Letter from Steve Vetterlein
Founder of UOCFP
December 23, 2002
June of this year marked the official start of the non-profit humanitarian
charity, UOCFP, or Ukrainian Orphaned Children's Fund of Philadelphia. I
write this press release just 1 day before our Christmas Eve. As thousands
are flocking to the malls with last minute shopping, I cannot stop to think
about the thousands of orphans in Ukraine who will receive absolutely
nothing for their Christmas, actually held in January.
This past August, I spent 2 and a half weeks in Ukraine, at a summer camp
for orphans in Vorohta, right in the heart of the Ukrainian Carpathian
Mountains. This was my fourth trip to Ukraine, and my second at the "Help Us
Help The Children" summer camp program for orphans. This year, we had 440
orphans from the boarding schools all over Ukraine.
Many people here in Pennsylvania have asked me; especially those of
Ukrainian descent, why do you want to help these children when you are not
even Ukrainian? Why do you even care?
It only takes one trip to Ukrainian to understand Ukraine's economic, social
and political problems. And it only takes one brief moment while meeting
these wonderful children to want to help them in some way. Considering all
the trauma and circumstances that have probably occurred in their young
lives, the orphans at summer camp are truly an amazing group of kindhearted,
unselfish, intelligent, friendly and interesting youth. You cannot help but
to love and admire them. And you are compelled to do something to insure
some kind of future for them.
There is no doubt about it; these children still need our help. Even with so
many existing humanitarian aid groups like 'Children of Chernobyl" and
others, the boarding schools of Ukraine are still in need of crucial aid.
Although things are much better compared to the 1990's, routine daily items
like pens, pencils, shampoo, cream, clothes, shoes, boots and more are still
in short supply. Many orphanage buildings are in much need of repair. And
there still are thousands entering the boarding schools every year. Even
many more than what they can even handle. It is estimated that there is
800,000 homeless children in Ukraine, and anywhere between 103,000 to
240,000 live in the orphanages, or boarding schools throughout Ukraine.
Even though there have been some positive signs of improvement, the economy
continues to struggle, causing thousands to suffer and barely able to get
by. The average salary remains low, about $40.00 USD per month. That's even
if you are lucky enough to even find work. Many Ukrainian family members
work outside the country. Family life unfortunately continues to diminish.
Too many can't support their own children. Parental drug and especially
alcohol abuse, domestic violence and crime are some more reasons why
children end up in these boarding schools. Unfortunately in Ukraine, social,
political and economic corruption still prevails to this day.
Some people of Ukrainian heritage have said to me here in America, why
should I give anything to your charity? Why should I trust you? Why should I
trust any charity for that matter? Why don't all of you band together
instead of having so many of you (charities) scattered all over?
First of all, it is easier to be critical than to actually try to do
something. And you can have dialog for months and years but have little very
accomplishments. And I have found out that it is a surprising but sad fact
that it is very difficult to get people involved in helping these children.
They are truly the "forgotten ones". Not many people seem interested.
Unfortunately these days everyone is skeptical and I don't blame them, as it
seems even to me everywhere you go someone or some group is asking for a
In regards to the first question, why should you give anything to us and
about trust. For now, all the funds that we raise will go to 4 organizations
listed on our web site. We know for a fact that these are legitimate and
trustworthy charities. We have links to them (if they have a web site) and
supply contact information. If you feel that you would rather help them
directly, this is your prerogative and the reason why we list them.
As far as UOCFP, all we can do is hope for your trust, hope for your
support, and we welcome your help in any way with open arms. The
need is there, the orphanages do need help, and the children in them
need all the help they can get.
Our help goes beyond just donations of clothes, bikes and things. To
understand the UOCFP better, it is important for you to see our goals for
2003 on our web site. In 2003, we hope to accomplish much. To answer the
question about banding together. I agree that this would probably make
things more successful, especially when it comes to fundraising. But being
bigger is not necessarily better.
Help to Ukrainian orphans is definitely fragmented. Much comes from
religious organizations. Many have their own agenda's. We have our own
agenda, that is not political or religious motivated. We simply want to help
children, with no hidden agenda. We feel the need to help is huge and that
the Philadelphia area needs to be more involved.
The UUARC in Philly is a great but very small organization, and it doesn't
specifically help only orphans. Our help will specifically only be to help
Ukrainian orphans. However, maybe some day in the future we will be able to
help orphans in other countries also. Our dream is to be able to help all
children from any part of the world.
In this press release I hope I was able to answer your questions and maybe
some others adequately. Please visit our web site for more details. I would
like to share with you a few lines from a letter I received from one of the
orphans at camp this year:
From Vera, 14 yrs old, who has lived in a boarding school for many years:
"I have a very nice summer, and I want to tell you thanks. My dream: I want
to have a family, mother, father and other. In end of my dear boarding
school, I want to be an actor. When I old, maybe I have money and come to
America & see you. When we have a New Year in my school, we have nothing. I
love New Year and Christmas; this is my best days in winter. I don't have
this: pens, shampoo, cream, clothes, boots, but I have very good friend,
this is you Steve.
"I have 2 brothers and 1 sister, but they don't love me. My (older) sister
said; I have my own family, my own child, you not my sister, I don't love
you, I don't want to have you. My 2 brothers also don't love me too. My
Mother, Father, Grandmother and Grandfather are dead. I live in this world
No Vera, you don't live in this world alone. We care about you and want to
help you! We sincerely hope that our programs are in place by the time Vera
is told to leave the boarding school. We hope to give Vera a decent chance
for the future.
May everyone have a wonderful holiday season and please give some thought to
our plea for help. Yes, we are small and new, but sometimes good things come
in small packages. Our desire to help "our" orphans is strong and sincere.
Please help us help these wonderful children.
Yours truly, Steve Vetterlein, Founder of UOCFP
Ukrainian Orphaned Children's Fund of Philadelphia
614 Treaty Road, Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462