Friday, November 13, 2009

Zhenya is OUT OF JAIL!!

An Orphan Smiles has been supporting the effort to get an innocent orphan accused of murder released from prison.

Our attorney Oleg picked Zhenya up at prison at 6:00PM on Tuesday, November 10 and brought him to the local police station to sign some papers. Zhenya's two sisters and Bogdan were already waiting there. Zhenya was in shock. Zhenya thought they were going to beat him again. He didn't dream he would be released.

The charges have not been dropped yet, so technically Zhenia is still a suspect, but the fact that he was released means a lot. This happened after our attorney Oleg arranged a special inquiry into the police by several Parliament members. That was the last drop - after all the media coverage, press conferences, protests from Ukrainian and international human rights groups etc. The police department is finally backing off and is desperately trying to find a way to avoid punishment. Bogdan wants to pass along Zhenya's thanks to everyone who have been supporting him during these years. Without your support Zhenya would have been in prison for 6 more years and would have been labled as a murderer for the rest of his life. Our battle is not over yet, but we are VERY close to victory.

There are many important things that are worth fighting for, and many good projects worthy of support, but there are hardly things more important than JUSTICE and FREEDOM. THANK YOU to everyone who kept Zhenya in their prayers and contributed to legal fees, food and supplies while he spent 3 years in prison for a crime he did not commit!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Christmas gifts

An Orphan Smiles has assembled 170 ziplock bags full of goodies for the children at Mykolaivka Internat, 49 ziplock bags full of goodies for the children at Orphanage 12, and 200 beanie babies and 200 treat bags will be on there way to Ukraine soon for the children at Tsuripinsk. An Orphan Smiles would like to thank everyone who helped make the Christmas project possible. It is your generosity that has enabled the orphans that we help have a wonderful holiday season.

We are still in need of help towards shipping costs. If you can help with any amount to offset the cost of getting the Christmas packages to Myko, O12 or Tsuripinsk it would be very much appreciated. Here is a link to our Christmas page to make a donation:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Annual meeting news.

I would like to take a minute to let you all know that we are planning on holding our Second Annual Meeting of An Orphan Smiles on Saturday November 7, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona.

This is an open invitation to all our supporters to join the board members, officers, coordinators, and other volunteers for this special get together. Anyone is welcome to attend!

Last year eight of us met in Denver, Colorado and having the ability to meet in person really was what got our organization off to a wonderful start! I personally can't say enough about how wonderful it was to meet fellow volunteers in person and really get to know them. The discussions were so productive and we accomplished so much, but at the same time the time spent socializing and getting to know each other was simply awesome and a lot of fun!

We have selected the following hotel for our accommodations and our meeting point as it is not too far from the airport, provides a free airport shuttle and a complimentary breakfast.

Doubletree Guest Suites Phoenix
320 North 44th St., Phoenix, Arizona 85008-7698
Tel: 1-602-225-0500 Fax: 1-602-231-0561
Here is a cut and paste link.

In general, we plan on arriving late afternoon/early evening Friday and departing sometime on Sunday.

If you are at all interested and have any questions please send an email to info@AnOrphanSmiles .org. If you are planning to attend, please email as well so that we can plan activities accordingly based on the number of participants.

Hope to see you in November!

Diane Sitkowski

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Three large boxes

A big thank you to Debbie Walker and everyone who has contributed in June and July to the Tsurupinsk Art Project! Debbie shipped three very large boxes today.

The photo shows a sample of things that where sent. The staff at Tsurupinsk are thilled to hear that they are getting these art supplies for the children.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Christmas is coming!

An Orphan Smiles has launched its Christmas program. Details can be viewed on our website: Special thanks to Joan of Phoenixville, PA and her family who donated a whole box of stuffed animals (80+) and Rebecca of E Grand Forks, MN and her family who donated over 90 stuffed animals. These adorable toys will be sent to the Tsurupinsk orphanage later this year to arrive in time for the Holidays.

