Press

UKRAINE'S ORPHANS CRY IN ONE LANGUAGE
By Clara Pascal

March 14, 2014
THE MIAMI HERALD
 
 
 

CHARITY IS AN OBLIGATORY CONDITION OF DOING BUSINESS

September 15, 2012
EVENING ODESSA
 

 

SAVING THE WORLD, ONE CHILD AT A TIME!

June, 2007

MORE MAGAZINE

Clara Pascal
Age: 45
Where I live: Ukraine and France (where my son, Luke, 12, goes to school)

Occupation: Advocate for the orphans of Ukraine

The trip that changed my life In April 1995, I was filming a documentary on Ukrainian orphanages for a church in Florida, where I lived. Conditions for orphans in the former Soviet states were desperate. Lacking funds, the government often cut off the orphanages’ power and heat in the brutal winters. Hungry children- with hollow, sunken faces- were miserable in the freezing dark. They died from simple infections. Many had untreated cleft palates. The buildings were crumbling, with foul toilets and broken windows. The kids lacked bedding, clothing, toys, books and any affection. They were left completely alone at night because there wasn’t enough staff; the few people working there weren’t paid for months at a time, and their own kids were hungry.

How I became a mother During that first trip, I was filming an undernourished infant. He woke up and gave me an amazing smile. I’d had no intention of adopting, but this baby captured my heart. I didn’t even know if he was a girl or a boy, and it wouldn’t have mattered.

What we’ve done so far A friend was running a relief organization called Universal Aid for Children. In just two months, with her help, I was able to start UAC – Ukraine (UacUkraineRelief.org), which has it’s own programs and funding through foundations and donations. Since then, we’ve brought doctors, surgical instruments and antibiotics to Ukraine hospitals so kids can be treated. One local orphanage had been relying on a single doctor who sharpened his sole scalpel after every surgery. We’ve gotten rid of the lice-infested mattresses, renovated many of the 21 orphanages we work with and introduced the kids to Christmas and birthdays.

What really makes me proud In 1998, we started a college scholarship program. Before, when orphans reached 17, they were thrown out with the clothes on their backs and $25. There was little choice except crime or prostitution or suicide. Although Ukrainian law lets them attend college free, they could never go because they were stigmatized and poorly prepared. Now, with prep classes and monthly survival money, we have kids going to Ukraine medical and law schools.

My philosophy We can’t change the whole world, but tiny step by tiny step we can make a major difference. -J.G

 

NEW BRITAIN PARISH'S "FAMILIES FOR FONTANKA BOYS" PROJECT SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETES ITS FIRST YEAR

March-April, 2012

UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX WORD

 

 

AMERICAN GIRL WINNER!
Julia D. Age 11, Florida

December, 2003
AMERICAN GIRL MAGAZINE

Julia’s project:
Julia made a really beautiful book that tells her life story in photos and in her own words. Julia was born in Ukraine and lived in an orphanage for six years.

She had problems with her right leg, but surgery didn’t help. After she was adopted by her American Family, she had to have her leg removed. Julia uses an artificial leg now, and her determination to be like any other American girl has helped her to learn how to dance ballet, be a cheerleader, play soccer, ice-skate and even ride a bicycle!

Judge’s comments about her project:
“Her determination shows on every page. ‘She never gave up,’ This girl is unstoppable!”

Julia’s favorite part of AG Magazine:
The crafts

Julia’s favorite part of the cover shoot:
Having her picture taken!

 

TO UKRAINE, WITH LOVE
By Ellen Kanner

December 16th, 2002
THE MIAMI HERALD / LIVING AND ARTS SECTION

For 2,000 Ukrainian orphans, Santa Claus is a petite woman with caramel-colored hair.

Their Santa--Clara Pascal--comes not from the North Pole, but from Coral Gables.

Pascal was a far cry from Santa Claus when she first visited Odessa, Ukraine, in April 1995 to film a documentary about orphanages. Shocked by what she saw--children who were neglected and malnourished, children with serious medical problems like cleft palates--she ended up falling in love with one of the orphans and adopting him.

