Ukrainian orphans head home - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Ukrainian orphans head home

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RANKIN COUNTY, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Friday morning was a great time for pictures and hugs at the Jackson Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport. Seven Ukrainian orphans, visiting Mississippi for three weeks, were returning home.

It wasn't long before the tears started. The families and volunteers who helped them had a hard time saying goodbye to the orphans, ages 6 through 13. Lynn Loecher of Brandon housed six of them.

"We had adopted two girls from the Ukraine a couple years ago, so they were wonderful translators. We played lots of charades," she says.

Some of the orphans have been in an orphanage since infancy. Others became orphaned later in childhood.

"We had one little girl who has been in and out until four months ago, had never even been in school. She's 13 and never had a day of school until four months ago," Loecher says.

During their vacation, the children were able to experience what it's like to live with a mother and father. Typically, 100 to 200 children live in a Ukrainian orphanage.

"They probably have outside bathrooms, multiple children sleeping in the same room. Just not a family friendly environment for children to be in," says Aaron Dees, Operational Director for Joyful Journey, the organization that facilitates the trips to the United States for the orphans.

The orphans must leave the orphanages at the age of 16. Typically, they have no job skills and nowhere to go. A high percentage of them turn to crime, prostitution, and suicide.

We asked 12 year old Anna, through a translator, what struck her as the biggest difference between America and the Ukraine.

"It's different because of the attention. We had all the attention here which we never have in the Ukraine, in the orphanage," Anna tells us.

The children were taken to the Jackson Zoo, a Mississippi Braves baseball game, and plenty of other places.

Going home is tough, but we're told there's a good chance we will see some of the children back in the U.S. soon. Joyful Journey is also hosting a Christmas vacation for Ukrainian orphans. 

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