After-school activity: $5 Pays for one class. Children are allowed to select one after-school activity
to participate in. They are currently taking dance, breakdance, piano,
parkour, and guitar lessons. ( $25 pays for a full month.)

Toilet Articles: $10 Pays for one plastic bag filled with soap, shampoo, tooth brush, hair brush
and toothpaste.

Birthday party: $20 Donation includes a gift, food and refreshments.

Alternatives to Violence seminar
$20 Pays for one seminar session for children who live in an institution or
shelter. For more information about the Alternatives to Violence seminar,
please visit www.thischildhere.org.

Winter jacket: $25 Donation buys one warm winter jacket.

New shoes: $35 Donation buys one new pair of shoes or boots.

Sport Supplies: $50 Pays for Basketballs, soccer balls, table tennis, bicycle parts, garage rental.

You can send a check and indicate what you would like to give, or you can go to www.thischildhere.org , click on the donate button and send a message with your donation. Note: you dont have to join paypal to donate by credit card.

working-on-bikesbikes-on-rack

In Ukraine, there is a great opportunity with … BICYCLES. We have former street kids, social orphans and kids from “at risk” families who can clean, repair and sell good used bicycles, learn a trade, make some income, and enhance their self-esteem.

If you live in the southeast USA, can you donate at least one good used bicycle? THIS DONATION IS TAX DEDUCTIBLE. We are looking for good used bikes; they can be many years old, with flat tires, broken cables and bent rims, but they need to have good quality frames, ie: Trek, Schwinn, GT, Giant, Nishika, Cannondale, Specialized, etc, aluminum or light weight frames. We cannot take Huffy, Sears or Walmart brand bikes as they are heavy, they soon break, and the market here is already flooded with them. I am hoping to collect 200 bikes between Sept 2010 and February 2011.

Please email me if you can help. robertgam@gmail.com


GOALS FOR 2011

-Support of street kids and social orphans of Odessa: clothes, medicine, after school activities, camp supplies in cooperation with The Way Home.

-Sending teams into Orphanages and shelters throughout the Odessa region to work with children on issues of personal Boundaries, Addictions, Self esteem, Identity and Love or (life in community).

-Training of trainers and funding of foster families; I hope to place as many kids as possible. Essentially, the government has many new laws promoting foster care, but no one seems to be doing anything about it.

-Opening of a bicycle shop to repair and sell used bicycles donated from the states.

This sustainable business will support itself, provide income for kids who work there and prepare some youth for a future in bicycles–a rapidly growing means of transportation in Ukraine.

GRACE AND PEACE,

ROBERT GAMBLE

I close with a poem by Rilke

Go to the Limits of Your Longing”
by Rainer Maria Rilke; translation by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
 
These are the words we dimly hear:
 
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.
 
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
 
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.
 
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
 
Give me your hand.
 



bikes bikes bikes

bikes bikes bikes

bikes bikes bikes

Dear Friends,

Can you donate a good used bicycle? It is tax deductible. These should be used bikes and can be several years old but they need to be good quality, mountain bikes or road bikes: Trek, Schwinn, GT, Giant, Nishika, Cannondale, Specialized, etc, aluminum or light weight frames. I am asking also, each donor to give $10 with the bike to help cover the cost of shipping to Ukraine. We cannot take Huffy or Walmart brand bikes as they are heavy, they soon break, and the market here is already flooded with them. I am hoping to collect 200 bikes from individuals and churches. If you have a bike please email me: robertgam@gmail.com

(The first Central Florida Presbytery collection point is the September 14th meeting of CFP in Satellite Beach, Fl.)

At the end of this email is my dream budget for 2011… can you give $5 a week?

Street kids injecting drugs

Street kids injecting drugs, image by Robert Gamble

1. I begin with these graphic photos of street kids. Normally, they do not allow me to photograph them while they are injecting drugs. Baltushka, it is a mixture of Ephidrim (taken from cold medicine), vinegar and potassium permangenate.


mariyam in the middle

mariyam in the middle

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2. This image of Mariyam in the middle, along with four photos of mine were chosen for this year’s UNICEF publication, “Blame and Banishment — The underground HIV epidemic affecting children in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.”

http://www.unicef.org/ceecis/

Paul Nary of UNICEF wrote,

”We used five excellent photos from you and are very grateful to you for
your help and permission in allowing us to use them. Please note that the
photos are all used as part of “collages” and with captions that present
them along with other adolescents and children in the Region, so there is
no reference or implication that they themselves are living with HIV.”


Boys orphanage a place for bikes

Boys orphanage a place for bikes

3. Fifty kids the director, Dagna, Alla and I gathered for this photo taken at an orphanage that has the unique responsibility of caring for kids who have problems in other orphanage. I will start a program with Alla, my psychologist, to provide individual and group counseling. I hope in the spring to introduce the project with bicycles. Lord knows they need it. I think I’m the only one smiling.

Four girls from The Way Home at camp, King Neptune Day

Four girls from The Way Home at camp, King Neptune Day

4. Kids from the Way Home are at camp by the sea. Most photos speak for themselves. King Neptune Day is still a mystery to me, but everyone seems to enjoy dressing up like they live under the sea. Note the volunteers also.

wrestling at camp of The Way Home

wrestling at camp of The Way Home

thomas from oxford

thomas from oxford

Dagna from Cambridge

Dagna from Cambridge

Duccio, Italy; Gary, Dallas, Jess and Emily, Cambridge, Claudio,  Italy all leave for camp

Duccio, Italy; Gary, Dallas, Jess and Emily, Cambridge, Claudio, Italy all leave for camp

camp schedule

camp schedule


jump-into-the-sea

with ann at church camp

with ann at church camp


kids at church camp

kids at church camp

5. Four of our boys went to a Church Camp (and certainly surprised me if not others by being so helpful) Ann arranged this. It is the first experience of a Christian camp for these boys. The camp is well run, with activities all day, the staff and volunteers, loving and considerate. Im so pleased they could attend. Next year we plan for more.

