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Monday 9th October
The week started with a taxi ride to the Kiev special school of arts for children with impaired vision. Full-time home and school to 120 blind or partially blind children, this good cause was recommended to us by Alina Kisina, Ukrainian photographer living in Edinburgh, and a patron of the school.
After 20 minutes the taxi wound it's way up a narrow, shabby residential street. As we started to wonder if we were lost the school came into view - a large red-stone building, and a lot nicer than we'd expected.
I was accompanied by Oleksa, Christine and Leshia Demianczuk - parents and sister of Alex Demianczuk who had co-founded TartanKiev. Oleksa and Christine both left Ukraine after WWII to settle in Edinburgh, and were proud to be back representing their adopted home. They were also extremely useful translators!
We were met there by David and Heather Giles from the British Embassy - Aberdeen fans but ok despite that, their assistance during the week was vital.
Galina, the Governess of the school, met us in her office. With Alina's help we had found out before the trip what they required:
• Repair work to fire escapes
• A new medical room
• Special stationery
After some quick introductions we got down to business, confirming what the money would buy and arranging the party for Thursday. We were then given a tour of the school, including meeting some of the children in their classes and having quick look at the room that would be converted into the new medical room - where children who feel unwell will be able to head off for a wee bit of TLC and a lie down.
Galina then took me to her Bank where I deposited £5,000 into the School's account, paid some invoices for them and also changed some cash into Ukrainian shoogles to pay for a slap-up party meal for all the children on Thursday (and probably Friday, Saturday…)
In the afternoon we met up with a Government official who had us driven to Kiev City Orphanage (Pritulok) Number 5, which was about as nice as it sounds. This institution only came to our attention a couple of weeks before the trip via Vitali Pantus, General Consul at the Ukrainian Embassy in Edinburgh.
If the inspirational Special School deserved help, then No. 5 is a place that desperately needs it. Stuck out in an estate well out of the centre of Kiev, this place brings to mind all the old Soviet, Eastern Bloc images. The home functions as a rehabilitation centre - homeless children brought off the streets are shaved and scrubbed, their clothes burned, and they're looked after for 3 months. If they have recovered sufficiently psychologically they are then placed in a permanent orphanage.
We met the Home's Governess, who made it clear that she couldn't accept any monetary donations - anything they received would have simply been deducted from their already meagre State funding - so instead they compiled a list of what they needed. Later, David Giles was kind enough to volunteer to do the "shopping". Nice of him, especially since he'd just spent 2 hours getting lost on the way out.
We were then treated to a show - singing and dancing by children, with another 50 of the shaven-headed weans enthusiastically clapping and singing along.