Pushcha Vodytsa Street Children Centre hosts the Shepherd's Purse delegation headed by its founder Michael Wetzel. Fifteen team members, the oldest 62 and the youngest (Rachel) is only 9, have brought thehumanitarian aid needed for the former street children living at the center.
Having made long trip from Lansing, Michigan in the United States, the delegation arrived on May 11th in Kyiv. Shepherd's Purse currently brings two teams a year to help the street children. Michael Wetzel reported to ForUm about the activity, goals and missions of his organization. Regarding the horrible conditions the street children who live in Ukraine, U.S. supporters do their best in order to help these children. Many of them prefer to stay on streets because they have become used to this way of lifei nstead of being kept in an orphanage.
Explaining the purpose of Shepherd's Purse, Michael Wetzel told the story of his first introduction to the problems of homeless kids. Through a video of his son's trip to Ukraine, Mr. Wetzel was ntroduced to Kherson's homeless kids; there was eleven-year-old Nastya who had lived on streets since the age of four. Now she is fourteen and is still on streets because her mother is an alcoholic and abuses her, so she prefers the street-life. She understands the traps of such life - sexual abuse or human trafficking - but she thinks it will not happen with her. Nastya's story and that of thousands of others like her broke Mr. Wetzel's heart. He then decided to do what he could and started the Shepherd's Purse organization. Its main goal is to find and contact the centres, soup-kitchens and hospitals for homeless kids, the second step to find out their needs and then to raise funds and to provide them with humanitarian aid.
Mr. Wetzel stressed the necessity to raise awareness of people here in Ukraine and in the US regarding the problem because "children suffer now and they need help." Not all US citizens as well as many Ukrainians are eager to help but those who want and who can do all their best: "Some give a new coat or some money." Even these small efforts contribute much to the great deal of humanitarian aid needed by those who have nothing at all.
Last summer the Shepherd's Purse collected 1,200 pounds of new clothes, boots and other goods which were shipped to Kherson. Mr. Wetzel cooperates with certain centres in Ukraine and Russia taking care of street children: Kherson, Dniprodzerzhyns'k, Kyiv, Vladivostok and Perm. Dr. Andriy Revtov and Alla Dobrynina of the Dr. Haaz Foundation are directors of two centres in Kherson. Revtov's centre works with 50-70 children per day and in the Dr. Haaz Centre children may eat, take a shower and receive much needed attention from the staff. Michael Wetzel said that it has become a tradition to celebrate Christmas two times a year - one in the US on December 25 and the second in Kherson on January 7. His mission brings presents to the children living in the centres and those on street. This next year it will happen again.
Mr. Wetzel wish the Ukrainian authorities would change the current system of the ID's and humanitarian cargos examination in order that charitable missions would be less hampered in their efforts to help the children inthe streets of Ukraine.
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