''There was one little baby,'' Pascal said. `Everyone else was crying, sad, but he was the happy one, the survivor. He looked straight at me, and I thought, `I'm coming back for you. ''

Pascal was 33 and single. Braving Ukrainian bureaucracy and adopting a foreign orphan seemed overwhelming, ''but somehow, I knew it would be possible,'' she recalled.

Two months after her return, Pascal, now 40, ended her film career to become Ukrainian programs director for Universal Aid for Children, Inc. Established in 1977, the Pompano Beach-based nonprofit agency focuses on humanitarian relief efforts and international adoption.

It would take her two years to adopt her son Luke, now 8.

''The love I had for Luke catapulted me. I knew I had to do something,'' said Pascal, who returns to Odessa several times a year to give the thousands of orphans she couldn't adopt some of the care they need.

Her programs serve 18 separate Ukrainian institutions, offering nutrition, health care, psychological counseling, education and scholarship opportunities for orphans who are otherwise released, without resources, to the state when they reach 17.

The Ukrainian government resisted outside help, so Pascal staffed her program with Odessa locals to help break down cultural barriers. ''Humanitarian was a word I had to explain [to government officials],'' Pascal said. “It's a closed culture. It's a pride thing - you have to respect that.''

Her top priorities: Providing orphans with proper nutrition and medical care. Creating emotional support, even joy, are also important.

PLAYING SANTA

That's why Pascal looks forward to Christmas, when she gets to play Santa to 2,000 orphans, thanks to donations by individuals and organizations, including DHL and Florida Healthcare Supply.

“We try to get one present for each child. That in itself is a huge feat because there's so many of them. The sense of ownership is so big with them because they have to share everything they have.'` Christmas, which the Russian Orthodox celebrate on Jan. 6, was a concept these children couldn't grasp at first.

''Most of these kids don't even know their own birthdays, let alone what Christmas is. It would be like every other day, unless we did something,'' Pascal said. The presents are basics - sweaters, blankets and the like.

''They need everything. I can never keep up,'' said Pascal. ” We try to raise $25 per child and have our staff take them shopping. They pick out what they like and have it Christmas morning. For the little ones, we take stockings and put [warm clothing] in them. It's freezing and the heat is always off there.''

Pascal, who grew up in Maryland, got her leadership skills from her father, Robert Pascal, who worked in county government, and her charitable impulse from her mother, Nancy Ware Pascal Wainwright, a Miami native.

GIVING SPIRIT

''At Christmas, we always had a family we would go help,'' recalled Pascal. "Being a humanitarian was instilled in me by my mother.'` Pascal, who studied at the University of Central Florida in the mid-1980s, made Miami her home in 1994.

As Ukrainian programs director, she has received assistance from as far as California, and as close as South Florida.

Susan Macpherson, a nurse practitioner from West Palm Beach, first visited Odessa with Pascal in June 1995, during Pascal's first trip with Universal Aid for Children. Macpherson was on hand to assess the orphans' medical needs.

''Ophthalmology, orthopedics, plastic surgery, infectious disease - really severe,'' she said.

Macpherson now sponsors sisters Galina and Irina Gromevnko, for Universal Aid's scholarship program.

Through Macpherson's support, Galina, 22, has completed beauty school. Irina, 20, is studying at a university and wants to be a journalist. ''I send them care packages a couple times a year, clothing, extra money,'' said Macpherson. `They've become very close to me. I told the girls, `Learn English and I'll bring you to spend a couple weeks in Florida.' ''

Since the scholarship program began four years ago, Pascal has raised $45,000, enabling 75 orphans to pursue a college education in the Ukraine.

''These kids are my mission now,'' said Pascal. ``All they need is the right environment and they thrive. What they overcome is phenomenal.'` She wants her son Luke to meet these young people who inspire her, but not yet, not this Christmas. ''I'm still protective of him,'' she said.

