I'm honored to be the program director for the Zolotonosha Youth Center and Camp. I grew up attending Adventure Camps in Zolotonosha, so it truly is an honor to be able to continue to build on this legacy for a new generation. I'd like to share our vision for 2016-2017:
In 2017 we're planning to host three camps for kids from the Cherkassy region. Each camp will host 50 kids and run for five days. The camps will be geared for kids ages 9-10, 11-12 and 13-15.
Our main goals for the camp programs revolve around the kids. That's why we do what we do. Here's what we're trying to accomplish:
- Introduce kids to the Good News of Jesus.
- Show love, joy and trust to every child.
- Give every child a unique experience through new games and activities.
- Find and develop new leaders, so they can use their talents and skills not only at the camps but also in their churches.
- And my personal favorite: See the kids come back next year because they loved it!
The secret to a successful program is simply loving the kids. In the spring, before camp begins, we train and prepare our leaders to guide, mentor and develop loving relationships with kids. Every leader will learn about the camp program, experience the camp atmosphere through games and activities, develop their leadership skills, build friendly and reliable teams, and grow together in relationship with God.
I'm also excited about our new programs at the Youth Center:
Our mission for Family Club is to help couples build stronger relationships based on God's perspective on marriage. For the last three years we hosted four to five couples each week. All of these couples were Christians who attended church in Zolotonosha. In 2016 God gave us vision to extend our program to non-believers. We prayed about it and shared the idea with others. After a few months of preparing and building a team, we held the first meeting of our Family Club in September. God blessed this first meeting with eight couples, six of whom were non-believers. Two weeks later, we held another meeting just for Christian families (from three different churches). We're now having two meetings each month to build stronger marriages and families.
Games «I'M» is a unique product. It was created with coaches of international consulting and training companies. Each game «I'M» is:
- Multifunctional: It can have an unlimited impact.
- Motivational in nature: The games demand initiative, perseverance, creativity, imagination and focus.
- Engages the learning process: The game involves participants in a much deeper level through its substantial nature. It can actually cause high emotional and physical stress, but it makes it easier to overcome difficulties, obstacles and psychological barriers.
- Shared lessons: The game encourages the transfer of knowledge, skills and abilities.
Through the Life Games project, we teach our youth to believe in themselves, develop their leadership skills, make good and responsible decisions, and plan their time, build relationships with each other and work as a team. Here's some of the feedback from our high school students:
"I liked the atmosphere in which we spent the evening. I liked new meetings with new cool people. Everything was great." - Artem, 10th grade
"I like the fact we were all together. We are all different, but you have gathered and combined all of us for a fun time. I liked communicating and learning new things about each other. Thank you for helping us become closer to each other."
- Sasha, 10th grade
"I'm glad I decided to come here. I really liked all the people with their sincere smiles who treated me very well. I played the game «Real Life» and should say this is a very interesting game that is very similar to our daily lives. Although my first plan failed, I realized I needed to clearly set a goal and better plan my next steps. I also realized money does not solve everything in your life, it's only a tool. Many thanks for a wonderful time."
- Snizhana, 11th grade
Mini Holiday Camps
Ukrainian kids have three school holidays during the school year; one week in the fall, two weeks in the winter and one week in spring. During these holidays parents are often at work and kids are left unsupervised. As a result, they are plugged in to their phones, computers and tablets, accomplishing nothing. We wanted to take advantage of this opportunity and offer kids a different way to spend their holiday. This year we organized the first Fall Break Camp for kids at our Youth Center. Our goals were:
- To give the kids an opportunity to spend their holidays usefully.
- Share practical life-changing spiritual lessons.
- Activate leaders and children from other churches, towns and villages.
We had 60 kids from different schools and villages, as well as leaders from other churches. We decided to keep meeting with the kids who attended our camp in the hope of building stronger relationships with them on Saturday mornings. Please keep our team and all these kids in your prayers.
We've been busy this past year as we focused on redesigning the Zolotonosha Youth Center and its many projects. We have a new team and exciting new opportunities for our community:
- Daycare: Pre-school kids can now learn and play while their parents participate in our programs.
- Family Club: Monthly event for Christian couples giving them an opportunity to invite secular friends.
- Discussion Club: A chance to discuss practical life questions from secular and Christian perspectives.
- Life games: A way to help high school students develop time management, team work, leadership and other essential skills.
- Men's and women's groups: Helping us grow together in our roles and as a team.
- Shared resources: Building on our broader vision to serve central Ukraine, we have set up a program to share our resources in the form of sports equipment, etc., with other churches in the region.
- Youth friendly: We are in the process of renovating and updating the interior of the Youth Center to make it more welcoming and accommodating for youth.
- Programs for special needs: As part of our vision for expanded community work, we have partnered with Zolotonosha City Center for Social Assistance to organize games for special needs kids.
- Camp/Retreat Center: In 2016 we've been focusing on cabin construction for our new residential camp/retreat center. Our goal is to host our first camp in the summer of 2017.
Looking Ahead to 2017
I've seen God do great things through Shepherd's Foundation. But God has given me a vision for more. Thankfully, he's also given me a sense of His unfailing strength to accomplish all that He desires. Our plans for 2017 will require a great leap of faith. We're examining and refining our mission—who we are, what we want to accomplish and how to serve Him best.
Thank you for your support, your prayers and, most importantly, your partnership.