Summer Camps to Provide ‘Oasis of Hope’ for Ukrainian Children

Summer Camps to Provide ‘Oasis of Hope’ for Ukrainian Children

The United Nations describes the war’s impact on Ukraine’s children as “particularly appalling,” with nearly two-thirds of the nation’s youth having been forced to flee their homes. And an estimated 1.5 million children are at risk of post-traumatic stress and other mental health conditions while 7,000 schools have been closed, the U.N. says.

Increasingly, Ukrainian children are using paints, crayons and pencils to express their thoughts and emotions. Many of their drawings consist of war images, missiles and rocket launchers.

Eleven-year-old Sophia’s wartime artwork shows missiles raining down while a girl in traditional dress—perhaps Sophia herself—sits under an umbrella, surrounded by a hopeful splash of bright yellow sunflowers.

“Everything for these kids is about the war,” said Eric Mock, who frequently travels to Ukraine with the mission organization Slavic Gospel Association (SGA). “Their life consists of nightly air raids … their friend’s dad is not coming home from the frontline … their dad is not coming home. Kids in Ukraine don’t know if tomorrow will come.”

Ten-year-old Maryna has suffered the full horror of war. Surgeons had to amputate her crushed leg after a shell exploded next to her home. Now she wears a prosthetic. She panics when she hears any loud noise.

“I wish that (people in America) never see things that I have seen in the war,” Maryna said, “and that they would never have war.”

SGA President Michael Johnson said Maryna is one of thousands of children across Ukraine who are “bravely dealing with huge psychological stress and life-changing injuries. Only her strong faith in God carries her through,” he said.

In a few weeks, Maryna is looking forward to going to a church-run children’s summer camp where hopefully she can forget the war for a few days and have fun with other kids her age.

This summer, Illinois-based SGA is supporting local churches as they organize and run children’s camps across Ukraine and the former Soviet Union, including Russia and Belarus. At the camps, kids can be kids—giggling and playing games as well as listening to Bible stories.

The camp program aims to give more than 75,000 children a brief “oasis of hope” from the war and their often-dire circumstances at home, frequently marked by addictions and domestic violence.

“Some camps have to be held in bomb shelters,” said Mock, SGA’s senior vice president. “We’re trying to turn these kids’ hearts and minds away from the destruction and pain surrounding them to the hope of the Gospel and the love of Christ.”

Photo: Courtesy of Slavic Gospel Association

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