In August 2017, my Dad and I followedWorld Without Orphans bike tour with Ghenaddiy Mohnenko and 18 social orphan street boys that he either adopted or helped find homes through his program, Ukraine Without Orphans.
On the last day of our bike tour through France, we were exhausted from sleeping in forests behind monasteries and on the floors of churches, yet full of gratitude at the generosity of those that took us in so spontaneously and open-heartedly once they heard the mission of this tour; raising awareness for the 140 million orphans worldwide. Ghenaddiy and his boys have been biking across Europe for the past month, singing and celebrating the whole way. My dad and I have had the pleasure of traveling in the trunk of the support van photographing and filming the bikers on the last part of their trip- through France from Paris to the Atlantic Ocean.
We stopped at a gas station for a final break before the last stretch. As the boys got on their bikes and in a row, Ghennadiy led them through his last motivational chant. My dad and I found much humor in this routine; Gennaddiy yelling from the top of his lungs in Ukranian, we had no idea what was going on because our translators said most of it was "untranslatable humor". All we understood was the two names he kept yelling in English/French: MONT SAINT MICHELLLLLL and ATLANTIC OCEAN. With that, we were off, swinging out of the open trunk of the van as it sped away ahead of the bikers.
This past week, I had the humbling experience of hearing the stories of many of the boys on the tour. Their lives in war torn Sloviansk, Ukraine were hard, but nothing compared to their past lives on the streets. Now, they had completed a tour seeing some the most beautiful cities in Europe, and getting to end it at this magical, enchanting island castle-turned-monastery. Seeing these places was something they never could of dreamed of and was a much needed escape from the war back at home.