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The morning sunshine put everyone in a good mood, and all of the volunteers were anticipating a miracle. When the Kalinovka internat came into view, we spied the children in wheelchairs impatiently waiting for us in the allee.
The volunteers taking part in the outing picked up part of the children from the first building and then drove over to the third for the rest. Only then did our adventure begin as our wards hastily climbed in and took seats in the van. Some needed help, others managed themselves.
Proceeding thirty minutes to Berdiansk—long live the descendants of Ivan Susanin*!—we find the Zoo “Safari.” It is not yet completely open. Still, there are the following animals to observe: deer, camels, lions, tigers, leopards, black pigs, ostriches, ducks, swans, and pheasants—you couldn’t even count all of them! It took the children’s breath away; their faces shown with happiness.
(*From Wikipedia: "The name "Susanin" has become an ironic cliche in the Russian language for a person who leads somewhere claiming to know the way, but who eventually proves not to!")
After an hour of strolling around in the fresh air, all of the young naturalists were hungry. We created a genuine “culture shock” for the staff of the cafeteria we found: “Where do you come from?” they inquired. The children sat down to eat. Alyoshka, without arms and legs, ate first of all—the cleanup lady fed him. Overall only one broken plate and lunch was over. The entire staff was touched by our little group, and the stunned visitors to the cafeteria opened the door for the children to go out.
After lunch they went down to the Sea of Azov—peaceful, transparent, gentle, summoning them at the very least to touch the waves. The stand-in for the director of the internat, accompanying our group, took the hand of one of the children and went down to the water. Everyone touched the water, each approaching and admiring it in his own way.
The children arrived back at the internat tired out but filled to the brim with positive emotions. The director radiated joy; the caregivers were grateful. But we cannot fully grasp why. This kind of happiness, after all, is more of a blessing to give than to receive!
We thank our donors, the team of the Zaporozhye company “BK Dawn,” for their financial support in organizing the excursion. (Costs for the van, lunch, and visit to the zoo came to 1200 Hryvnias.)
Each person can help sponsor similar excursions for the special-needs children at Kalinovka in Zaporozhye Oblast—either by transfer of funds (see How to Donate) or by providing volunteer assistance. The staff of our organization is always ready to answer your questions.