Students & Teachers Blessed By 3 Music Camps in Ukraine
Late changes lead to unexpected blessings at camps in Irpin, Ivankiv and Obukhiv
When MIWC published June's newsletter, serious complications had forced changes to summer music camp plans.
Trusting in God's plan, the MIWC American team – Steve and Kris Benham, Jane Aten, Alexandra Martin and Deborah Barber – met up with Ukrainian team members Vitaliy Bolgar, Valentin Dunduchenko and Olga Semenova for the first music camp, which took place in Irpin, Ukraine July 4–8. Home of MIWC's partner, Irpin Bible Church and its Levite Music School, the Irpin camp welcomed 40 children on the first day.
The volunteers were grateful to welcome their luggage that day as well, as last minute travel plan changes led to common travel hiccups.
"God started appearing right from the beginning," said Martin. "When travel became rough on the way to Ukraine, God helped us find our way and point us toward solutions."
Martin (pictured with camper), a Duquesne University music education student who recently was surprised to find out her family heritage was Ukrainian, expressed excitement at visiting the country where her family originated.
"This trip was life changing for me spiritually, educationally, culturally, and personally... My father has deep connections to Russia and our family has always considered themselves to be Russian. Little did I know, my family is actually from a small village in West Ukraine. I was so excited to go because I have always wanted to visit where my family is rooted...[and] I have always wanted to work to spread God's love and make a difference in the lives of people... This was a great way for me to start."
By the second day, more students arrived, to the point where the team was not quite sure how to fit them all in. Thanks to the financial support of more than 50 individual donors and several companies, the MIWC team did not have to worry about adding children.
Through donor support, MIWC was able to fund not only 70 campers' tuition over all of the camps, but also the purchase and shipment of instruments and supplies overseas. The enthusiasm the children brought was inspiring and lifted the teachers' spirits throughout the camp as God provided everything they needed.
Barber, a high school orchestra teacher, followed MIWC's overseas travels for years and was eager to join the camp team this year and minister to children through music. (Barber pictured with camp students from Irpin.)
MIWC president Steve Benham said, "The children were incredibly quick learners and didn't want to leave their lessons to go to the next class. We were blessed beyond belief by their warmth, energy, cheerful spirits and endless passion for music and for God!"
Several language groups were represented among the students – Ukrainian, Russian, French, English and more. Benham said the language of music helped to bring everyone together – focusing on the camp's theme of God wants all the earth to worship Him. Group rehearsals included every child participating by either playing an instrument, singing or dancing in a group.
Watch Irpin campers perform an Israeli folk song during their end of camp performance for parents and friends:
Translation of a report by Irpin City Council & Department of Culture, Nationality & Religion:
“Musical Irpin: A City for the development of children’s Talent: Thank you to the organizers: Levit Music Studio and Music in World Cultures. We hadn’t even had time yet to process all of the joy and positive emotions that resulted from the Irpin Sports Fest, organized by the youth group of Irpin Bible Church, when another event--a music camp--was ignited here in our city. In July, IBC together with university professors from the U.S. organized an interesting program for 40 musically talented children. This was a summer school break that was actually useful! The mission “Music in World Cultures," together with teachers from the Levit Music studio held master classes and instruction on the violin, guitar, piano, percussion, and also for voice. For kids, there was also the additional fun of energetic sports competition, choral singing, instrumental performance, solfeggio, and joint performances of works in which music was the common language. Each day the children learned about a different culture and the music of various countries, including Ukraine, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, and the U.S. At the end of the camp the participants presented the results of their studies: a final concert for parents and others, where the children played the various musical compositions they’d studied throughout the week in ensembles. This was a wonderful time and inspiration for our young talented kids!"
Chernobyl-area Ivankiv Camp Helps Meet Basic Needs As Well As Teaches Music
From Irpin, the team traveled to Ivankiv, which is a small town of about 10,000 people located approximately 20 miles outside of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The area around the 1986 disaster is classified into different zones with varying degrees of fallout impact.
An Ivankiv pastor named Valeriy had requested help earlier in the summer during a provincial pastors meeting in Kyiv that was attended by MIWC associates as well.
Valeriy told the group that he had been praying for some sort of summer program for his church, which ministers to the many families who refused to leave the area and were left with poor health situations. (Pictured: children playing at the youth center of Valeriy's church.)
A 2011 U.S. National Institutes of Health study found that the thyroid cancer risk for those who were exposed to the fallout as children still has not decreased.
When MIWC offered to host a youth music camp, Valeriy said, “I can see that this is the answer to my prayer. This is how God takes our thoughts and helps make them a reality.”
From the first morning of the July 11–14 camp, Benham said the team loved the children and the city. The 35 students who came on the first day included one group of boys who walked 3 miles (5 km) to reach the camp!
Despite the intense heat during the week, spirits were never dampened, said Benham.
"We continued to pour all of our energy and efforts into making this a wonderful experience for these kids," he said.
Listen as Benham leads a general music class in Ivankiv in the Ukrainian language:
With word spreading quickly, the number of kids in camp nearly doubled in the first few days, which made planning for each day's lessons a bit of an adventure.
Team members also provided for some of the campers basic needs, including juice and fresh fruit, every day. Bananas happen to be extremely rare in this area so the children were very excited to eat them! (Pictured: Barber having some fun with the extra special treat – bananas)
Said Benham, "We were thrilled with the opportunities we had to help meet basic needs in addition to providing education. These kids really love to sing and their enthusiasm is absolutely contagious."
In addition to food, Aten brought the children more than 60 handmade winter hats, made by a friend in the United States (pictured).
Aten said as a child, she was part of the population sometimes described as “underserved," and found that music opened the door to rich and rewarding life experiences. She went on to teach in an inner city school district and spent her professional career focusing on using music to reach out to those underserved kids.
Since retiring from public schools, Aten has traveled extensively.
"One thing I have learned," she said, "is – without discounting the impact of our choices—how much of who and what we are depends on when and where we were born. This idea was reinforced dramatically in my Ukraine experience. The worship I participated in there is different than that in my home church—as my life experience has been very different from theirs. But I was made even more aware that the hope and beauty of the gospel is broad enough to address each of us where we are."
"Kids are kids everywhere," said Martin. "We said that often throughout the trip. Particularly in Ivankiv, the children seemed sad. They didn't smile nearly as much as the children in Irpin. It crushed me. Being there and providing a learning experience for these children allowed them to have a reason to smile. By the end of the week, these kids were smiling ear to ear and thoroughly enjoying the spiritual and musical lessons."
Obukhiv Camp Combines Music & English Lessons
MIWC Vitaliy Bolgar and Bev Solberg led a music and English camp in Obukhiv, Ukraine in June.
Solberg, a retired Minnesota music teacher, joined Bolgar on the MIWC team after 15 years of running English and music camps in Ukraine on her own. Her experience served as a model in developing the plans for the June event, which used a Proverbs–based theme.
According to the local Ukrainian Baptist union's news article about MIWC's camps, children and parents found the music to be a powerful tool – through songs and a fun program, the process of learning English words was more interesting and memorable. By the end of the week, children freely sang songs in English.
These amazing Obukhiv, Ukraine kids learned Matt Redman's 10,000 Reasons in English in just one week! Fantastic job by these young musicians at MIWC's youth music & English camp: