Grace To Ukraine Introduces Orphans To Southern Life

BIRMINGHAM, USA -- I've lived in the South practically all my life. And after speaking with Suzette Davie, I realized I've taken so many blessings for granted.

Suzette Davie enjoyed Birmingham Zoo with youngsters from the Grace to Ukraine program.

The lush foliage and rolling hills. The great food. The Southern hospitality.

It's a culture that we embrace, and one that Davie has spent her life sharing with others.

"Our kids are drawn to the warmth and beauty of Alabama; the warmth and kindness of the people here," she said.

Davie's "kids" are a group of youngsters from Ukraine who have spent the past few weeks in Alabama as part of the Grace to Ukraine program.

The nonprofit organization hosts Ukrainian orphans in Birmingham each summer and conducts outreach trips to Ukraine in the fall and spring.

"For us, it's a chance to love them and show them what family life is like," said Davie, Grace to Ukraine's board president.

They also get a taste of Southern hospitality with a dash of ministry too.

"About six years ago, my husband (Gabe) said 'the bible calls us to do more to care for orphans,'" Davie said.

That spiritual awakening kicked off the Davies' work with children in need.

Last year, as part of Grace to Ukraine, the Davies hosted 10 children in their home.

This year, they're hosting 19.

Ukrainian "orphanages close in the summer and the children are put in government camps," Davie said.

"During that time, they're allowed visit other countries for cultural enrichment." 

That's the time when Davie opens her home and heart to orphans.

In fact, she's adopted three Ukrainian children over the years.

While in the states, the kids are immersed in American culture, giving them the opportunity to learn English, have medical needs met (like eyeglasses, for example) and be exposed to good nutrition.

Most of all, they're just allowed to be kids.

When I spoke to Davie, many of the boys were with her husband and son for a day of motocross in Montgomery.

Meanwhile, the girls were preparing for a shopping excursion, which will include a stop to get manicures.

A few days earlier, I tried unsuccessfully to chat with Davie – she was busy with the kids at Birmingham Zoo. 

Our amenities are giving orphans a new outlook on life.

"In Ukraine, everything is the same color scheme," Davie said.

"Here, they notice the cleanliness, the green spaces.

"You don't see a lot of public smiling in Ukraine," she added.

"But here, people are always smiling. They are drawn to that."

Another big draw are the helping hands that are willing to assist the orphans.

Churches and organizations have stepped forward to sponsor activities and meals for the kids.

Not only is it great for the youth to see a community united for a good cause, it also opens the community's eyes to the plight of orphans.

"When you work with (orphans) you realize they're people just like us," Davie said.

"They just haven't had the same blessings and benefits."

This summer's program only lasts three weeks, and they're nearly up.

Davie admits that the hardest part is saying goodbye, but knows that she's made a permanent mark on the lives of her visitors.

"People say, 'Isn't it cruel to bring them here and make them leave?' No, they would rather come here and leave than never be here at all," she said.

Is our state imperfect? Oh, you bet.

But Alabama is home to a beauty and charm that is neglected by residents but embraced by visitors.

What's mundane to us provides wonder and hope to Ukrainian youngsters.

They love our state.

And that helps me appreciate my Sweet Home so much more.

Source: The Birmingham News