Although adopted children often have problems adjusting to a new environment, Luke has taken well to his. He says he loves to play kick and catch and freeze-tag.

Like her, he laughs a lot. And like her, he senses he is linked to a world far beyond Coral Gables. He studies pictures and videos of the other orphans, and talks about his brothers and sisters in Ukraine. ''I want to go over there and be with them and help them,'' Luke said. ''We're all citizens of the world. We're all in this together,'' said Pascal. "I wish more people would become involved in a personal way, whether it's with the person next door or someone around the world. I believe goodness begets goodness. It helps us in the end, too.'`

HOW TO HELP

Universal for Children Inc accepts donations of money and various goods, like new clothing, which Land's End contributed last year. All donations are tax deductible.

To help or for more information, contact Clara Pascal, the agency's Ukrainian programs director, at 305-740-7279 or e-mail at: cjpascal@comcast.net

 

CLARA’S SCHOLARSHIP
Tatiana Nepomnyashchaya (Translation from Ukrainian)

November 24th, 2001
THE EVENING ODESSA

There appeared to be a lot of funds helping poor children. In pre-election campaigns, the funds grow like mushrooms. It is not bad certainly. The children’s lives do become better. But it seems that this help is rendered somehow slow- witted! Excuse me for the harsh word. Kind men and women come for a holiday and bring lot’s of presents.

Nobody knows when they will appear the next time. Last year, children in “The Lighthouse Boarding School received 15 presents each for Christmas and New Year holidays. They shared their presents with other similar institutions. At the same time, children from one city boarding school did not get anything for the holidays. They appreciate “planned help”. One faithful man for example, regularly supplies orphanage #1 with greens from spring to late fall.

Universal Aid for Children, which is represented by the clever Clara Pascal, plans its work. It helps several institutions. Boarding school No. 4 gets special attention. This is one such boarding school in Odessa for orphans. This organization helps all children, but the 11th grade children get good, sound care.

The graduates are usually supplied with clothes and footwear (good ones), and books needed for entering the institutes. The tutors are invited if needed, and preparatory courses are paid for. The graduates as a rule enter the higher educational establishments, or prestigious colleges #35 or higher, #26. While the kids study, they receive scholarship from Universal Aid for Children. It is not a scanty sum like our state gives our students. It is possible to live normally on “Clara’s Scholarship” (as the children call it).

There is one rule – each scholarship student must work monthly 36 hours on weekends (for the 1st course 24 hours) at one of Clara’s institutions, boarding schools, orphanages, children’s hospitals, social rehabilitation schools, or a detention center. The references from the educational establishment and the job must be positive.

On scholarship day, I started for the meeting supposing that it might not happen. Will American’s continue the charity projects after the events of September 11th? The organization exists not on budget money, but on private charity investments.

The Ukrainian representatives of Universal Aid for Children, I.A. Tishchenko and P.S. Panin explain more. “This help is a good will to people. And the kids must be good so that Clara will always have arguments in their favor!” About 40 children got the scholarship this time. Irina Gromovenko nearly missed her scholarship. The matter is that Irina received the scholarship last year too and studied at preparatory courses in the university. This year she entered the university. She was considered a first year student, and worked 24 hours. Now she has to work 36 hours. Still, she was given the scholarship for a second year. Irina got scared. She promised to work. When she fulfills her promise, she will get the scholarship.

It is a pity there are several cases when the kids lost this financial support. We are sorry for Christina – a beauty, a good girl, but it was her fault. She entered the university, but did not attend classes, so she was expelled. She still lives in the dorm. Christina is getting a job. Alexey entered the academy but was expelled because of his bad behavior.

