Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Box delivered to Tsumpinsk

A box of warm pajamas were received at Tsumpinsk orphanage just before Christmas. The children will look so adorable tucked in their beds wearing a new pair of warm pajamas. A big thanks to Diane who put this parcel together and mailed it.
I think it's noteworthy to mention that Diane used MEEST in Philadelphia, the shipping time is just under six weeks. MEEST is a very reasonable priced shipping organization that has locations across the United States.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Update on Myko programs

The Myko Kiev trip for twenty children is just a couple of weeks away. The money needs to be wired very soon for thiJustify Fulls trip. At this point we have $721.69. Our goal is $1700. The aim of the trip is to give the kids some life experience, to ride a train, see a movie, eat in a restaurant, and be a guest at someone else's home amongst other things.
If you can possibly donate to this project it would make a big difference to a child's life, even the cost of a happy meal will go a long way. These kids will be eating in a restaurant for the first time so a happy meal is a big deal. Donations can be made through the link on the webste. Any donation would be apprieciated.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Myko "feed the soul" trip update.

Diane has graciously offered the following proposal to encourage donor participation. Let’s all take her up on this offer and really show the spirit of giving. I encourage you all to join the message board and donate. Thanks Diane for your generous offer..

I hope everyone had a chance to read Bogdan's recap of the trip to Kiev for the Tsurupinsk children.

In January we hope to be able to do the same type of trip for 20 children from Mykolaivka.

I would like to be assured that the Mykolaivka children get to experience a similar trip. To encourage donor participation, I will donate $10 for each person that makes a contribution of any amount to this special trip between now and Jan 1st. I would like to send Bogdan a wire on Jan 2 for this trip. We have about 60 people in our Yahoo group. If each person made a $10 donation, I would gladly contribute $600 and that would bring our total to $1600 and would give the kids a WONDERFUL trip.

Please consider a small paypal donation to the email address: paypal@AnOrphanSmil es.org or send a check to:

An Orphan Smiles, Inc
PO Box 175
Kimberton, PA 19460

If mailing a check, please let me know so I can track our totals.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Holiday week!!


Friday, December 26, 2008

Tsurupinsk trip to Kiev

Here are some words from Bogdan regarding the recent "feed the soul" trip and a photo link.

The three day trip was incredible. The children enjoyed it immensly. We organized lots of joint activities with Orphanage No.12 -a talent show, art competition, pizza party and even a disco. The group visited a Christmas play in a local theater, Children's Entertainment Center with 4D theater, show with dolphins and other sea animals, movie theater (watched Disney's "Bolt"), botanical gardens and many other fun places. They were at the openining of the country's main Christmas tree on Maidan, met the Ukrainian St. Nicholas in the city park and Santa Claus from Laplandia, Finland). Of course, everyone got lots of presents, including one at their own wish. What an incredible and fulfilling experience. I am especially proud of Orphanage 12 children and graduates - they were terrific hosts and donated many of their own Christmas presents. I have uploaded some photos to orphanage12.shutterfly.com Enjoy! I will try to upload more some time soon. Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

First "feed the soul" trip for Myko

An Orphan Smiles (www.anorphansmiles.org) has put together a trip for some students to travel to Kyiv to celebrate Russian Orthodox Christmas as part of our "Feed the Soul Project". The students will travel by train to Kyiv where they will stay with Bogdan and the students of Orphanage 12. While in Kyiv they will eat at a McDonald's, go to the circus, see a Christmas play, watch a 4D movie, play and interact with the children of O12, and enjoy the beautiful city of Kyiv.

The cost of funding this trip is a little short so we are asking for your help. It costs $100 to send a child to Kyiv on this trip. If you can help out with the cost of a Happy Meal or a circus ticket to make this trip a special one for the students it would be great. Donation links are on the "Donate Smiles" part of the website. A drop down for PayPal is available as a payment option for this trip.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Family group available for sponsorship

An Orphan Smiles would like to introduce a sponsorship program at orphanage 12 in Kyiv. This program is a little different than sponsorship programs you may already be familiar with. Kiev 12 (O12) is designed for students who live in family-style settings. These "families" live just like you and I do with responsibilities, rules, chores, and family time . I personally love this way of life for the students. It helps them to develop much-needed life skills as they grow, and gives each child a smoother transition upon graduating into the big wide world.
O12 has one family unit available for sponsorship! We would love to find sponsors for this "family" before the new year. Sponsorship involves sending packages, but in a different way. As a sponsor you will send things to the family unit. This could be bed sheets, a wall clock, games for family time, or bath towels (these are some examples of items that could be useful). We also ask that sponsors send $50 per family unit per calendar quarter to pay for heavy items like toiletries. It is more cost effective for the heavy items to be purchased in-country, and in doing so teaches the children how to budget their money.
If you are interested in pairing up with someone to help this group of students, please contact Marina at marinap@anorphansmiles.org While we are presenting this sponsorship as a two-person effort, it may also be something an office can do as a team.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Zhenia updates

