Leah’s Return To Camp Yeka

A glimpse into why I’m returning to Camp Yeka, and why your donations mean so much to me.

Where do I begin? How to introduce something so real and meaningful?
There are no right words.
It’s something you need to experience yourself to fully understand.

For less than a week I joined Camp Yeka Girls.
That’s less than seven days.
In such little time, I was able to form bonds and love with these girls like I never thought I could.

These are not your standard relationships. They are connections formed straight from the heart. We do not speak the same language. We don’t come from the same culture. We don’t share common grounds.

I was able to pick up on a couple of words
and use my google translate with a limited amount of internet, but that soon proved to be more complicated. With all these language barriers, who would have thought we would build a connection so deep and loving?

A lot of these girls have mothers and fathers. Some of these mothers have no patience or care to raise their own child. So instead of gaining the courage and strength one needs as a parent (because you would assume, a love for a child is enough to help them put one foot in front of another), the mother sends her child to an orphanage.

One mother wrapped her newborn baby in a towel because she didn’t want her.
One mother beat her child on a daily basis because she had no patience for her and had no care for what she had to tell her.
One mother didn’t know how to raise her own child because she only knew the life of growing up in a girls home.

Therefore they all sent their child to an orphanage.

And then we have the child of a single mother who turns to drugs, alcohol, and late nights (leaving her children home alone at times) instead of tending to her four children under nine years old.

I can devastatingly go on.

Then there’s me, my co counselors, directors, and head staff.

We have parents who love us.
We have brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents who we do and can have relationships with.
We can run to a nearby store and purchase the heels that are in this season.
We can buy new UGG’s because why not.
We can stuff ourselves with food like we won’t have the next day, but we have more than enough.
We can buy the latest cell phones.
We can travel the world.
We can have friends and sleepovers.
We can wake up every day and not be afraid of what awaits us.

We have life going for us. We have the capabilities to achieve anything. We have the means to do it. We have mentors. We just have.

So here I am. On a bus to Kiev, Ukraine, to drop these girls off at a train so they can return to their lives.

And I ask myself how I can get on a plane tomorrow morning and leave all these girls behind.
How can any of us?
How can I witness what kind of life these girls lead and simply walk away.

Just last night at banquet, we made hachlotas in honor of a recent sudden death of a friends father, and we asked my five year old camper what she wants to take upon herself in honor of this mans neshama and she responded “I will help my mother.”
This five year old camper does not have a mother.
This five year old camper witnessed her mother being killed by her father.
She wants to help her mother and she just can’t.
And that’s when I broke down crying, really questioning how can I leave?!!


So I sat there and I acknowledged how I grew to love these special girls.
They are beautiful girls who grow up with such trauma and are affected every single day by it, yet they’re capable of being happy and they’re capable of loving.
They’re capable of laughing and playing.
They’re capable of so much more, but they’re so limited because of the circumstances of their lives.

A lot of people question their existence and purpose in this world.
But they shouldn’t worry too much about it.

Something I learnt in these last few days here in Ukraine, is that it doesn’t matter so much what career you choose, what schools you go to or how much money you make. If you don’t lead your life with kindness, life is meaningless.

So as I sit here feeling so helpless, I take upon myself to do good and spread good.
Because that is something that each and every single one of us is capable of doing.
We shouldn’t even need reminders to do good.

It should come easy.

Hashem didn’t create this world so we can tear each other down and cry over the stupid and simple things, when there’s so many ways to perceive things in such positive and good ways.

So if you find yourself reading this, just please do good and be giving.
Every day.
It’s much easier than it sounds, I promise.

Like the Rebbe says, “If you know Aleph, teach Aleph.”
We have so so much to give and teach. And we can do so much good with that.
That’s one of the reasons I joined this winter session, because I was able to.

If someone needs a favor from you and you can do it, but you can’t be bothered- do it anyways.

If someone’s walking by you and drops something on the floor, pick it up for them because you can.

If someone needs a friend at a late hour and you’re usually the one to be asleep early, be the one to stay awake for her.

There’s so many more examples that I’m sure you can think of.

Have more patience for the people around you and let yourself be because there’s so much to be grateful for and there’s so much good to spread and good to do.

If not for yourself, do it for our girls in Ukraine.

So thank you to Camp Yeka for giving me this eye opening and beautiful experience. It’s something I’ll cherish forever.

Thank you to everyone who donated to my campaign to help me get here and help my girls attend camp.

Because it’s days like this that helps them keep going, when they see the love that exists in the world.

YA lyublyu tebya, lager' Yyeka

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