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Eliseo Lujan

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Review for Universal Aid for Children, Inc., Miami, FL, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

My love affair with Universal Aid for Children (UAC) started on a cold Christmas week several years ago. That week I had been wondering about a young orphaned teenager from Boarding School named Vera, who I had been helping for several years, because her birthday had just passed. Knowing that at the end of the school year she would graduate, I was concerned about her future as she prepared to leave the boarding school. It was during that week when one morning I received an unexpected call from a close friend in Odessa. This close friend had been my interpreter and translator since I had met Vera. She knew that I consider Vera part of my family and also how concerned I was about her. The reason she called me was to tell me about an organization, UAC, which was available to help Vera continue her education after she graduated. After she told me that UAC had a scholarship program for teenage orphans she told me that Ms. Irina Tishchenko, who was the Director of the Orphaned Teen Scholarship Program, was with her and was waiting to speak with me. When I said that I would talk with her I never expected my life to be changed in such a radical and positive way. This lady named Irina, as I would later come to call Ms. Tishchenko, told me the details of the program, that she knew Vera, had spoken to Vera about the program and that Vera wanted to continue her education with UAC. Irina also told me that she and Vera had spoken about me and that she had seen my picture in Vera’s album. Finally she asked if I wanted to sponsor Vera and I immediately said “Of course I do.” It was after I switched my support to the UAC Orphaned Teen Scholarship Program that I slowly and then quickly realized how wonderful Irina, the UAC Staff, the scholarship program, and UAC itself were. As time passed the amount of time, hard work, and dedication Irina and the rest of the staff devoted to the programs amazed me. I say programs because I quickly learned about the other programs UAC administered in Ukraine. Amazed is an understatement! It is hard to put into words the affect that I felt when I realized the magnitude and scope of its programs and work. The administration of the scholarship program alone requires so much planning, coordination, and reporting by Ms. Tishchenko to successfully accomplish all the tasks that are required monthly. A few of those tasks include meeting with the Directors of the schools (where they graduated and where they are studying), translating the reports submitted by all students, monitoring the hours the students are required to work at their home schools, taking students to doctors, providing other medical support such as medicine, helping with clothing, etc. On a personal level I never stopped marveling at how Ms. Tishchenko translated my letters to Vera and her letters to me in such a timely manner. Later I learned that Ms. Tishchenko was available to the students, the staffs of the schools, the UAC staff and the sponsors on a 7 by 24 hour basis. Just a phone call away all the way to Odessa! Then the best about Ms. Tishchenko, the UAC Staff and the programs was revealed to me on my two one week visits to Odessa. They met me at the airport and brought Vera. At the airport they presented me with a loaf of bread with a cup of salt on top that we all shared. After the airport they took me to my hotel. The major activities the rest of the week were visiting boarding schools to meet students and school administrators, seeing the conditions of every day living for the students, making an assessment of the effort required by the UAC to meet its goals, and other UAC staff members. I met children of all ages, some healthy and some very ill. All needing help and all needing love! Lots of Love! And this is the best part I spoke of earlier – Irina and the UAC staff sure know how to LOVE the children a WHOLE LOT! They talked to them, listened to them, played with them, and corrected them. They even hugged them, and yes they kissed them! Even some that others would not hug or kiss for fear of catching something the child had. I was one of those who feared at first but now I just LOVE THEM! How did I learn to love them? That is an easy answer. From Irina and the UAC staff! After our first meeting on the phone that first December morning, Irina and I began a formal relationship when she began to translate letters between Vera and me once I began to provide the scholarship support. As I saw Irina’s very special love as she translated the letters, as she worked all those hours to ensure my Vera and all the children’s needs were met, as she made herself available to everyone at all hours of the day and night, and as she dedicated herself to the program and the children our relationship changed, like a snow ball rolling down the mountain side, from formal to friendly, to romantic and finally into a deep, rich, and beautiful LOVE! We are now married and our hope and prayer is that we will continue to support and do volunteer work for UAC for many years to come. For me UAC really knows what it means to declare that no child is left behind. They do it daily! And Vera, well she was always a head strong, independent teenager with her own ideas. But with the guidance, support, and dedication she received from Irina, with help from the UAC staff, Vera successfully completed her academic studies. But her story pales when compared to the accomplishments of other orphans. Do you need a fun, enjoyable way to receive a real blessing? Take some time to find out about other UAC orphan success stories. There are three other UAC workers that I want to mention. Mr. Igor Shepyeta who organizes construction, remodeling and continuing improvements made to all the institutions helped by UAC. During both my trips he provided logistical support, gave me valuable information about some of the orphanages, and became my friend. Mr. Maxim Kondritsky who is a Scholarship Program Coordinator, is an assistant to Igor Shepyeta and staff driver for the UAC staff. He was always available to provide transportation for me when other was not available and is also now a good friend. And finally Mr. Aleksey Tishchenko, now is my stepson, who provides legal support to UAC and is the Godfather to the child of, Olga Meximova, an orphan who graduated from the UAC program, is now working, and raising a beautiful family. Aleksey helped me navigate around Odessa’s at critical times. In conclusion I want to give Clara Pascal a really BIG THANK YOU!!! Without her insight, concern, and dedication UAC Ukraine would not be there for whose lives have been changed. Yes the program has helped many children, orphanages, doctors, hospitals, and the UAC Staff and their families. But also countless others who have benefited by the work it does. After several years of working with UAC I was blessed to meet Clara, blessed because I saw a woman with endless unquestioning love for children in need and a desire to make a difference in their lives. Following are pictures of some of “Our Kids” and others that are part of UAC’s work..

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

Children I have met or that have been help by other sponsors who grew up in orphanages and are now husbands, wives, and parents; successfully and contributing to society and improving their communities.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

I would add an office in Washington, D.C., to take advantage of the political and financial resources that are available.

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

There were there for me at every moment to answer questions, provide support, and make me feel at home in a new country.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

Honest, hard working, dedicated, warm and friendly. They each have the ability to quickly make you feel you are home with your family.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

Change lives, families, and even a country.

Ways to make it better...

I could stay in Ukraine for an extended period of time working with the students and repairing orphanages, etc.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

Good media exposure and support. The political climate in the country?

One thing I'd also say is that...

I am staying with this organization and will continue to find ways to help it.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every week

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?


Role:  Donor & I sponsored three students in the UAC program, one that I hosted in the US for two summers holidays, raised money in my church to purchase medical equipment for a child with Cystic Fibrosis, traveled twice to Odessa where I purchased and distributed food.