Hi! We are Wide Awake Family: Jed, Kim, Ruslan, Anton, Boris, Vlad, Adelina, Ezra, Sasha, Havalah, Seth and Evie Joy.
In August 2010, our hearts and eyes were awakened to the plight of orphans with severe disabilities in Ukraine and we knew right away that God was asking us to respond. What would that response be? Would He have us help from the US by advocating, raising awareness and money, and praying? Or would He have us move our family to Ukraine to help, hands-on, in that place? Jed and I visited Ukraine in April 2012 to explore, see the country, meet people firsthand, and to hear from God.
While in Ukraine on that first trip we fell in love. We saw glimpses of God’s Kingdom come everywhere we went. Our last night in country we both knew that God was asking us very clearly to move our family to Ukraine to serve Him there. He has given us dreams and plans that sound outrageous and impossible, but we believe with God it’s impossible to dream too big.
The dream is to establish small family-style homes for orphans with intellectual and/or physical disabilities. These homes will be forever homes for those who live there. There they will find love, dignity, and safety all the days of their lives.
The dream is to work in conjunction with the local church to train Ukrainians to care for the children. We would love to help mobilize the local church to care for their own. We recognize that as foreigners we are merely a spark. Ukrainians are the ones best suited to meet this need.
The ULTIMATE dream is for God to establish a network of these family-style homes all over the country with community living for people of varying levels of abilities.
Sounds impossible? Yep, we know.
“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” Matthew 19:26
In the summer of 2013 we founded Wide Awake International, and our family moved to Ukraine in November of 2013. We began by volunteering for our first year at Mission to Ukraine in Zhytomyr. We learned a lot from the great work that they do. We are so thankful for their faithfulness and the foundation of trust they laid with the directors of our region’s institution for boys and men with disabilities in the town of Romaniv.
Members of our team go to Romaniv once a week and work with the boys in the Isolation Hall of the orphanage. The goal of our time spent at Romaniv is to bring hope, love, and dignity to the men living there. Our team is a consistent, positive presence in their lives. We work with the boys to increase their functional skills and to help each boy move forward in his development. We have also advocated for the adoption of the boys who were adoptable. In fact, we adopted our son Vladik from Romaniv in the summer of 2015!
Most of all we sit with the boys and simply love our friends. We play. We sing. We rock. We hug. And we ask God to come with his healing power and do the impossible. We ask Him to come make all things new. We love to be with our boys at Romaniv, but our goal is not to forever visit them in their suffering. The biggest goal of Wide Awake is deinstitutionalization. We want our boys OUT.
In the fall of 2016 we purchased a large piece of land in a village outside of Zhytomyr. We spent that year renovating the existing house on the property and our family lives there. In December of 2017 we were granted guardianship of our friend Boris who lived at Romaniv for 16 of his 29 years. We are his forever family and, Lord willing, we plan to keep him with us as a part of our family at the Homestead for the rest of his days. In September 2018 we took guardianship of Ruslan and Anton, who are both in their 30’s and lived at Romaniv for 20 years. Anton lives in the duplex on our property here in the village and Ruslan lives in an apartment with our team member, Luda, and teenage son.
In April of 2018 we purchased the neighboring property here in the village and have space there for more homes. In 2021 a duplex was completed, which will be a forever home for up to 8 of our friends from Romaniv. In May of 2021 we took guardianship of our sweet Sasha. He is 15 and now lives in the duplex with Anton and we are currently in need of some helpers to come live with those boys there. Once we have more help we can bring more of our friends out of the institution and into family life. We are so excited to get our boys OUT so they can know the love of a family here on earth.
Wide Awake International is the non-profit founded in 2013 to fund this dream of deinstitutionalization. The Wide Awake Int. board of directors helps guide our work, councils us in decision-making, and oversees the financial aspect of the work. We are so thankful for their care and oversight!
Dim Hidnosti is the Ukrainian arm of Wide Awake International. We have a wonderful team here in Ukraine and we are all walking together on this path. Some of our team work as assistants, helping care for the boys day in and day out, and some of them have gone on to specialize and get degrees to help us better care for our boys. We are extremely thankful for the wonderful team God has put together. You can follow our team’s Instagram account here.
Thank you for your prayers, support and encouragement of our family and Wide Awake as we dream big and say YES to Jesus.
I just watched the documentary above and my heart is totally broken for these children. God has obviously called your family there because he loves these children and people so much. Oh Jesus, help us to respond to your will when you call us. May God open doors for the work you are doing in Ukraine!
Allie! Thank you so much for taking the time to watch it and to write a note. Thank you for the prayers. Yes, He loves them so much. 🙂
I am wanting to watch your documentary, but know it will be so overwhelming. My children (6, 5, 3) and I “met” Boris and Vladik this morning. My daughter(6) was particularly interested and asked so many questions. I was in tears. Thank-you for posting these and giving insight into the people behind the disability. I loved the long shots of Boris and could see so much in his eyes. Praying for you all and for how God would like me to be involved.
Anna, thank you so much for your note. If you have any questions or if you would like us to send a note explaining some things to your daughter we are happy to do it! Our children love Boris and Vladik so much. They are both just precious. I wish so bad I could know what Boris is thinking! I can’t wait till heaven when we can talk all about it. 🙂
This amazing!!! This work is SOOOO needed there, bless you for doing it and praying for abundance in your support and blessings on your works!!
I just ran across this blog, and I am so touched by the amazing work you are doing in Ukraine. This summer, the Lord called us to adopt two siblings from Ukraine. We met the older sister through a hosting program and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Lord’s plan was to expand our family to include her and her brother. I am excited to read your blog and follow your journey, as our journey is now closely related.
I’m so impressed by the work you do in Ukraine. I’ve been in Zhytomir last summer with a huge group from Holland, and even in the Romaniv orphanage. I cried a lot because of what I saw. We played with the boys, hugged them and gave them love. But I had never seen a place like this. I wished I could take all those boys to my country to give them a life in wich they would be someone, and would be respected by who they are. I know how hard it can be to be there, but that’s why I’ve so enormously respect for you and the things you do. I wish you all the best in the things you do and I’ll pray for you.
Hi! I saw that you homeschool your children, and I wanted to share some info with you! Email me when you get a chance 🙂
You guys! We’ve been thinking about you so much since we started hearing the rumors and are following your blog closer now. Praying you stay safe! Josh doesn’t know how to contact Jed anymore but we’d like to know what we can do for you over there. Much love.
Praying for the Lord’s protection and peace over you all during this really tough time.
Love in Jesus, Tim & Pam, UK
Thank you so much.