6. Yulia and I will be spending 6 months in the states, coming the end of August and returning the end of February. Most of that time, hopefully, at a church where I will serve as a part time pastor. I am still seeking this position. Under this arrangement, we can stay longer and use time off to raise further support for This Child Here. I am ambitious about the year to come.

7. These are the current and forthcoming programs of This Child Here:

-Support of street kids and social orphans of Odessa: clothes, medicine, after school activities, camp supplies in cooperation with The Way Home.

-Sending teams into Orphanages and shelters throughout the Odessa region to work with children on issues of personal Boundaries, Addictions, Self esteem, Identity and Love or (life in community).

-Training of trainers and funding of foster families; I hope to place 6 kids next year.

-Opening of a bicycle store to repair and sell used bicycles donated from the states.

This sustainable business will support itself, provide income for kids who work there and prepare some youth for a future in bicycles–a rapidly growing means of transportation in Ukraine.

Grace and peace,

Robert Gamble

robertgam@gmail.com

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My dream Budget for 2011.

Programs and material for street kids-social orphans $20,000

B.A.S.I.L. teams (28 wkshops) $11,200

Foster care training and funding for familes $8,200

Bicycle workshop shipping $4,500

Garage rental $3,600

Travel to the states $7,000

Office expenses $4,000

Taxes to US GOV $5,000

Volunteer expenses $500

Russian lessons $1,380

Bank charges $600

Director Salary $22,000

Housing $6,000

IRA $2,400

Total Budget $96,180

From what's impossible to what's in a ukrainian church parking lot

Andre does a back flip off the stairs, don't try this at home

Andre does a back flip off the stairs, don't try this at home

Stay with me for a moment in this letter as I introduce you to the cycle of feelings in the face of the impossible, to the reasons, for some teens, normal life is nearly impossible, and finally, to what’s to be done that seems impossible. By the end, you will see a real Stork nest and what’s parked in a Ukrainian village church parking lot. It’s a good feel, I promise.

Now this: Everything I am trying to do is impossible.

Im trying to learn Russian. It’s impossible.
Im trying to get kids to leave the streets. It’s impossible.
Im trying to help former street kids imagine a future and pursue it.
It’s impossible.
Im trying to write a book. It’s impossible.

You don’t know something is impossible until you are well into it….

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Lera today

Lera today

At first you think, this will be difficult. My first reaction is to push harder against it. To do the impossible, that is. That lasts for several months or years, and then — depression… resignation…these feelings come and go without our conscious awareness of them.

I think what is true about American culture, is we are unable to accept the impossibility of things. For a while, we might live resigned to the idea of impossibility and then something like this happens:

I was crossing a street with a child in a region on the north side of Odessa, a neighborhood street. We were headed to the market for food. A car bore down on us, an old Russian Lada; the driver breaking just before our ankles and laying on the horn.

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Gate to the Orphanage at Ivonovka, a reminder of days past

Gate to the Orphanage at Ivonovka, a reminder of days past

Something came over me like a wave of heat. I walked calmly to the half open window and told him to eat my shorts–not nearly with the same kind of calm that I now write about it. That’s when I knew a different feeling was breaking through: rage.

When I think about what I am trying to accomplish and the impossibility of it, I soon remember for street kids and most social orphans, a normal life is nearly impossible. Without the support of a loving family, LIFE–just living normally–is next to impossible. Kids who live on the streets, kids who live in orphanages often swing back and forth between resignation or depression on the one hand and rage on the other. Hence, they do stupid things, like living under streets and buildings.

At the heart of the problem, of course, with kids, is abuse. These kids were left alone in the crib; they were ignored; they were

beaten; they were molested, fondled, raped, kicked, whacked. There is a laundry list of ways to abuse. By twelve, they were boy or girl enough to run away. If not, they were either thrown out or given away to the orphanage because they were so difficult to manage. Here’s a sample:

When I was one year old, my mother gave me to my grandmother. In four years my mother took me back. We were living in a very bad situation, and I don’t wish to tell all details. Mother was beating me and hitting me. I don’t want to live there any more. My father left us. I ran away from home with my brother to live on the streets. I was running away from home many times and I was in shelters and with the police many times also. Now I have the intention to stay at The Way Home.

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Kids in workshop at Ivonovka

Kids in workshop at Ivonovka

I was sniffing glue on the street. I don’t like anything in myself. I want to stop cursing and smoking. -Girl age 12.

Any child can walk into an orphanage, but they don’t. In the Stalin years and later, the state built orphanages across the country: massive concrete buildings to house 100-300 kids, with little heat in winter and lesser warmth from the staff that run them. By outnumbering the adults, the teens in those facilities can be cruel. You went to middle school; you know what I mean. Multiply that by 24 hours a day and take away loving parents. Kids get depressed, angry; they run away and run back again.

But…

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boys marching to breakfast at Ivonovka

boys marching to breakfast at Ivonovka

For an emotionally healthy person, a little anger can be a good thing. Anger motivates. I’ve used that motivation. It works better than depression. If more people got angry about child neglect, the impossible might be accomplished in this country.

Sometimes, to cool my anger, and get a better perspective, I look at how far I have come.

This week I picked up my first Russian lesson book. Those first months, it might as well have been Sanskrit. How easy it is now for me to read the dialogue and conversation in those early lessons. I’ve come a long way.

This week also, Lera, age 18, came back to visit (see photo). I

have perhaps a hundred pics from when she was a street kid, age 14. Now she lives with her grandmother. She’s come a long way.

If I start counting volunteers, I know how far I’ve come. Igor, Rick, and Josh, all students at St Andrews college in Scotland, came to do a documentary on street kids. Igor grew up in an orphanage in St. Petersburg, Russia, was adopted and moved to California. It was his second trip here. Ethan came brought a nice donation from Alma College. Sen represents Brazil. Gary McAtee, from Dallas, Texas is here, (see photo, surrounded by kids on the bus to camp). It’s the fourth year I’ve been to camp. I have been in Ukraine now almost as long as it took me to get my college degree (which at the time seemed impossible).

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Igor Chapman inspects an abandoned building

Igor Chapman inspects an abandoned building

Josh and Ricky filming at the beach

Josh and Ricky filming at the beach

If I look bravely at how far there is to go. I see us going into those massive orphanages. Our team went last week to work with kids on issues of friendship, trust and life together. This particular orphanage, two hours by bus from Odessa, is located in a tiny village. Kids there get better treatment than at most. In the photos, you see their faces, our workshop, and a squad of them marching to breakfast. So far this year, I have funded 8 workshops. There are thirteen orphanages in the Odessa region. There are hundreds throughout Ukraine and thousands of children in them. We have a long way to go. It seems impossible. What I have come to believe, though, is:

Perhaps some things are only worth doing if they are impossible.

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Ethan from Alma College MI, Sen from Brazil

Ethan from Alma College MI, Sen from Brazil

Gary and the bus to camp

Gary and the bus to camp

And near the bottom of this email, Melusine Mallender a young lady from France is riding her Honda 125 from Paris to Tokyo. The trip has taken her through eastern Europe to Ukraine and will take her on through Kazakstan, Russia, Mongolia and finally by ferry from Vladivostok to Japan. It was a short visit, just a few days, enough to tell her story to kids and give them rides (she found us through UNICEF). For me the most unbelievable part of it is her motivation. Out of gratitude, for almost 9 years of service and well over 100,000 kilometers, she will be giving her motorcycle back to Honda. See: www.backtojapan.fr and read the blog about Odessa.

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Melusine and her Back to Japan bike

Melusine and her Back to Japan bike

Look up top to see Andre, who left the streets within the last month, demonstrating a backflip off the railing of our steps, a feat I consider for myself to be impossible. (I was told, btw, not to encourage this behavior as he can get hurt)..

I meet all kinds of people here; If I’ve said this once, I’ve said it a hundred times: No two days are alike.

Finally, the Stork, yes they really exist, at least in villages of Ukraine, and cows can be found parked in the local village church parking lot.

Grace and peace,

Robert Gamble.

A real stork, babies in the nest

A real stork, babies in the nest

See what's parked at a village church parking lot.

See what's parked at a village church parking lot.

Are you a sponsor? Could you give $5 a week? Here’s h0w.

If you attend church, does your mission committee know about This Child Here?

Here’s a look at churches and organizations who have contributed.

a warmer spell, as of weather

Igor nov 08

Igor nov 08

Friday, May 21st; Igor died. It was a shock for me. I saw him this week on Tuesday when I visited the ruins of an apartment building where he and eight or nine other kids were living. I first met Igor in the fall of 2008. A photo from those days is below. He was living then with another group of kids in the limestone and dirt basement and beneath a bank. He had a scar on the side of his forehead from when he had fallen from a building. As he tells it, other street kids had nursed him back to health. Our worry about him this week was an infection between his nose and eye from a nail he had walked into. But last night, along with a bottle of Vodka, he took a handful narcotics that are opium based and used for treating liver problems. These pills are available over-the-counter at pharmacies in Odessa. He died at 3am this morning.

street kids deciding

street kids deciding

The photo of the boy on the chair was not taken by me but by a professional photographer who has traveled much of the world and spent two weeks here. The boy’s head is turned, perhaps, because he does not want his photo taken. This happens sometimes. Even with his head turned, I can see enough of him to know I do not know him. There are always new kids coming onto the streets. This boy, in fact, may now be deciding, as there are days he is with street kids and days he is at home.

Things are changing on the streets, however, as the police, we think at the orders from higher government, have been moving kids from the streets to local lock-down facilities. This happened once before without success as kids eventually escaped..

Sasha is a volunteer from Atlanta, GA. She was born in Kiev, Ukraine, and immigrated to the states at the age of 5. She can still speak Russian fluently and has therefore been doing some translation work at the center. Sasha is currently on sabbatical from her full-time consulting job and hopes to incorporate some of the skills she applies there to the office at This Child Here.

Sen from Brazil

Sen from Brazil

Sasha, me, Ildar, Dennis

Sasha, me, Ildar, Dennis

Andre, age 9, new to us

Andre, age 9, new to us.

Sen is from Brazil. He has always been interested in Eastern European culture and Russian language, That’s why he chose Odessa. He hopes to learn more about the reality of street kids in the region and ways of effectively reducing the problem.

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Here are two new boys at The Way Home: Andre, age 9, came when our volunteers,

Sasha and Sen, invited him to visit The Way Home, and he stayed. Vova came back to us, see the photo of him taken three year ago.

Vova three years ago

Vova this week at The Way Home

Chris Connolly

Chris Connolly

Chris is a volunteer from the University of Cambridge in England. He speaks Russian, and in addition to helping with translation work for both This Child Here and partner organization The Way Home, he has been assisting with fund-raising projects and teaching English and French to the kids in the centre.

The next two photos are poor in quality but for us, hopefully, historic. One is taken during a workshop in which we focus on the areas of personal boundaries, addictions, self-esteem, and life in community. The other shows Vitaly (psychologist), Ann, Alla (psychologist), Chris Connolly (translating) and me, as we hammer out the costs of doing these workshops throughout the Odessa Oblast (or state). The grant we are seeking is from the Presbyterian Women’s Birthday Offering.
workshops-for-teens-avp-em1

working on the grant

working on the grant

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The Total Cost of Project is $201,872.00

ПРОЕКТ ПОТЕПЛЕНИЕ - PROJECT POTEPLENIA (POTEPLENIYA), this coming from the russian noun indicating “a warmer spell as of weather”. It refers to a change of climate as a metaphor for the change experienced in culture.

Ukraine is a country suffering from a crisis of care for her indigent children. Children in orphanages, shelters and other facilities suffer tragically. Staff assigned to these children do not know how properly to care for them. Children are emotionally and socially unprepared for life.

