Local Couple Makes a Difference
How many times do we talk about our sympathy for the poor, downtrodden people of this world - but never really do anything about it? Several years ago, one couple in Galesburg decided to take action and they are determined to continue.
For the third time, Lee and Carolyn Smith of Galesburg are planning a humanitarian trip to Ukraine, one of the former states of the Soviet Union, where they have run a day camp for 350 children, provided medical assistance in rural villages and support for an orphanage. In 2000 and 2001 they traveled with a team from the Minnesota Baptist Conference, but this year the couple has formed their own non-denominational corporation, ''Friends of the Ukraine Ministry, Inc.,'' and are seeking tax deductible contributions from the Galesburg area.
Lee Smith has been owner and operator of Midas Muffler in Galesburg for 21 years, as well as proprietor of several other businesses. ''The Ukraine has unemployment of 60 percent to 70 percent,'' says Smith. ''There are a lot of poor children in the streets and orphanages and I would like to see the Galesburg area offering encouragement to the poor Ukranian kids and adults.''
The day camp project this year is called ''Camp of Love for Children.'' Smith says, ''In order to have time to get passports and visas and order supplies, we need to begin now to receive funds. We need to order supplies for the camp by February 1st. The estimated cost of a camp or camps for 400 kids would be around $10,500 or about $26.00 per child.''
''Last year we raised about $13,300 and furnished a Bible for each child which they could take home and share with their families. Each child received a painter's cap, a camp theme t-shirt and activity book for themselves and their families. Supplies for crafts and equipment for games were purchased and a meal and snacks were provided, since most of the children are from poor homes and have very little food. Since most families don't have a car,'' said Smith, ''we rented city buses to bring children to camp from different areas of the city.''
During the Smith's first trip to Kirovograd, Ukraine, they joined forces with their ''sister church,'' Central Baptist Church of Kirovograd, and shared in their ministries of visiting orphanages where they saw children without adequate shoes or clothing. They visited small villages where there is no medical help available.
Lee Smith tells of team members staying in the homes of church members in Ukraine, where, in the rural areas, there is rarely indoor plumbing and the electricity is turned off at certain times of the day and night. After a day of doctors providing care to hundreds of villagers, says Smith, the villagers lined the streets as the team left, clapping and cheering and thanking them for coming.
After the Smiths have accumulated the funds for the day camp, they will begin preparation for projects at the orphanages and for medical assistance. They are always looking for volunteers in those areas to travel with them in July, 2002 or any other time.
For Americans, living accomodations in Ukraine require considerable sacrifice of comfort and food. But the Smiths are inspired by the gratitude and reception they are given by Ukranians and the dramatic results of their work. It must be a wonderful feeling.
We know by now that terrorism and repression are bred by poverty and hopelessness. The Smiths have found a way to make a difference in this world. And they offer us an easy way to be a part of that difference.
Interested donors and volunteers can reach Lee or Carolyn Smith at
342-0103. Donations may be mailed to Friends of the Ukraine Ministry, Inc., 513 W. Main St., Galesburg.
Caroline Porter is a freelance writer from Galesburg who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.