I grew up always wondering about Ukraine. My ancestral homeland, the place where both my paternal grandparents and great grandparents are from.
I made my first trip to Kyiv, Lviv and the Carpathian Mountains in 2012. It was an experience unlike no other. It changed me. It filled an empty space in me that I didn’t know even existed. I came out on the other side of that trip a very different person. Reconnecting with not so distant relatives, walking the paths my grandfather walked, staying on the land he once lived.
Not everyone gets to experience life this way. Travel opens up so many opportunities, so many new directions, but Ukraine is a place that speaks directly to my heart. I had to go back, I had to make this place a part of my life. So I did.
In 2013 whilst doing research on Ukraine, I came across a website for a Canadian Ukrainian charity.
Help Us Help The Children works to give Ukrainian orphans and orphanages a chance to succeed at life. In a country ravaged by centuries of war, depression, suppression, famine and genocide; orphanages are a very unfortunate but prevalent part of the cultural fabric that makes up this giant nation. With Ukraine being the largest country in Europe and without European Union resources, the fates of its children are often left to fend for themselves.
HUHTC has worked tirelessly for over two decades to provide aide to Ukraine’s children. Through food, medicine, clothing, education as well as preparing young adults for the work force. Their best efforts in my opinion are those that come from their summer and winter camp programs.
Every year Canadians and Ukrainians unite to host two children’s camps in the Western Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains. They offer real life skills training; from cooking, sewing, financial planning, yoga, cultural and educational programs. They have real doctors and teachers volunteer their time to provide much needed care to these children.
The summer of 2017 I was tasked with documenting the camps day to day experiences through photography. Photography that will be used to deliver HUHTC’s message to the world, and encourage donors to continue support. By far the greatest thing I did that summer was climb Mount Hoverla with more than 150 kids, and volunteers. I documented the whole experience alongside cinematographer Yura Melko. It took us 3 hours to climb carrying our camera gear up the steep mountain in the fog.
This was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life.
I know it’s not Everest, but it’s extremely symbolic for me, for these children and volunteers. An experience like this brings people together, we are all dealing with things on different levels and to varying degrees, but when it’s just you and the mountain, we all balance out. We all face the same challenge together. When we reach the top, we can all relate. We understand one another, even if it was just for a day.
Help Us Help The Children — Ukraine https://helpushelp.charity/
Mount Hoverla at 2,061 metres (6,762 ft), is the highest mountain in Ukraine and part of the Carpathian Mountains. The mountain is located in the Eastern Beskides, in the Chornohora region.