It is difficult to get reliable statistics on the lives of children following life in institutions, but estimates of one in seven turning to prostitution or drugs and one in ten committing suicide are common. It is certainly true that most graduates lead unhealthy and unproductive lives.

Our target population is children with difficulties of adaptation to society: violent children, aggressive children, children suffering from apathy, children who do not know how to handle their emotions and feelings in times of conflict, children who do not know how to live in a community respect and care, children who suffer from attachment disorders, children who are emotionally four to five years behind their physical age.

In Ukraine, most of these children live in orphanages, boarding schools, children’s homes and shelters; a smaller percentage attend public school and would be classified as “at risk”. Some have been taken away from or have run away from non-functioning parents; some live in boarding schools because of disabilities: the deaf, the blind, physically and mentally disabled. All live damaged lives. These are the children we wish to help.

In the three years and a half years I have been working with street kids and social orphans, I have learned that building buildings, giving presents, food, clothing and medicine, even providing for tutors and after-school activities does not solve these issues. And systemic problems such as the existence of orphanages rather than foster care programs, alcoholism, the current and former economic crises, must be addressed at another level. Yet children can be equipped for living emotionally stable and productive lives and able to manage the issues stated above of relationships and learn to live in community. This is the help we wish to provide.

We wish to provide this not only by working directly with children in these locations but by working with the teachers and staff who manage them to change the culture and climate of staff and teachers’ educational approach to children at these facilities to create a conducive environment for experiencing a life with values and a life children value. We intend to become the resource center for facilities that house these children first in the Oblast of Odessa, and then throughout Ukraine.

Our project takes teams into these facilities and locations to change the climate of child management. Workshops use the shared experience of participants, interactive exercises, games and role-plays. Activities, based the Quaker Alternative to Violence model, are carried out in group settings with children and staff. Learning is based on the history and experience of individuals. Trainers work toward a transformation of children AND staff through cooperation and mutual understanding.

Our focus is on:

creating an atmosphere of cooperation;

avoiding co-dependent behavior;

forming positive self-esteem;

teaching teens how to respect and preserve personal boundaries;

training both staff and children in processes of mediation.

At the heart of this project are two central questions: Can we, through proper interactive workshops, experiential education and training,

(1) actually help children manage personal boundaries, avoid addictive behavior, improve self esteem, manage conflict and live as contributing members of a community?

(2) And can we modify and transform the environment and methods of supervision by staff in these facilities to sustain and promote these concepts?

We believe we can.

Grace and Peace,

Robert Gamble


New faces, Meet Mariyam, newspapers, things needed, coming to the states and ... Getting Married!

Welcome to the newsletter for This Child Here. Below and to the right you will find:

lena age 13

lena age 13

new faces at The Way Home: Lena chewing gum, Vika, Sasha, Anton

Mariyam, a teen who is succeeding.

…news about THIS CHILD HERE published in Stuttgart and Frankfort Germany, and in Vienna, Austria: …and in Vantage, the magazine of Columbia Theological Seminary.

….a request for what we need: Digital cameras, cell phones and a car

…an invitation to write a review for the Publishers of How to Achieve A Heaven on Earth

…the return of David Gilliland, Scottish Photographer

my schedule for a trip to the stateslena-age-131

… and my big news: Im getting MARRIED

New faces at The Way Home

vika age 9

vika age 9

Sasha, Vika's brother

Sasha, Vika's brother





Kolya holding up Anton

Kolya holding up Anton



Now, Meet Mariyam

In the drama of kids arriving and leaving for the streets and neglectful parents and a litany of problems sometimes so unique and unimaginable, one child is succeeding. Her name is Mariyam.

maggie left and mariyam right
Maggie left and Mariyam

Mariyam is 18 years old; she is Russian. This is her story as she tells it: I was adopted right after birth by a single woman in Russia. I lived along with my adoptive mother, aunt and cousin (who I call my sister). When I was six, we moved to Ukraine and bought an apartment in Odessa. In a while, we decided to sell this apartment, but we were deceived by the buyers who took everything, the apartment and all documents. We were forced to live on the streets, all four of us. Soon, my sister and I were taken to a temporary orphanage. I was still six. My adoptive mother found a job hoping to get the apartment back in court. She never did. After a time, my sister and I were required to leave the temporary orphanage. For the next two years we lived on the streets. I stared to work at ten years old. I was selling plastic bags (shopping bags for the market). My adoptive mother started to live separately because no one wanted to give her a place to live or a job with a child. I stayed on the streets with my aunt. Tired of life on the streets, my sister and I were taken to another orphanage, but the director of the orphanage did not want us because he thought we were prostitutes. We were both 14. Not wanting to stay on the streets, my aunt asked for help and was given the address of The Way Home. My aunt wrote the application for her me and my sister to stay.

Mariyam in the middle

Mariyam in the middle

Mariyam is now finishing school. Her hope is to attend college. On the day of this interview, she received a passport as a Russian citizen. Her hobbies includes reading and sewing. Her plans are to enter university and to be a psychologist. It will take five years to finish this education. In this time she will also get a job and begin a second higher education, two more years for a masters degree.

Thanks to a donation by the Presbyterian Women of Christ Presbyterian Church, I have funds to pay for her tuition.

When asked what adults that she respects, she replied Ina (the housemother) and Oksana (the dance teacher); she can always ask them for advice. Does she have actors or musicians she admires? No. she says. Only silly girls want this. She does not want to try to be like anyone else. She wants to be herself.

At this time, I am unsure of the process, but I know that Russian citizens can come to the states easier than Ukranians. I believe it would not be difficult to obtain a one year visa for Mariyan to attend High School in the states. If you are interested in providing her a home and taking care of her for a year in High School, please contact me.

