Community connects with war orphans in Waterport

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 September 2014 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

WATERPORT – Alima, 10, is from Ingushetia, a Russian Republic. She is one of five war orphans spending the summer in Waterport through the Project Life program run by the World Life Institute. She is pictured with Grace Denniston from the Carlton United Methodist Church.

For several years the church has bought double-sided blankets for the children in Project Life. The church has also donated money and bikes to the program, and offered hay rides to the children.

“We’re very mission minded,” Denniston said. “We care about people.”

Mohammed, 12, from Afghanistan ties together a double-layered blanket on Wednesday with Penny Wilcox from the Carlton United Church Methodist. Several church members brought the blankets and helped students in Project Life tie the blankets together. The children will take the blankets home with them to Afghanistan or Ingushetia.

Mohammed has a rare blood disorder where his body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells. He needs transfusions every two weeks.

Liuba, a university student with a linguistics major in Russia, is volunteering for two months with Project Life. She is pictured with another university student Khava, left, and Dorothy Follman of the Carlton United Methodist Church.

Khava’s cousin was in the program in 2010. She volunteered this summer to give back to the program. Khava, 17, is an economics and finance major in Russia.

Liuba, 20, was in the crowd when representatives from Project Life visited her university, talking about the program about two years ago on its 15th anniversary.

“They showed pictures of the kids and it was really touching,” Liuba said.

She and Khava have helped Project Life volunteers by attending art and English classes, going on field trips together (including Washington, D.C. and Baltimore), and providing social support.

Liuba said the program gives the children an advantage when they return home by knowing English and seeing the world.

Liuba said the experience has opened her eyes about Americans.

“I had a stereotype that American people can be rude but I haven’t experienced that,” she said. Liuba also spent two days in New York City, “which was a dream of mine.”

Nasratullah, 12, of Afghanistan works on his blanket. He was in the program in 2013 and is the first returning child since it started in 1997. He came back mainly for ongoing eye treatments. He has retained much of his English and seems more confident this year, said Linda Redfield, Project Life coordinator.

Roza, 9, of Ingushetia works on a blanket with Jackie Fleckenstein. Roza and the other children in the program have all lost parents due to wars and conflicts in their countries.

Project Life students are pictured with their blankets after working on them with volunteers from the Carlton United Methodist Church.

Other churches and community groups also contribute to the Project Life program, which is designed to give the war orphans respite and peace in the countryside.

About two weeks ago Project Life children spent the day with the TGIF youth group at the First Presbyterian Church in Albion. The children tried on costumes, went canoeing and kayaking, and enjoyed a picnic along the Oak Orchard River.

“This is relationship building and nurturing care,” said Redfield, the program coordinator. “The children are exposed to many people coming to them with kindness and that’s never forgotten.”