It’s been a few years, but I am so happy to announce that a new cohort of Wide Awake/Dim Hidnosti Interns have officially begun their work. We have longed for new interns for a while now, but it just wasn’t the right time and the right people weren’t ready. But the time has finally come. We are so thankful and excited!
The vision of Wide Awake International is to bring dignity, love, and hope to people with disabilities in Ukraine. We do that, primarily, through the work of deinstitutionalization: bringing people with disabilities out of institutions and into family life. Our work, our vision, and our values go against the cultural norms here in Ukraine. For generations people with disabilities in Ukraine have been given to government-run institutions, hidden away from society, not valued, not seen, alone, and unloved. Our mission is not only to help the boys in our family and give them a better life, and it is not only to bring love and joy to our friends that remain at Romaniv. Our mission is to create a model of deinstitutionalization that can be replicated all over Ukraine. We can’t save everyone, but we can be an example. We can be a spark. We can be a model of change and hope. But in order for that spark to “catch” someone must raise up the next generation. Enter, the internship.
The goal of the internship is to raise up the next generation of Ukrainians who will carry on this work of deinstitutionalization. Whether they end up working for Dim Hidnosti in the future, or working with one of our partners, we desire to impart to them our values and our heart. And while they are learning from us they bring new life and energy to our team that we all need. The internship is definitely a win-win situation for everyone. Over the past 8 years we have had 2 successful cohorts of interns complete the 2 year internship. And out of those 6 interns, 5 of them are still active members of our team. They are our leaders, the rocks of our organization. One of the former interns, Mira, is now leading this new cohort! Full circle, baby! 😁
So, how does the internship work? Right now we have 4 interns and they are in the beginning of their 6 weeks of training. They train two days a week here at the Homestead with our team and one day each week they go with the team to Romaniv. Once their training is complete they will truly begin their work. They will work at the institution in Romaniv (where all our boys once lived) two full days each week, and then one day a week they will spend here at the Homestead planning their next week’s work and doing special projects with our boys here at home. At Romaniv their focus will be on the boys in the Isolation Hall. They have divided the boys up between themselves and will work one on one with each of the boys in their group. We have an assessment tool they will use to assess each of their boys and then will develop measurable three-month goals for each of them. The time they spend with each boy in the Isolation Hall will be spent working with them toward those goals. But the ultimate goal for the boys is to prepare them for life outside the institution. That is the “Hope” portion of the internship. We look forward to the day when each of our beloved boys will be free and cherished, within the love of a family. The internship helps them to prepare for that day of freedom. It is difficult work, but a valuable and necessary one. The day each week that they spend on the Homestead will remind them of what the future can look like when each of our boys are free. It’s important for them to see the full picture of deinstitutionalization.
The full internship program is two year long, but each of them have begun with a one year commitment. They will spend this first year determining if this work is really for them, if they see themselves participating in the work of deinstitutionalization in the future. It is a paid internship. The second year, should they choose to continue on, is more about nailing down which part of deinstitutionalization most interests them: PT, OT, Speech Therapy, Special Education, Social Work, Legal, Building, Organizational Development, Accounting, House Parenting…the list goes on and on. It literally takes a village to make this work happen and there are nearly endless ways to be a part of it.
Now that you understand more about the internship, let me introduce you to these amazing young people!
PS: They all refer to working with “Dim Hidnosti” and they don’t mention “Wide Awake”. Dim Hidnosti is the Ukrainian arm of Wide Awake International.
Sasha. We first met Sasha when he started attending our church’s youth group a few years ago. Later he became a volunteer at Dim Hidnosti. Sasha has lots of energy, loves Jesus so much, and brings loads of joy to everyone around him. We love having Sasha as a part of our team. He just “fits” with us like he’s always been here.
“My name is Sasha. I chose to be an intern because I started traveling to Romaniv as a volunteer and saw the need for help. It interested me and I wanted to help more.”
Masha. We have known Masha since she was just a little girl. When our oldest kids, Addie and Ezra, attended public school in the city, when we first moved to Ukraine, Masha was in their class. 🙂 Later, when our team member, Oleg, started working with us, we realized that Masha was his little sister! Masha also attends our church and has been Dim Hidnosti’s most faithful volunteer. She truly loves the boys and has a way with them that brings them peace. She is a natural with them, just like her brother, Oleg.
“My name is Masha. I decided to work for Dim Hidnosti in order to bring the boys joy and the feeling that someone is with them. Serving Dim Hidnosti and the boys at Romaniv is my goal. I know the boys are capable of more and I want to teach them. I will help make their lives better because they deserve it. Thank you, Dim Hidnosti for the opportunity to give them this chance!”
Ezra. Well, I have known Ezra since before he even took his first breath as a baby, because he’s my son! It actually came as a bit of a surprise to Jed and me that Ezra wanted to join the internship. But, of course we are so thankful, proud, and happy that he would want to join “the family business”. 😂 For real though, Ezra is a motivated and dedicated person. I know he will give his all to the boys and this work. What a joy to see our son join us on this mission.
“My name is Ezra. My parents are the founders of Dim Hidnosti, so I kind of grew up in this organization, but a year ago I would have never thought I would be an intern. A few months ago I started visiting the institution at Romaniv and realized that I have a heart for the work that our team does there. I want to spend more time with the boys. I became an intern to serve the boys and to find out if this work is right for me.”
Vlada. We first met Vlada just a few months ago when she realized, through a crazy sequence of events, that our Yaroslav was her long lost brother! If you haven’t read that made-for-the-movies story you should go read it here. Anyway, almost immediately after discovering that Yaroslav was alive and well with us here on the Homestead Vlada started spending as much time with him as she could. She became interested in our work and started volunteering around the Homestead. It is an absolute miracle to have her as an intern. I mean, who could have predicted the incredible story God started when He asked us to take Yarik out of Romaniv and into our big Wide Awake family. He was not only changing Yarik’s life, but Vlada’s life too. We are so, so happy to have her as part of the team.
“My name is Vlada. After my first trip to Romaniv I was not sure that I would be able to be there, that I would be able to help. But after I went a few more times everything changed. I realized that I wanted to help the boys and improve their lives, to give them love and support. Because seeing their smiles and how happy they are to see us, it gives us and impetus to improve their lives. I want to show them life from another perspective, not just what they see at Romaniv. I want them to see that they can be treated better. I thank God and Dim Hidnosti for the opportunity to do this.”
We would really appreciate your prayers for our interns as they begin this work. It will require a lot from them, emotionally and physically. There will be times when being at Romaniv will bring them great joy, but also times when it will be so terribly painful and difficult. Please pray for them for wisdom, creativity and insight, perseverance, and strength. Let’s goooooooooo!!!