Sergey is a seller at the market. It seems he said good-bye to the institute forever. But there is good news as well. Olga Chernova also says good-bye to the scholarship, but the reason is that she earns money and can support herself! “We led her to an independent life”, Irina Anatolevna smiles. Olga finished college #35 excellently with a red diploma, and became a hairdresser. When Clara came in to the store, the girl made her a hairdo that Clara liked very much. Olga works in “Sharm” hairdressers shop. The clients like her, she is friendly, smiling and thankful. In summer, she cut the kids’ hair. Olga has a flat. What else does one need? Irina Anatolevna says, “In difficult situations, you remain a member of our family. This is what Clara said”.

The children’s attitude towards boarding school children is special. Family is family. Tanya Litvinova is finishing medical college. Her work is in the resuscitation department of Oblast Children’s Hospital. They speak well about her there. She is professionally well prepared and attentive to kids... to all the kids. When a girl named Irina, (from the 7th grade) came to the hospital from #4, Tanya did not leave her. When a child is unconscious, they need to be fed by the probe, and get special care. Tanya did everything she could. When Irina opened her eyes she cried with joy. Tanya wants to enter the medical institute, but will she succeed?

Valya Volk studies in polytechnic university. She says her main problem is the lack of time. She asks for body basic training. Last year Valentina attended the trainings. She wants to attend them again. Valya “works” at native #4. There is no need to teach her, she know herself what to do. She sews the buttons on, irons the linen, puts everything In order in the wardrobe. If needed, she checks the heads for lice (life is life)! And of course, plays with the children (she sews the dresses to dolls – amazing!). She reads to them and even reprimands if needed. “She is balanced and strict, and always gets along well with my 6th grade kids,” says the caretaker V.A. Kruchenyh.

Dima Shumeyko studies at the 3rd course of marine academy. He is big, strong, and noisy. His 5th grade pupils adore him. And Dima for them…”I am the father for them, he explains…I will not give them to anybody.” I ask him if his scholarship is enough for him. “ To pay the debts back,” jokes the boy? “Certainly enough, but not more”. I may continue with this company for a long time.

Children are so different, and so good. But many of them are united (besides Clara’s scholarship) by the absence of housing. Ilona S. lives with her neighbors and is thankful to them. Vlada B. struggles to take her room back and asks for help. Valya P. rents a flat. Natasha G. pays big money for renting a flat.

But it is a topic of another talk. We will speak about it next time. And now… I glance into someone’s “report” and see the words, “Dear Clara, we are thankful to you, we remember about you and pray for you.” Clara Pascal will come to Odessa on December 4th, and it will be a big holiday for a big boarding school family.

“SPIRITS OF SOULS SANG TO ME”
By Clara Pascal

November 25th, 1995
THE MIAMI HERALD

The first time that I walked into Orphanage three in Odessa, Ukraine, I was carrying in a video camera. The next time that I walk out of Orphanage three, buy the grace of God, I will be carrying out my son.

It started as a 10-day shoot. I went to make a video about the Ukrainian orphans. I was a single woman with a minor mission. My life has never been the same since that day last March. The sweet spirits of many young souls sang out to me. What a song they have learned to cry.

There are an estimated 55,000-orphaned children in Ukraine. This struggling nation is the poorest of the former Soviet-bloc countries. Its annual inflation rate has reached a staggering 2,500 percent. The average Ukrainian worker makes approximately $15 a month. A pair of shoes at the open market costs $20. In practical terms, it is an impossible life.

Alexandra is a nanny in my son’s room. She works 24-hour shifts four days a week. She smiles and sings as she bounces three babies at once on her ample knees. Alexandra has worked in the orphanage for 25 years. The babies all call her mama. “It makes them feel better, “ she says.

Luke Anthony was not the first child whom I saw. He was, however, the first one to see me. At 4 months old, he looked me straight in the eye, and he knew me. He knew all the moments and memories in my heart. He recognized me right away. I am his mother.

Luke was abandoned at birth. His biological mom delivered him and left the hospital. Chances are his young mother was an orphan herself. The state releases homeless kids at 17. They are thrown into a crumbling society with no real chance for a future.

