As I was mentioning visiting Ukraine on these Ukulele Road Trips, a cunning and professional senior advisor of mine (my little sister) mentioned "Ukuleles for Ukraine" to me. Ukuleles for Ukraine is a non-profit organisation that aims to provide basic supplies, as well as colourful ukuleles to orphanages in the Cherkasy region. And she said I should get in touch. She has great ideas. So I did.
The Ukuleles for Ukraine project saw two musical westerners, Quinn and Mark, travel to Ukraine in April 2015, after a period of fundraising. Collaborating with local associations, they were able to provide supplies and joyful stringed little rainbows (ukes of course!) to orphanages in the Cherkasy region. Nearing this very region, I got in touch with them, and soon after, I was setting foot in the city of Cherkassy myself... at 5am. Slowly waking up, I phoned up Sasha, one of their contacts, a volunteer of the local non-profit Humanitarian Ukrainian Initiative, and we set off! In his exciting red ride, a flashy Zaporozhets, the great communist classic, if you're interested in these kind of details...
Early arrival, sweet ride, and ukulele-curiousity as we unbox the ukes before the lesson
There are over 50 (fifty!) orphanages in the region of Cherkasy. And I ended up visiting a few of those with Sasha. The economical situation is dire and not only orphans are taken in charge. Certain families send their children to these institutions, not being being able to provide for them themselves. Some children are hosted because of medical conditions, the medicine for which is too expensive for their families to buy and is provided to children in these institutions.
One thing these kids have all in common though, they are disarmingly joyful and enthusiastic! It was a real pleasure giving ukulele and music lessons (well, trying to anyway) to these bright lovely children.
Three pics from three different Oprhanages of the Cherkasy region
I've put here together a little video of the few bits of footage I had of these visits. A little peak into the lessons and songs the backpacking Ukulele Road Trips were lucky to share with these kids. Little uke songs and kazoo solos had the rooms filled with smiles. But I still feel I'm really the lucky one, having spent this quality time with such genuine and wonderful children.
Read great stories of people just like you, who one day decided to make a difference, here on the UHI's website.
You can support the Ukuleles for Ukraine initiative here. And their short documentary should be out soon! I'll keep an eye out for you and post the link here when it's online. Little side note, all donations go towards buying supplies for the kids, and the non-profit is actively looking for volunteers! You could schedule a little life-changing experience for the coming months...