Tsurupinsk Children's Home is home to 207 physically and mentally handicapped children aged 4 to 18. Tsurupinsk is located in southern Ukraine in the Kherson region approximately 350 miles south of Kiev. All the children have major physical handicaps that make it difficult for them to move around and support themselves (no leg(s), hand(s), etc). There are 112 children who attend school on site. Sadly, 95 children have severe mental and physical handicaps and never leave their beds.

Monday, July 6, 2009

O12 grads are fully sponsored.

The ninth year students at Kiev Orphanage 12 have just graduated in June! The staff worked very hard to make this a special day of celebration for the students. An Orphan Smiles is very proud of them!

An Orphan Smiles would really like to thank Leslie who has done such a great job finding GAP sponsors for each one of these students. These graduates can now go to trade school, knowing that they have a friend who cares and will help them financially so that they can complete their training. Without sponsorship, they would be inclined to worry about how to afford their essential needs and living expenses. Those who are not sponsored and do not receive this type of support, are more inclined to fall out of their training programs due to financial dispair, and turn to the streets and crime for survival. Little do they know, that when this happens, their chances of survival are reduced dramatically.

Sponsors are still needed for Tsurupinsk and Myko graduates. If you are interested in helping a student through trade school please contact Leslie for Tsurupinsk at and Rachael for myko at

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Have you ever noticed this small coupon on grocery products?

This symbol is called a BOX TOP and they can be found on a whole range of grocery products. Please email for the most up to date list of products.
Each BOX TOP is worth 10 cents. These can add up very quickly especially if a lot of people are collecting them.
Please cut out or tear off and save your BOX TOPs to benefit An Orphan Smiles. Keep an envelope in a kitchen drawer and when it is filled just mail them to:

An Orphan Smiles
PO Box 175
Kimberton, PA 19442

Friday, April 17, 2009

Life pack project

An Orphan Smiles would like to send a big "Thank You" to those who have recently participated in the Life Pack Project. All O12 graduates will be getting these packs, and so far we have 36 Myko graduates receiving a pack. Myko still needs volunteers to put together six more life packs. These packs are comprised of a few simple household items that will make a big difference as the students leave school and head out to trade school. If you would like to help in any way, please let Rachael know at Rachael will be happy to fill you in with all of the details.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

AOS is now a 501 (c) (3)

It is with great excitement that we have the pleasure of announcing that An Orphan Smiles, Inc. is now a recognized 501 (c) (3) non profit as determined by the Internal Revenue Service. Contributions made after August 14, 2008 are now deductible under section 170 of the Code. This nonprofit status allows us to expand our fundraising opportunities including applying for grants, corporate donations and to be eligible for matching funds.

If you have any questions regarding our nonprofit status, please email Diane at

We are on facebook.

An Orphan Smiles now has a facebook cause page. You can access the page through the link below. It's nice to put a face to the friends of An Orphan Smiles too.

Friday, March 20, 2009

New KIDS and GAP programs!

Mykolaivka Internat recently added two sponsorship programs: GAP (graduate assistance program) and KIDS (kindness is donating smiles).

The KIDS program helps the students who are living at the Internat. Sponsorship is easy. After a student is assigned, you write letters to your child and send two basic packages per year. The children love to receive letters and packages from sponsors. Most importantly, the correspondence lets the children know that they have someone who cares about them. The annual cost for this program is $60.00 per year. This annual fee pays for a birthday party, Christmas celebration and costs for the in-country team.

The GAP program is also a sponsorship program. The sponsor pays $40.00 per month (this can be split between two sponsors) to help the graduate get through trade school. The students use this money for basic living supplies. They also learn how to budget and save for when they graduate and need to live on their own. Letters to the sponsored children are encouraged, packages are optional. Thirty dollars of this money goes to the student, five dollars goes to the in-country team for communications and travel expenses and the remaining five goes to Valentina who heads the program at Myko.