Luke Anthony is now 10 months old. He still lives in Public Orphanage three. I lived in Odessa for two months this past summer and I visited him every morning and night. He loved the grass and the warm breeze. In the evening he would fall asleep in my arms with a smile on his little face. I have been approved to adopt Luke Anthony. It is a long, complicated process so as to ensure that each child has a responsible family.

Now there is a moratorium on all international adoptions out of Ukraine. I feel as though someone has ripped my heart out of my body. Luke is just one of the 55,000 homeless orphans.

I have met in Kiev with U.S. Ambassador Green Miller, who is pro-adoption and concerned with the Ukrainian children’s welfare.

Please send letters of support for the lifting of the moratorium on adoption of abandoned children in Ukraine to:

Attn: Ms. Clara Pascal
Director Ukraine Medial Aid/Relief
167 SW 6th Street.
Pompano Beach, Florida 33060

All letters will be forwarded to the State Department’s Office of Children’s Issues and to the ambassador of Ukraine in Washington D.C. Support for this cause will play a big role in helping the suffering Ukrainian children.

Universal Aid for Children, inc
Attn: Ms. Clara Pascal
Director Ukraine Medial Aid/Relief
167 SW 6th Street.
Pompano Beach, Florida 33060

SCHOOL REPUBLIC IN ODESSA WAY

Valentin Miloshevich
Kiyev News

Even in the most desperate years of ruin and grief, orphans probably were surrounded by more care and attention than now…

It was not 7 o’clock yet when the dwellers of one of the sleeping buildings of Odessa boarding school #4 for orphans were woken up by the cry of 11 yr. old. Alvetina Lisunova. Sitting in bed wiping her tears, the girl who was usually humble and patient, complained that she had a stomachache and a headache. Friend’s helped Alya to the nurses’ room and the nurse on duty called emergency at once. Alya was taken to the children’s department of City Infection Hospital, where they already had about 40 children from this boarding school.

One day later, the terrible news came. Alya, who was loved by all, teachers and students, for her unusual kindness and gentle compassionate character, died. The diagnosis (quote from the death certificate): dema and swelling of the brain as the result of acute intestinal intoxication. It is not a food poisoning, but a virus infection.

The best environment for spreading this virus are two factors: a weak body, and a chill. Children of #4 had more than enough of these problems. 70 children from this establishment were taken to Odessa Infection Hospital, and City Children’s Clinical Hospital from March 13 to April 1st. The diagnosis in most cases with rare exceptions was the same virus.

ORPHANS DEPRIVED OF WARMTH
I will say here – I am convinced that if not for the tragic death of Alya Lisunova’s – it is possible that people would hardly know, not only about the fact of mass hospitalization of orphans, but also of a shameful lack of human logic which came before it.

This namely was caused by the City Education Department who cut off the central heating for 5 days. This happened because the funds needed to pay the bill were not transferred in time by Odessa Railway. They control the heating system. Practically all the teachers, doctors, tutors whom I talked to, consider this particular event the single cause of virus infections growing into a huge epidemic in such a short time. There is no doubt about this.

Children trembled with a cold for several days. They went to bed dressed-up as the temperature in the sleeping building was 44.6 – 50 F at night, and in some cases 41f. Most cases of hospitalization were during the periods when they cut the boarding school off from the central heating system. To my regret, I could not find out who was personally responsible for this. It was disgusting, not having any excuse. What’s worse, this illegal action accounted for more that 400 orphans being deprived of warmth.

The Railway accused the gas company, which stopped supplying gas because of the debts. The gas company says the problem was they didn’t get the money, limits, or governmental orders. Concerning the City Education Department, which must remit the money timely for the heating of the boarding school, has had very poor financing. Two days after the heating had been cut off, the City Education Department found the money. But it was a misfortune again – they were transferred on the weekend when the bank is closed.

