MADISON, Wis. - Trips to the water park, dentist or doctor are parts of everyday life in the United States, but for a visiting group of Ukrainian children it can be the start of a new life.
Each summer for 14 years, Bethel Lutheran Church in Madison has sponsored children from a community center in Borodyanka, Ukraine, not far from the site of the Chernobyl nuclear accident.
The program is called Circle of Love Project, and it started in 2000 as a way to help people who still suffer from the impact of the nuclear disaster.
A group of eight children, an interpreter and a chaperone travel to Madison for six weeks at a time. During their stay the children take English lessons, go sightseeing, volunteer in the community and, most importantly, get needed medical and dental attention.
Bogdon, an 11-year-old from Ukraine, has taken part in the program this summer. He described the people of Madison as kind-hearted and devoted to taking care of the environment.
During an interview, Bogdon explained in his native language how dentists in Ukraine could not help him. They told him he had a complicated case and when they tried to pull his problem teeth out they were unsuccessful.
In her experience, chaperone Liudmila Boyko said the Circle of Love Project has improved life for their small town.
"This life is like an example for them. They come back home and they use this example, and it will be a very good motivation to change their life for the better, to have some goals in their life," said Boyko.
She went on to say after coming home children realize their responsibility for their own health and life. Studying English sets them on a path to success.
"Almost all of the participants in this program now have higher education, got higher education. They are rather successful in their life and also had very good example how to help people in need and they also help people," said Boyko.
According to their chaperone, about 150 children from the town of Borodyanka have visited Madison.
Some organizers said the experience is a different way of seeing the world.
"A lot of the host kids who have never really experienced or thought about how other kids may live, it's just been life-changing for the host families as well as for the kids that come here," said Jacqui Shanda, director of discipleship at Bethel Lutheran Church.
The group of 10 will travel back to Ukraine on Friday.
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