Risen Indeed! A Post-Easter Adventure in Ukraine

Roma once lived on the streets; now lives at The Way Home

Roma once lived on the streets; now lives at The Way Home

This appeared as the front page story of Columbia Theological Seminary’s magazine Vantage. The photo to the right comes in the printed edition, you can read about David Cameron’s adventures with us at This Child Here by clicking:

http://vantage.ctsnet.edu/Feature.aspx?ID=53

Dave Cameron in Ukraine
Dave Cameron in Ukraine

In the press, Ukraine: Odessa’s abandoned children

In early February two journalists arrived.

From left to right: Igor, Roman (Roma), Knut Krohn, a Swiss  journalist

From left to right: Igor, Roman (Roma), Knut Krohn from Germany, and a Swiss journalist

Knut Krohn’s article about This Child Here has recently appeared in newspapers in Frankfurt and Stuttgard Germany, and Vienna, Austria. If you wish to see the photo click : http://diepresse.com/home/panorama/welt/542902/index.do?_vl_backlink=/home/panorama/index.do

Here is a rendering in English, which is the best I can do with an online translator and my doodling, as I attempt to preserve the mood and methaphors.

26.02.2010 | 18:43 | By our correspondent Knut Krohn (The Press)

They live in abandoned houses or in the sewers: Hardly anyone cares about the street children of Odessa.

“Die Presse”, Print-Ausgabe, 27.02.2010):

Odessa. In a gentle curve stretches the dark red line on the inside of the thigh over the ashen skin, makes a small arc, which changes color in a very dark purple, almost black, and ends in a knot. There, Igor put his dirty syringes in the vein, filled with a drug cocktail on the basis of cheap amphetamines, and vinegar, known as “Baltuschka”.

“Is there a cure for it?” Mutters the 18-year-old barely comprehensible and looks inquiringly at Robert Gamble, who sees the swelling. Gamble shakes his head. “I can not help you,” he told the boys, ‘we have, unfortunately, nothing for it. It takes long seconds until Igor has understood the sentence, the drugs have seriously damaged him. Even the icy wind, whirling the snow between the slabs in this seedy district of Odessa, seems not to notice.”How many are you down there?” Asks Gamble, pointing to an open manhole. Igor thinks a small eternity. “Nine,” he squeezes out indistinctly. That is the signal for Roman and Aleksander. In their former lives they actually lived on the street, but they’ve done it and are now social workers. CONTINUED BELOW……………

Would you like to donate a cellphone, digital camera, a car?

Because of the generosity of Bill and Syliva Zaun, I have been driving a Volvo for the past three years. It now has about 260,000 miles on it and I am thinking toward the future. If you have a car you would like to donate to This Child Here, please write me robertgam@gmail.com or call Nancy Gard at 386 252 5269.

Also, if you have an ATT cell phone (or any cell phone with a SIM card) or a digital camera you would like to donate, please email me. The collection place to mail these is my sons’s house:

Griff Gamble, 30 Stewart Rd, Asheville, NC 28806.

All donations are tax deductible.

The publishers of Achieving A Heaven on Earth how-to-achieve3

are actively trying to get the word out about HOW TO ACHIEVE A HEAVEN ON EARTH. They are asking any who’ve been reading the book to comment about it on Amazon.com. If so, go to the book’s Amazon page http://tinyurl.com/yzu8htc then scroll down to customer reviews and click on the button to the right that says create your own review.

Planning for the future

planning with ann (left), alla and martha the cat

planning with ann (left), alla and martha the cat

Here is a common scene… me , Ann, Alla and Martha (the cat) Planning. We are writing for a grant from the

Planning: Me, Ann, Alla, Martha the cat

Presbyterian Women’s Birthday Offering. If received, we will send teams to work in Orphanages in the city of Odessa and Odessa Oblast (or state). This workshop, founded by the Quakers, is called Alternatives to Violence. The aim is to help children with personal boundaries, addictions, self esteem and life in community. Money would not be available until October of 2011.

David Gilliland Photographer returns

camera and feet

camera and feet

David Gilliland, photographer from Scotland

David Gilliland, photographer from Scotland

David Gilliland, best known here for having taken UNICEF’’s photo of the year in 2005, a girl on the streets of Odessa, returned this month to spend several days with street kids; this photo of his feet and camera was taken by me from under a building, the second (wearing the hat) when we were on the streets of Odessa.

Now my big news… Im getting married!

Julia Sheludko is the Public Relations Manager for The Way Home and sits across from me in the office. We work together, and it seems we will be working together much more in the future, not only as a family, but on our visits to the States where she will be contacting the Ukraine diaspora. It will be a small wedding, my sons, a few friends and the Rev Dave Cameron officiating at a pretty spot in the mountains near Asheville, NC.

Julia and I in the social patrol van

Julia and I in the social patrol van

My Schedule in the States

March 22 arrive in the states Charlotte Airport

March 23 drive to Chapel Hill then to Asheville

March 27 Wedding

March 29-April 4 Daytona , Deland, Orlando area

April 5 Vero Beach Fl for lunch, West Palm Beach in the evening

April 6 Lunch in Ft Lauderdale on to Ft Meyers and St Petersburg Fl

April 7,9 St Petersburg, Fl

April 10-12 Atlanta Ga

April 13-15 Memphis

April 16-20 Portland Or

April 21-22 Dallas ft worth TX

April 23 Asheville NC

April 26,27 Washington DC

Apri 28 drive back to Asheville

April 30 fly back to Ukraine

NEWS (Die Presse) CONTINUED FROM ABOVE…..

The two go to a white minibus. “Social Patrol ” standing on the rickety vehicle, Roman handing-food-down1 places nine plastic plates on the floor in front of him, in which he draws gently steaming soup. Then they carry the plates to a barred basement window, a dirty hand reaches out of the darkness and takes the food. Robert Gamble hands Igor finally, two plastic bags filled with food and some medicines in his arms and rises with two of his colleagues to return to the bus.