How can nobody be guilty of this? No one hears about this? 70 children having been taken to the hospital (there were 96 others say), and 290 total ill children, with one child having to die? (Would those really guilty be found guilty?) I doubt it. These things did not (as somebody in Odessa wants to present this) happen occasionally by chance! No, the things that happened in boarding school #4, and in the second half of March, were not an occasion. On the contrary, it was a result from this establishment that had been approaching inevitably and for a long time. It is because of the careless and informal attitude the city administration has for orphans. (let’s be honest – not only present, but past.) and although this is not only my thought, I think you will agree after having read the article to the end.

AN APPLE – ONLY A PICTURE IN THE MANUAL
There live the orphans at #4. Homeless because their parents lost their parental rights or for another sad reason. They are little people with a hard fate…and numerous forthcoming problems, including physical development because of malnutrition, lack of vitamins, etc. Who needs sufficient food, fruit, vegetables more than they?

“When was the last time you ate an apple, orange or green onion?”, I ask a very thin 10 year old Stasik. He thinks for a long time then says that he does not remember… it was a long time ago. His emaciated friends nod to confirm his words – they see fruit and vegetables here very rarely. Even though according to official documents that were shown to me by the director Tatyana Shuparskaya, children receive 60% of vegetables, 10% of fruits, 50% of dairy products.

Generally the food is rather poor here – boiled grain, bread and conserved fish. Moreover, as there are electric stoves in the kitchen, and the electricity is cut off for 3 to 6 hours a day. Children sometimes have to go without their first course. By the way, electric water heaters are installed here besides electric stoves. So when there is no light, there is no hot water. You understand how difficult it is in such conditions to wash 400 cups and plates 3 times a day, and then to wash yourself and clothes.

There is a problem with clothes and footwear. As the director says, children are provided 50% less than what they should have. Children wear what they happen to have (one boy told me he was wearing the clothes that he stole in summer on the beach). Children do not have the most necessary things, starting from linen and underwear and finishing with gowns and slippers. They need soap and towels badly. I must say here that the teachers who work with such special children do not receive a salary here for several months. This is a problem nationwide. I do not want to keep silent about dirty, ruined toilets without windows where the wind is blowing…about horrible floors, walls and lice…that in a bedroom for made for 10 children, there must sleep 15. The boarding school is made for 240 children, and it houses 410.

The situation would be still worse (although it is hard to imagine a worse situation) without some sponsors’ help from the USA…Especially the representative of the charity organization “Universal Aid for Children” and Clara Pascal. Many times I hear the kindest words about her from the teachers and children. Clara Pascal provides the children literally with everything starting with clothes, socks, food, hygiene inlays, glasses and computers. She provides the medical treatment and medical operations (even took a boy for an operation to Kyiv). She also helps the graduates to enter higher educational establishments.

If we say the authorities do not know the true situation at #4, we would be lying. Firstly, what kind of authority is it if it does not know what is going on? Secondly, the staff of #4 has applied many times with requests to help these problems at the boarding school. They applied one by one and all together, orally and in written form. They listened politely and they got polite answers. For a while things did change for the better, but in general, everything remained the same.

Nobody pay attention to us, neither the adults, nor the children, says Ludmilla Matynova, who has been working in the boarding school for a quarter of a century.

CHANGES WHICH COST LIVES
Odessa is not the poorest city in Ukraine. In this city big funds are spent on festivals such as the one on April fools day, and for useless events, such as “collective weddings” of 100 couples… or breaking the world record of the number of simultaneously kissing people. There are lots of local and foreign vegetables and fruits in the markets all year round, and the orphans see a fresh apple no oftener than say, children of Polar Norilsk.

But do you know what is the most saddest and outstanding thing in this story? It appears that all problems of boarding school #4 could have been solved without much effort long ago, and very quickly. A week after the above mentioned tragic events, there was a meeting held at the school under the leadership of the City Mayor Ruslan Bodelan, and the leaders of successful enterprises. The representatives of city services committees were present.

Less than two hours later, most of the financial and technical problems were solved concerning food, clothes, hot water, hygiene devices for children, and many other things. In particular, the problem with electricity was solved very quickly. It appeared that for this, it was only necessary to connect the building with neighboring lines that were cut off at a different time of the next day. The work started the next day, and I think (want to hope) that the life of the children at #4 will in some period of time, change for the better.

But in order for this hope to appear quiet and tender, Alechka Lisunova had to lie down in the grave in Northern Odessa cemetery, next to her mother’s grave.

-Valentin Miloshevich,

STUDENT AIMS TO HELP ORPHANS
By Wendi Winters for The Capital

THE CAPITAL-GAZETTE NEWSPAPER
Annapolis, Maryland

When most people head to Europe on their summer vacations, they go to relax and see the sights. But Severna Park High School senior Kate Bethel went to help save a few lives.

The 17-year old Chattom Hills resident joined a friend, former classmate and St. Mary’s High School senior Marisa Pascal, on a 10 –day voyage that took them to a half –dozen decrepit Ukrainian orphanages and crude orphan summer camps.

Marisa, the granddaughter of former county executive Robert A. Pascal, planned to travel to the Ukraine with her aunt, Clara Pascal of Coral Gables, Florida.

Ms. Pascal is the founder and director of Universal Aid for Children in Ukraine Inc. A documentary video director, Ms. Pascal, founded the charitable organization in 1995 after returning from a visit to the orphanages of Odessa.

What she witnessed there horrified her, spurring her to action. She eventually adopted a Ukrainian boy orphan, who lives with her in Florida and in France.

“I’ve always wanted to join the Peace Corps,” Kate said of her decision to travel with her best friend. “Marisa had gone three years earlier and was eager to go again and help out, but I was worried I wouldn’t be able to handle it.”

Like Clara Pascal, she was shaken by what she encountered.

“There were so many orphans,” she said. “Kids are abandoned by their parents who are too poor to take care of them…the abandoned babies cry all night because there are not enough people to comfort them. Lots of orphans have cleft palates, some are blind or crippled, some have HIV…The kids are looking for someone or something to love – one girl adopted a rat; others take in stray cats.”

When she engaged in horseplay with some of the youngsters, she learned a harsh fact.

“I’d go to tickle someone to make them laugh and I could feel their sharp ribs through their clothing. They had no body fat. There were no overweight kids in the orphanages.”

Preteen boys in the orphanages have a hard time accepting affection, she said. They’d been hugged so infrequently throughout their lives, Kate found she had to practically tackle some just to hug them – and teach them how to hug back.

She asked the teenagers her age what they wanted most in the world. The answer came back over and over again: “I want a family.”

Kate realizes many of the kids will not be adopted – a lot of adoptive parents want cute, cuddly babies, not been-there done that adolescents and teens.

Kate was also disturbed by the children’s clothing – or lack of it. The orphans usually own one or two sets of clothes.

“I thought ‘Whoa!’ I have so many outfits at home and some in my suitcase I’m not even wearing.”

On her return to the familiar environs of Severna Park, the former freshman and sophomore year class president and current Student Government representative set about corralling her fellow SGA members and the school’s Environmental Club Action Committee to set up a clothing and fund-raising drive for the orphans. Social studies and comparative religion teacher Barbara Segnatelli is the event sponsor.

Rain, snow or shine on Dec. 11, the parking lot at Serverna Park High School will become the drop-off location for gently worn coats, apparel, sleepwear, shoes, hats, gloves and stuffed animals.

Clothing must be clean and in good repair. Through the efforts of Clara Pascal, Kate has arranged to ship all the collected clothing and toys to the Ukraine for only $2 a pound, a discount of 50 percent off the regular rate. She is seeking cash donations to defray the cost of shipping and to purchase additional items to send to the orphans.

On her to-do list before the Thanksgiving holidays, Kate plans to seek support and volunteers for the project from the members of the Great Severna Park Chamber of Commerce, area churches and other local groups. She also hopes to place fliers throughout the area, notifying residents of the upcoming clothing drive.

More than a one-time happening, Kate is hoping to create a legacy: she’d like to see several Severna Park High School groups take on the clothing drive as an annual event.