Zhenia was tortured and imprisoned on murder charges last year. His teeth and leg were broken, he was subjected to electric shocks and had his head stuck in a gas mask and the vent blocked.
The defense team have won three cases against the state on torture charges, despite the fact that the state would not allow an independent doctor or dentist examine Zhenia. This has not helped Zhenia, who still remains in jail waiting for yet another hearing.
Forensic evidence (in Zhenia's favor) has been stalled, delayed, and obfuscated several times. Hearing after hearing has been delayed. The attorneys continue the fight against the system to prove Zhenia's innocence, despite the IMMENSE difficulties and obstacles put up by the prosecutors and police.
The risks to Zhenia in jail are life threatening - tuberculosis is rife and many of the infected inmates resort to eating rats to get the necessary protein in their diets to survive.
Thank you to the donors who have helped to pay for ongoing legal fees. And a special thanks to Travis (age 12) who donated his Christmas money to buy Zhenia some goodies for a parcel in prison for Christmas and New Year, and donated his pocket money to help Zhenia.
Latest Update from Ukraine 7 December 2008
Well, this case is turning into a very dramatic Hollywood movie with unknown ending...The ONLY witness we had - Zhenya's neighbour who was watching TV with him at the time of the murder died of hypertensive crisis (supposedly)! We can't say for sure it was a murder but it is certainly a very sudden and suspicious death. The man was under 40! Moreover, the journalist who did the TV coverage on Zhenya's case has been given two bodyguards by the SBU (former KGB) after his TV channel reported numerous anonymous threats addressed to this reporter.
The Prosecutor's Office wants to launch an investigation against Oleg Veremeenko, one of our attorneys, for sharing video information from the case with TV people. The judge was very upset with Oleg for sharing information with mass media (which is perfectly legitimate by Ukrainian law). The pressure on the defence is enormous.
Today our attorneys brought an expert from the national television station (a camera man) who was supposed to confirm that the "shadow" on Zhenya's face on the videotape was not really a shadow but signs of beating. The judge did not want to hear him. The attorneys requested an examination of Zhenya's hand-writing (signatures) on police papers - the judge rejected that request, too. Our attorneys made several other requests but they were also rejected. During heated debates in court session the prosecutor felt sick so the judge had to stop the hearing and call an ambulance.
When we left the court another TV crew was waiting for us. We all spoke to the cameras and left. The next court hearing is scheduled for December 11th. I don't think it will be the last one but I do hope there will be a verdict before the end of this year.
Our attorneys were amazingly brave and professional today, as usual. I can't tell you how thankful I am to have them working on this case.
Latest Update from Ukraine 3 December 2008
THE most popular 1+1 national TV channel has just told Zhenya's story to the whole country! At prime time (7.30 p.m.) when the whole national watches the news!! They showed interviews with Zhenya's sisters, attorneys, the widow (she said Zhenya wasn't there when the husband was killed) etc. Our attorneys are simply THE BEST!!!!! I can't tell you how excited I am - there are thousands stories like Zhenya's but our attorney Oleg managed to make Zhenya's story known to the whole country. Now the highest ranked government officials will have to respond...Its not a victory yet but its a HUGE blow on the system. WOW!
Latest Update from Ukraine 13 November 2008
The hearing today lasted 4 hours. Our attorneys managed to get a copy of a video tape that was made by police during the investigation (Zhenya's 'confession'). The police taped him from the back so you couldn't see his face but when they moved the camera you could see Zhenya's face for a couple of seconds. The attorneys stopped the tape and everyone could see that the left side of his face was all black and swollen. The prosecutor claimed it was a shadow on Zhenya's face. The judge allowed an independent person to look at the tape and they brought a clerk from the court's administrative office (not quite independent but our attorneys were happy even with that). The clerk confirmed that the boy on the tape obviously looked beaten.
Another good thing today was that the Prosecutor General's Office has put Zhenya's case on their "monitoring list", which is the result of the UN Human Rights Group's report. This means more pressure on the judge to ensure proper procedure. The next hearing is scheduled for December 5th. It is likely to be the last one. Our attorneys expect a 'guilty' verdict but at least it will enable them to move the case to the higher court.
In the meantime, Zhenya asked for some shoes and clothes - turns out he still wears the pair of pants in which he was arrested almost 2 years ago. We will try to find some warm clothes for him at the orphanage. His 18-year-old sister will deliver the clothes and food. Relatives have to wait in line for 8-10 hours outside the detention center to submit care packages... And there is no guarantee everything will be delivered and not stolen, of course.
Latest Update from Ukraine 28 October 2008
The Unites Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will try and meet with Zhenia in the CIZO 13 jail this week.
Update from Ukraine 27 September 2008
I spoke to Oleg today (one of our attorneys) and he said the hearing on Thursday was very long but good. The judge was hearing one of the cops, the other one didn't show up for the 4th time. The cop who was testifying was very nervous, gave conflicting information and 'couldn't remember' too many things. Our attorneys, on the other hand, presented another written evidence of Zhenia's alibi - a written statement from the TV channel with the exact timing of the soccer game that Zhenia was watching with the neighbor. The time of the soccer game coincides with the time of the murder.
The next hearing is scheduled for October 13th. Our attorneys are also preparing a complaint to the European Human Rights Court. Normally you can apply to the European Court only after the final verdict in the home country but when cases are intentionally postponed and last too long you can apply without waiting for the final verdict.

(If you would like to make a donation to Help Zenia please go to the "donate smiles" section of the webpage for information on how to do this)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

We are on facebook

In the past couple of weeks we have launched our facebook page. It has been a tremendous success with over 250 members so far. It is great to see faces of people we have been virtual friends with for a while now. Feel free to go and have a look.

I would like to thank Shanna, who has been a real trooper in getting the word out about facebook and really helped spread the word.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Ebay Auctions

Special Thanks to Dan Soulia for donating this beautiful Handmade Polish Pottery to our eBay Auction Fundraising effort. These pieces are available for bid until December 8. These pieces would make excellent Christmas Gifts.

Here is a link to access An Orphan Smiles Auctions: