Two local women will soon be on their way to the Ukraine in search of answers about the living conditions of orphans who’ve captured their hearts.

“We want to visit Russia also,” said Sheila Campbell, explaining she has been told different guidelines apply to children adopted through the two nations. “I want to go over there and find out what the rules are.”

Jenny Hoback, who is accompanying Campbell on the international journey, said they “expect to see a lot of things brought to light” when they visit the Ukrainian orphanage.

The trip was inspired by the often-conflicting rules governing a group of 13 Ukrainian orphans who visited the Ashland area as part of a summer camp program designed to introduce them to potential adoptive parents. Campbell said the orphanage director who accompanied the children was forbidden from speaking to local people about adoption and seemed fearful when anyone inquired about bringing the children into their own family.

“After they had gone I said, ‘I would give anything to see how they live,’” Campbell said, explaining Hoback suggested they seek the blessing of Family Hope International and make arrangements to volunteer their time and energy where the children call home.

“We are going more as goodwill ambassadors. We are taking hats, scarves and school supplies with us,” Hoback said, explaining they were stunned to learn it costs $96 to ship a 7-ounce package containing “two paperback books and a document” to the orphanage.

“I want to see where these children live and what their life is,” Campbell said, recalling her amazement at watching the children consume every single part of an apple they were given.

“I want an answer to why they are sent out when they are 16. I want to know if they get any training. I want to know where a 16-year-old girl goes when that happens.”

Hoback, a mother of four, said her reasons for making the trip are intensely personal, motivated by the joy she felt when the orphans where at her home.

“For me it was like old times again,” she said. “I had a house full of kids and laughter and I was a changed person. My kids asked me why I’m going and my best answer was ‘The orphans need me.’”

Hoback said she could only agree when her son corrected her and said, “The orphans don’t need you, you need the orphans.”

The women are taking a pair of suitcases each and three other pieces of luggage loaded with things for the orphans. They hope to be “put to work” when they arrive at the Ukrainian orphanage, although they have reserved one night for themselves to attend an opera.

When they come home, Campbell said she wants to speak to local church and civic organizations about the things they saw and heard.

“I want to be able to touch these people and tell them what’s there. I want to tell them about how these kids live and what life is like for them and how someone here could change their lives and give them a chance,” Campbell said.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.

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