Sasha – With the World Without Orphans Cyclying Team in France



Sasha –

Some children are rescued while they are small, but even those with a late start can blossom beautifully. A perfect example of that is Sasha. A bright and resilient boy, Sasha joined the Pilgrim children’s program when he was 14 years old. He states that his life before Pilgrim was “a total nightmare”, though he does not share the details of all he lived through. Sometimes the details are too much to bear.

Sasha does share that Pilgrim taught him “the living conditions of normal life”, perhaps realizing for the first time that he could have safety, love, and education at his fingertips. Even in his mid-teens, Sasha was illiterate and had to begin in the 1st grade. He acknowledges that this can be embarrassing and frustrating for him, but he confidently asserts “it is never too late to study” and that he will do what it takes to finish school, and one day earn a good job for himself.

The faith focus of the Pilgrim’s program is what keeps Sasha going. “I attend church with great pleasure,” he reflects, “and as I pray the Lord helps me.” He said that he initially underestimated himself, but God has changed him. He believes he wouldnt be alive without the program, and he never takes this for granted.

Sasha has also been accepted into a foster family- that of his pastor Gennadiy. Sasha is a confident believer that you reap what you sow, and this motivates both his hard work in school and his loving attitude towards others in his new family.

Thinking of his birth father still brings tears to Sasha’s eyes. However, his hope is that “my life is getting better, my studies are progressing, and as I pray and obey God I know that everything will be okay.”
Along with being one of Ukraine’s accomplished athletes, Sasha is now a newlywed, married to Sveta as of February.
For 22 years Sasha has never given up, and he now knows that God will never give up on him.

[many of these photos include Sasha’s brother Roma as well, I look forward to telling Roma’s story in the future]

Special thanks to Mackenzie Jackson for helping me tell this story

I am so excited to photograph The World Without Orphans Bike Tour as thy make their way from Paris to the Atlantic Ocean. In just two days from today I will ride with this team as they make their way through Chartres, Le Mans, Angers and Nantes, ending at the west coast of France in the town of Saint-Nazaire.
“This bike campaign is organized by partners in the World Without Orphans movement and is being led by Gennadiy Mokhnenko, pastor and director of Republic Pilgrim, which is the largest rehabilitation program for street youth in Ukraine. Gennadiy and his wife Lena are parents to 32 previously abandoned children.
“My adopted children used to live on the streets. Some of them were as young as 4, and we knew if we didn’t take them, most would end up dead or in prison,” Mokhnenko said.
Gennadiy understands that his own family is not the typical example for adopting children, but he believes strongly that everyone can do something. See the beautiful video about Gennadiy Mokhnevnko’s story of adopting these thirty two children. I highly recommend watching Almost Holy as well, a full length movie about Gennadiy and his life’s work in Ukraine.
The World Without Orphans around-the-world bike tour seeks to advocate for orphans in need of families, encourage national adoption in the countries where they ride, and encourage the development of solutions to end orphanhood worldwide.
The World Without Orphans Bike Tour began in 2011 when a group of Ukrainian orphans from Mariupol started riding eastward to raise awareness about orphans. Their quest continued on for 4 summers, and led them to far-east Russia, covering a total of 15,000 kilometers. Tens of thousands attended gatherings that were set up as part of the tour, while hundreds of thousands heard the message about adoption through local media campaigns. As the team continued on in their ride east they regularly heard news of families who had stepped forward to foster and adopt children as a direct result of the campaign.” – From the World Without Orphans website
This year these courageous young bikers started in Bochum, Germany on July 16th and have made their way through Germany and Switzerland before this years tour ends at the west coast of France. While on the tour, the group will speak at public events, hold press conferences, and meet with foster and adoptive parents throughout Europe.
[In August my daughter Carissa and I set off on a 26 day, 11 flight and 4 country adventure, Capturing Grace with our camera’s as we journeyed through France, Ukraine, Russia and Spain. I am now back at home in the US, posting about the experience of those twenty six days from my journal]
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