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            Welcome back everyone! Last time I wrote, I was on my way to Shepetivka from Kyiv. Before I begin…
Warning: this will probably be the longest blog I ever wrote but bear with me if you wish. I just experienced so much in the past few days that I don’t even know where to begin. I was going to do a short recap of the past 12 days, however, I decided to write what I did on each day instead. I want to be able to look back on my journey and remember what I did everyday on my adventures.

I am currently on a 7-hour train ride to Odessa from Kyiv but lets not get too far ahead…

When we arrived in Shepetivka, we stayed at my dad’s best friends house, Sergei. He has a very nice home with a mini zoo (one dog, a pig, chickens, roosters, and rabbits). Juliana and I woke up super early morning on Friday, July 25th and strolled around their backyard. One of the sons, Slavic, took us to see their piglet and let us hold some rabbits. When everybody woke up, we had an amazing organic breakfast and explored around the small village of Shepetivka. We visited the local market and a few local parks where Alex took pictures. We also visited my grandma’s old house. The family that currently owns it was kind enough to give us a tour of both the inside and outside of the house. Along the path we also passed by my uncle’s old house. I also just realized for a short period of time, my uncle and our family lived on the same street in Ukraine and we currently (in America) live on the same private road. What a coincidence!

Saturday, July 26th – The next day, Juliana, Alex, Diana, and I went to help out at a kid’s day camp at Sergei’s church. A few hours later, we left to Prysluch (Прислуч) for camp. When we arrived at the campsite, we started setting up tents and meeting other staff members. For the camp, I was assigned as a helper for the 15-16 year olds and Juliana was assigned as a helper for the 13-14 year olds. The leaders for my group were Kolya and Tanya. Alex and Diana were going to be the cinematographers and photographers for the camp. Later that evening, a local pastor (Oleg) picked us up to stay at his house in Poninka (Понінка). Oleg is also a family friend; he has a wife (Anna), a nine-year-old daughter whose name also happens to be Sophia, and a four-year-old son Mark. I feel as though every time we stay at someone’s house, it is always a family friend, haha. So it should be safe to assume that every time we visit a new area, the people will be family friends of some sort.

Sunday, July 27th – The four of us went to Oleg’s church. The church is small but very friendly and welcoming. Juliana sang two solos at the church. Right after church, the four of us headed back to the campsite. We went over the lessons and the daily schedule for each day. And the first night in the tent with Alex, Diana, and Juliana began…

Monday, July 28th through Saturday August 2nd – Everything in the campsite was essentially made from scratch. The land, initially just weeds, was grazed to a nice glistening field. Boundaries were built. Bathroom holes were dug up. Showers were built and the soccer goals were constructed out of tree trunks.
Then the stillness and peacefulness ended…..over 100 teenagers arrived Monday morning.
During the first day we mainly played some icebreaker games and got to know each other. Including the leaders (Kolya, Tanya, and I), we had 15 girls and 3 guys. Every night we had our own campfires, except for the last night we had an all group campfire. Our group decided to do a secret pen pal game throughout the week and reveal whom we had at the last campfire. Each day was filled with amazing lessons, activities, food, and overall great memories. One memorable moment I experienced was when I got the chance to ride on a motorcycle with my leader, Kolya. It was a short ride but definitely one I will remember. One of the activities included zip lining across the small river located in the campsite. I was the first one to go in my group and I loved every second of it! On the last day, there were a lot of tears both happy and sad. It was definitely hard saying goodbye to all the campers, but I definitely hope to come again next year.

Sunday, August 3rd – The four of us visited a small church in Polonne (Полонне) and then returned back to Oleg’s house where his daughter Sophia and her friend Alina showed Juliana and I around Poninka (Понінка).

Monday, August 4th – Oleg and the four of us headed to Khmelnytskyi (Хмельни́цький) to visit an orphanage. We were unable to visit any children because we came during their quiet time. Fortunately, Diana and Alex’s church, Reality, (located in San Francisco, California) funded the orphanage with supplies (baby diapers and baby wipes). After the orphanage, the five of us headed back to the campsite to prepare for a two-day camp for 7-12 year olds. The 2-day camp was another memorable experience. During this camp we had two small lessons and mainly played games.

Tuesday, August 5th – I feel as though this day went by way too fast. The kids left around noon. The staff stayed and cleaned up the entire campsite. Saying goodbye to the staff was one of the hardest moments that day because I became really close with most of them. Then I experienced something that brightened up my day……..
Juliana and I got to milk a cow for the first time ever! The cow belonged to a really nice family (Sergei and Luba) that was part of the staff at camp.

And now here I am….Oleg drove the four of us to Kyiv where we picked up the rest of our stuff up from the Kunets family and then 2 hours later hopped on a train to Odessa. We will be staying at my stepmom’s oldest brother’s house (another Oleg).

xoxo,
Sophie

P.S. An awesome video recap of camp made by my amazing brother-in-law Alex will be posted shortly. Stay tuned (:

Teens Camp

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