The next stop is the port of Odessa.For three years, the Americans takes to the street in Odessa. “This Child Here” is the name of his organization launched. “Not all want our help,” says Gamble, and some have refused, he has accepted this.These children are not lonely, he says. In contrast to the adult homeless, they form themselves into small groups. The older youth fill the role of parents and provide for the younger ones. “In return, the little ones go begging in the summer,” says Gamble, of this symbiotic system, “because of the tourists get a lot more money.”

How many children in the port city on the Black Sea living on the streets no one knows for certain. Sergei Kostin, head of the charity “Way Home”, estimates that there are currently around 700. In the chaotic period in the mid 90’s, when poverty and social neglect were everywhere, there were over 5,000, he says.Kostin and Gamble have set up their makeshift offices in a renovated house in the Sofiejskaja Street. “The government only cares for orphans,” said Kostin, others were left to themselves. Therefore, the organizations are on site for financial assistance from abroad, such as by Unicef, dependent. “The money is missing in every nook and cranny,” said Kostin, “but we have learned to fend for ourselves.”Then the bus slows down and comes to a halt in front of a ruined house. Roman and Aleksander jump out of the car and walk purposefully towards a rotten door. Gamble follows the two into a room, unbearable stench in the air.Roman turns on a flashlight. Only now we see the dirty boy who stands motionless in a corner. The glassless windows are taped up because of the cold with cartons. On two beds piled musty blankets, along with a matted stuffed animal. Gamble sees the toy and make a questioning gesture. “We live here four of us, one of the girls is pregnant,” says the boy flatly in the corner.

Gamble falters. “Pregnant,” he mutters and shakes his head almost imperceptibly. He is here to help, and reels off a program well targeted questions: “In which is it? She has medical care? “There is not much heard from the boy, he would just like bread and drink. The pregnant girl should sign up, said Robert Gamble. The boy nodded and thanked him politely for the bread.
Gamble knows the girl will not come. Silently, he goes back to the bus and plops down in the seat. Thousands of times he has been confronted with such a fate, but he still can not understand how a young man can throw away his life just like that.

( “Die Presse”, Print-Ausgabe, 27.02.2010)


February News

some characters in our office don't do a dang thing... my office  is behind

some characters in our office don't do a dang thing... my desk is behind

IN THIS NEWSLETTER:

1. What these kids think: a conversation with one child

2. Alyona returns

3. I have one of 101 essays in new book: How to Achieve a Heaven on Earth

4. Russian backed candidate wins presidential election in Ukraine

5. Leah, our former volunteer writes from Haiti, it’s quite interesting

6. My current volunteers: Will from England, Chris from Belfast, Ireland

7. Thank you… and a list of all those who gave in 2009

Dear Friends,

1. Each week, Alla, my psychologist, writes reports of conversations with children. The following is an entry from Dec 1, 2009. Conversation with Alyona:

Alyona

Alyona

“Today I have casually seen how Alyona copies phone numbers of the organizations which dealt with problems of children. This list of phones is on a wall near an armchair of the secretary. I have asked, what for she does it, she has refused to answer. I said, that I can make the copier of this list, and we shall talk; she agreed. We talked, about why she has decided to escape from the shelter. She has said that she was ill, today and one more girl from the shelter, were at the doctor. They have bronchitis, and they should go tomorrow to the hospital. Soon, will be Alyona’s birthday, December, 6th, and she does not wish to celebrate it in hospital, therefore she has decided to escape. I have asked, if Alyona wishes to celebrate it in the street and is this more pleasant? She fell silent, and said that she got used to life on the street, and cannot live in a shelter. Again, she was silent. I asked, how long she lived in the shelter. She said it was almost a half a year. I said, that it is the big term, and the reason was because of a friend (I think she speaks here of Diana). She said that she wishes to help her brother who lives in the street. I answered, that if she remains in a shelter only then can she help her brother if he will live on the street and requires help. She said, that she is assured if any vagabond living in the street reaches for something, he can have it. I have answered, that she can reach for what she will very strongly want in a shelter; for this purpose it is not obligatory to go on street to prove something. She did not wish to talk, and asked whether from me there are still questions. She said she, will be silent. I said, that she always has a choice, and the choice always has consequences..

She is still small and to her things are complex for her to explain it. She has a difficult character; she is very obstinate, I talked with her rigidly. I hope, that she will not give in to this impulse.”

Alla,

Alyona turned twelve on her birthday, December 6th and that night left for the streets with an older girl, Anya. For nearly two months there were only rumors of where she was. At the end of January, another girl, Rita, from the shelter saw her alone on the streets and invited her back. She returned.

2. Alyona’s return was a wonderful surprise for me. We found Alona and Diana on the streets on June 15th; I was so proud of our team when they came to live with us. Here she is to the left at a bike rally. Things went fine through the summer and into the fall. When she left to live on the streets, we tried looking for her, two television stations ran photos and stories. But again, it was the same lesson, you can’t go after them; they have to come to you.

A chance meeting with Diana after school

A chance meeting with Diana after school

Her friend, Diana moved back home to live with her mother (a success for us); as long as things are healthy at home, it is by far the best situation. Here I am on the right with Diana. It was a chance meeting last week. We were on the streets looking for kids, and she had just left school to go home. Don’t let the makeup fool you, she’s only 13.

How to Achieve a Heaven on Earth is a book of 101 essays by some well known people like Barack Obama, George Bush, Al Gore, Tony Blair, Ted Turner, Walter Wink and Thomas Friedman, and how-to-achieve2some unknown people like myself. It is for the most part, about good people trying to do a good thing. “…. Focusing on the large problems of the world without losing sight of the little challenges people face every day, this collection of essays encourages readers to find meaning in their own lives and share it with others for the betterment of the world. Religious and secular, liberal and conservative, old and young, the luminaries who have contributed to this work offer their voices and thoughts to inspire movement toward creating a more harmonious world community.”
It’s available through Amazon or Barnes and Noble. I have a copy and I have been reading it; some of the most interesting essays are by people you never heard of.

