Russian orphans get care packages from Kamloops kids

'I've never seen kids like that. They were hungry and they were just really grubby'

Sylvie Paillard / Kamloops Daily News
November 8, 2012 01:00 AM

Sara King, 12, poses for a photo with Dufferin classmates and some of the many backpacks filled with items destined for Russia.

It's a charitable drive Dufferin Elementary teachers and parents hope their kids never forget. And it's one orphaned children in Russia will be sure to remember.

The school's students and organizers got to work packing up the loot from its 12 thannual Backpack Express on Thursday.

The charity drive culminates in dozens of backpacks being sent to Russian orphans and street children thanks to a partnership with New Manna Ministries out of Vernon.

The bags are full of basics like toothbrushes and toothpaste, gloves and hats, boots and socks, hair clips, combs and brushes, crayons and books and candy.

Donna Greenlay, a now retired Dufferin teacher, got the campaign rolling 14 years ago after she, her husband and their oldest daughter travelled to Russia.

"I've never seen kids like that," she said of the street kids they saw. "They were hungry and they were just really grubby."

The Greenlays were there to adopt a seven-year-old girl who had been living in an orphanage since she was six months old.

Katya's homeless mother handed her to the orphanage because she couldn't afford to take care of her.

And even though the orphanage was orderly and clean, kids had nothing of their own - there was nearly no basic stuff, said Greenlay.

Because of that, its administrators kept everything Katya had used or even worn during her stay.

Greenlay had to beg to keep a hair ribbon just so Katya could have something from her old life to connect with.

When the Greenlays returned, they were determined to do more to help and through Fred Ilyin of New Manna Ministries they found an avenue.

On Thursday, the mother of a Grade 7 student was among those stuffing backpacks.

"I come from a country that has a lot of needs too," said Yamilka Zienowicz of the Dominican Republic. "So I can feel and can empathize with helping children that are less lucky."

Zienowicz said she sees her son identifying with the desire to help others and hopes that feeling continues as he grows up.

The kids packing up that day were keenly aware of the need they were helping to alleviate.

A Grade 7 student, 12-year-old Rachel Crawford, said she's been helping out during the Backpack Express for as long as she could remember.

"I know they live in orphanages and the streets and they also live under the streets with the pipes because it's warmer in the winter," she said. "Here in Canada a lot of people have more things than people do in Russia. So we're sending this to them."

"They don't have what we have here," said 12-year-old Lauren Carlson. "We want the kids back there to have things and to care about them."

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