If you are interested in sponsoring a student through the GAP or KIDS program, please contact

Rachael Davidson - for GAP and
Stephanie Crail - for KIDS

Monday, March 2, 2009

Knitting project donated

An Orphan Smiles received a donation yesterday from the "Knit One, Purl Two, Pray Three" Sunday morning knitting group from St. John's Lutheran Church in Phoenixville, PA. The small group of knitters gather during the Sunday School hour for knitting and fellowship. They will continue to work on on toys and hats for the orphans. Received were 18 winter hats and 3 adorable knitted toys.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Feed the mind update

Thanks to the generous donations to the Feed the Mind program at Internat Mykolaivka, we have been able to purchase 80 new books for the 2nd Shipment to Myko for $500.00 which included shipping. These books consisted of: The Harry Potter Series, The Golden Compass Series, The Spiderwick Chronicles and various Series of books of Russian / Ukrainian authors - Tanya Grotter (Nancy Drew type) and Golden Dog Series (Zolotoi Pes.)

Thanks to all to bringing us closer to completing the Internat Myko Library..

Monday, February 16, 2009

New Sponsorship program at Myko

An Orphan smiles is pleased to announce that it has launched the KIDS and GAP sponsorship programs at Myko. Both programs have some students available for sponsorship and details can be found on the website or by e-mailing Stephanie for the KIDS program at or Rachael for the GAP program at

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Collection Effort - Essential Program

An Orphan Smiles would like to recognize St Basil School of Kimberton, PA for their collection effort this past week.
The school thru the Student Council sponsors a 'dress down" day where the students are permitted to wear clothes other than their usual school uniform if they participate in the designated Charitable event. The focus of this service activity was the Orphans in Ukraine and each class was assigned a different item or items to collect.

The results of this collection effort were amazing especially considering that St. Basil is a small school with only one classroom K-8 per grade.

Listed below are the items that were delivered to An Orphan Smiles and will be sent to Kiev Orphanage 12, Tsuripinsk and Mykolaivka in February.

23 boxes of cereal or boxes of granola/cereal bars
17 boxes of bandaids
18 coloring books

26 boxes of crayons

15 Paint by number sets
19 Hair accessories
17 Hair brushes
35 bottles of shampoo/conditioner
24 tubes of toothpaste
64 toothbrushes
11 deoderant
2 sewing kits
130+ bars of soap
4300 Q-tips
8 Facial Scrub products
15 bottles of lotion

Our Essential program focuses on providing hygiene items such as many of the items listed above. We hope to fill out these boxes with toilet paper and feminine products as well. Thanks to those who have already contributed to this worthwhile program to make this possible.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Update on "feed the mind"

We have reached another milestone for the Book Project at Myko. A few days ago we reached the $1000 mark. We are thrilled that we are already a third of the way towards our goal of filling the shelves of the library at Myko.

Please consider a donation towards our "Feed the Mind" Project. A book costs on average $5 and will give every student the opportunity to travel through the pages to places like Hogwarts and Narnia. Details for donating can be found in the "Donate a Smile" section of the website.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Photo's of the Kiev trip

Here is the link for the photo's of the Myko kids trip to Kiev.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Myko kids in Kiev (day 3)

Here is Bogdan's recap of day three. The kids sound like they had a blast. We at An Orphan Smiles are looking forwards to the next feed the soul trip.

Today the Myko group went to the Dyvosvit (Wonderland) family recreation center and enjoyed several hours of fun playing archade games, going on varous 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 chocholates 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 Slavcore, 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 enourmous 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.

Thanks again everyone!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Myko kids in Kiev (day 2)

Here is Bogdan's update of day 2.

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 Dinosaure Land, play games, etc. Kids love that place.
More to come (including photos)....

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A group of Myko children are in Kiev with Valentina.

The following is an e-mail from Bogdan who is hosting some Myko children in Kiev for our “Feed the Soul” program. From what this e-mail describes, this trip is a huge success. The children are filled with such awe and amazement and they see that there is more to the world than just the walls of the orphanage. With your support, we can continue to provide these types of programs to great children who need to see that the world is has many wonderful things to see and do. Please go to to make your donation.

From Bogdan:
Well, I know Myko has lots of fans so I thought I would send reports to you by the day. So, here's a short summary of Day 1.
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 descibe 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 food restaurant. 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. Pretty cool. The show was great and the children really enjoyed it. At the end everyone got a box of chocholates.
The Pizza. Since my favourite Canadian pizza place does not deliver to the disctrict 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 desert.
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.