Russian backed candidate wins in presidential election. Six years after the Orange Revolution ended Russia’s predominant influence in Ukraine, people here are dissatisfied with the promises unkept. Viktor Yanukovych the candidate with strong connections to Russia won in Sunday’s election. The results suggest, “a Yanukovych victory could restore much of Moscow’s influence in a country that has labored to build bridges to the West .”

I don’t know what this will mean for me as a US citizen, but I suspect I may have more Visa problems in the future. I doubt the US Navy will be invited back to park any destroyers in Odessa’s port. On the other hand, this may mean more opportunity for small businesses and the majority of people who live well below the poverty line and are hoping for a better life.

Our former Volunteer Leah Nevada Page in Haiti. leahspic3 Before coming us in Odessa to volunteer, Leah worked with nonprofits in Portland, Oregon, and in Haiti. Because of her many connections and language skills, she was a natural to return to Haiti after the earthquake. I have the greatest admiration for this young lady who will soon take a job at the UN. She did everything here with us from spending time on the streets, to redesigning my website.

Since arriving in Port au Prince, I’ve been working with Sasha Kramer (of SOIL) and a small group of friends and volunteers who all know Haiti well. We’ve been riding moto taxis and our pick up truck into neighborhoods and speaking directly with people there to discern how immediate the need is and, if necessary, paying for a water truck to do a delivery ($50) or for people to buy food. Yesterday morning Sasha and I helped to bring an intrepid doctor (Don) and a nurse (Lynn) from West Tennessee up into a steep ravine (just below the Hotel Montana) where many of the buildings have crashed and where people are too isolated and too poor to afford transport out for medical care. We drove the SOIL pickup truck through the shallow river (more passable than the old road that used to be there) and then hiked up the side of the ravine. We announced our presence and about two seconds later the first patient arrived - a girl carried in to us on a stretcher made out of a door. Don and Lynn assessed that her leg was broken and we’ve moved her to the shade so that we could bring her out with us and transport her to a hospital later. Other patients that Lynn and Don treated had deep gashes and scrapes from blocks that fell in the earthquake. In addition to helping to translate as best I could (crash course in medical vocab), Don enlisted me to start giving antibiotic shots to the patients with deep infections and to help hold together a large foot wound so that he could tack it together (it was too late for stitches). I always thought I’d get nervous about blood and needles, but in the moment this all seemed reasonable.

Update on the man on the dining room table. It turns out he’s an escaped prisoner. But I guess he’s not going anywhere fast.

Anyway, I’ve had reservations about small NGO’s before but all my reservations have disappeared in the past few days. The UN has been unable to quickly respond to the disaster even though they’ve been here for years because they have no contact with actual Haitians (a partial result of them speaking French rather than Creole and of their “security concerns” that limit them to armored compounds). SOIL, AIDG and the other small NGOs like them, have no red and green zone restricted areas and we can go everywhere. On top of that we have contact with community groups that collaborate to successfully bring in aid. When we told a couple of community leaders that we met with that we were anxious about security during distributions they laughed at us. They basically responded with “we need food and water, if you bring us that we will make sure it gets out. It’s the guys in guns that block us from the food and water that cause problems”. And its true. All of the distributions we have assisted with have gone very smoothly. I still hold out hope that the Red Cross and US AID and the UN and other acronym groups will start getting food and water aid to all the camps that have been set up in every square inch of open space in the city, but until they can get there it’s the small NGO’s that are.

Some of you have asked if your donations are going to be used right away (apparently it takes the Red Cross 45 days to receive a text message donation into their bank account) so I will tell you a funny story. The banks here are for the most part closed. The ones that opened today in Port au Prince have a limit on withdrawals and multiple-hour long lines. In order to get your donations transformed into food, water and medicine Sasha Kramer’s mom has been sending them as cashier checks to Ft. Lauderdale and the owner of a small airline who flies to Cap Haitian has been cashing them and bringing them on a plane to Cap Haitian. My first day back in Haiti Sasha called me and asked me to go on a motorcycle taxi to pick up $10,000 in cash at the airport. That $10,000 was then immediately used for the relief effort.

As I go through my day I keep making mental notes of unbelievable situations that I want to share with you all but there are too many to fit here and this email is strange enough already. There have been many difficult moments, a lot of tears and a lot of desperation but I realized last night as I was falling asleep that I have no worries any more. The small things I used to fret about in the states and in europe this year are gone. I can only remember that I used to sometimes experience the feeling of worry but I can’t remember the content. I’m incredibly happy: so joyful to be around close friends, so grateful that my friends are okay, and so honored to have the opportunity to take all of your good will and run around Port au Prince with it bringing water to people who need water.

Much love,
Leah

6. Two current volunteers with us are: Will King from England (left )and Chris Connelly from Belfast , Ireland (right), both are students at Cambridge University in England. Both speak Russian. Chris actually smiles all the time….

Will King, Cambridge University

chris-connelly-in-red7

7. Again, I wish to express my gratitude to those who gave last year. Given the crisis, I thought giving would be down, but I was surprised:

Income for 2007 - $37,159 Income for 2008 - $53 , 611 Income for 2009 - $61,685

With additional funds, we will move now into seminars for children living in orphanages in the Odessa region. The goal of these programs is to address the issues of self-esteem, personal boundaries, addictions and life in community.

Below is a list of the donors for 2009; if you gave and your name is not there, PLEASE EMAIL ME!!

grace and peace,

Robert Gamble

robertgam@gmail.com

Kay Acquaro

Roger and Pat Albee

Alex Fund – Leslie Hawke

Thomas and Kathleen Allard

Alma College

Warren and Darlene Anderson

Leslie Armstrong

Eme Asztalos

Wade Balsey

MJ Blankinship

Mary Brueggemann

Jim and Tara Bryan

Calvin Presbyterian Church, Tigard, OR

Randy Calvo

Dave Cameron

Steven and Kimberly Carlson

David Carr

Luis Casaus from Spain

Central Presbyterian Church, Atlanta

Christ Pres. Women, Ormond Beach, FL

Christ Pres Church, Ormond Beach, FL

Beyond Our Borders-Christ United Methodist, Chapel Hill NC

Sienna, Italy fundraiser – Claudio Corbelli, Organizer

Tom and Susan Clayton

Richard Coates

Susan Coleman

Garry and Kathy Collier

Collierville Pres, Collierville, TN

Marjorie DeLisle

Barry Digman

James Dotson

Julie Ellison

John Evans

Madeleine Evans

Fellowship Pres, Tallahassee, FL

First Pres, Cumberland MD

First Pres Ft. Worth, TX

First Pres, Brighton, MI

First Pres, Covington, GA

First Pres, Daytona Beach, FL

First Pres Farmington, NM

First Pres, Vero Beach, FL

John and Ann Fitch

Matt Fortune

Jim and Eleanor Frye

Bea Gamble

Nancy Gard

Allen Gibbs

Alfred and Martia Glass

Grace Covenant Pres, Asheville, NC

Dick and Bunnie Graham

Jim and Charlotte Hogan

David Hopper

Lee and Sylvia Jenkins

Wendy Kahn

Steve and Nancy Knight

Krista Koch

Terry and Lynn LaRue

Lynda Lasseter

Elizabeth Lockhart

Susan McDole

Michael Mears

Paul and Judy Miller

Ann Mische

Becky Montgomery

Lynn Morris

Newnan Pres Church, Newnan, GA

Northwest Pres Church, Atlanta, GA

Rindy Nyberg

Tommy O’Pray

Orenco Pres Church, Hillsboro, OR

Ormond Beach Pres, Ormond Beach, FL

Gabriella Oroszi

Jim and Ginny Phillips

Pres Church of the Lakes, Orlando, FL

Mary Ann Richardson

Sheri Robbins

Rockfish Pres Church, Nellysford, VA

Deb Schlageter

Tom and Margie Schlageter

Max Schober

John Shelton

Judy Smith

Paul Smith

Bob and Phoebe Smith

Terry Smith

Lyudmila Sorokina

Speedwell Pres, Reidsville, NC

Ron and Diane Spence

St. Charles Avenue Pres Church, New Orleans, LA

Karen Sutton

Mary Lou and Bruce Swinburne

John Tarrant

Deryl and Lenore Torbert

William and Theodosia Wade

Patsy White

Jim Willits

Leah Wyckoff

from the desk of Robert Gamble

A Christmas Message

The Christmas story is about the birth of God into humankind. The details of it include Magi from the East, a homeless couple, a pregnant woman, the birth of a child, shepherds, a wicked king, and a barn or stable, essentially a place to stay when there is no other. Read on and it includes also the slaughter of innocent children, as Herod seeks the Christ child. Listen to it on any Christmas Eve, and you can be caught up in the wonder and mystery of the story as it is acted out with manger scenes, choirs and infants. Even in the barest of settings in any sanctuary: a manger made of a wheelbarrow, sheep made of cardboard, children in bathrobes serving as shepherds, we seem to find our place in the story, imagining ourselves in the roles of Joseph or Mary, Magi or shepherds, fleeing Herod with our child. It is our nature to seek our place and in so hearing, to make sense of our lives.

Every year at Christmas, I try again to make sense of the Christmas story for my life here. The story has sharper edges–lighter lights, darker darks in a place like Ukraine, where homeless boys and girls kids live in abandoned buildings and in the sewer systems. Life is more extreme. Abuse of all forms more common. Last summer a boy killed himself by hanging, two months ago another boy died from injecting drugs near his neck. I know two girls who are pregnant, one is due this month. Police roam like the soldiers of Herod in search of children.

Disappointment is deeper. Recently, Alyona, age 12, one of my favorite kids (one should never have favorites) left for the streets with an older girl (age 16). I fear they will become sex workers.

There is no evil king Herod here; the face of evil is spread across a culture that has been beaten and abused over the past century or more of its history. Abuse breeds abuse and the slaughter of emotional and spiritual lives.

But moments of grace shine.

When new kids arrive at our shelter, they often seem shy and grateful. But soon they are running and playing like the others.

I have learned there’s no American messiah either, to save this world of street kids. The face of the Savior is spread across the faces of churches and individuals who support me and ministries like This Child Here in a places where light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. And this is true all year long, not just at Christmas. At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of this truth.

So I end with two epiphanies:

a boy jumps from an abandoned building

a boy jumps from an abandoned building

The first is this photo of a large abandoned building and a boy caught by the camera, mid-air. I don’t know his name. I just met him last week. At first, he did not want his photo taken, later he allowed me. After talking to him, he climbed up to the second floor and to my surprise, ran and jumped, landing on a mound of dirt in the center of a pile of brick and twisted metal. The second time he did it, I made this photo. He did it yet again, for more pictures, coming down to see on my camera how he looked. Even here on the streets, the will to live and experience life is strong. I think this boy will make it.

The thank you award

The thank you award

The second is an odd moment of humor and grace. I was typing the list of churches (the full list of churches and organizations can be found on our website) that have donated over the past three years. At the same time, the office of The Way Home was printing Awards for Service. We share the same office printer. You know what’s coming, but I didn’t at the time. And when I clicked “print” on my screen to see on paper the list of contributing churches, I heard the printer in the next room whine. Then I heard shouting in Russian and the mention of my name—a combination that always sends a chill down my spine. I had printed my list of contributing churches on their special Awards paper! So there you have it on the attached photo, now pinned to my wall of street kid’s faces: the names of Presbyterian (and one United Methodist) Churches and Russian word for ‘In Gratitude.” How appropriate for saying Thank You.


Grace, Peace and Gratitude this Christmas,

Robert Gamble

1 comment:

Redspect said...

"If you haven't any charity in your heart you have the worst kind of heart trouble" to cure it
Help people, let's unite for one good cause, be a volunteer"save lives"!
mawaddainternationalaid