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Fifth-grade class raising money to help children from Ukraine
Bailey with Yulya

Bailey Hitt

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Bailey Hitt wasn't exactly sure what to expect when he went with his grandparents to the Ukraine during spring break, but what he found was a place where people didn't have access to things he and his classmates take for granted, including running water.
    Hitt, a fifth-grader at Langston Chapel Elementary School, spent 10 days in the former Soviet republic, much of it in the city of Kerch in the southern area of the country where he and his grandparents met two Ukrainian children his age, Masha and Dima.
    Masha is legally blind mostly due to the fact she is forced to read either by candlelight or moonlight because where she lives, they can not afford lights.
    "She lives with her alcoholic grandmother," Hitt's grandmother, Lyne Hitt said. "Her father is in jail and her mother has disappeared. Because her grandmother is an alcoholic, any money they get is used for alcohol," she said.
    To compensate for her eyesight, Masha has a special pair of glasses, if you can call them that, made from cardboard with pinholes in them to allow small amounts of light in. She can only wear them for approximately an hour at a time before she has to take them off and let her eyes rest for two to three hours.
     They also have no running water, which means no toilets and bathrooms. In fact, for a five-day stretch the Hitts didn't get to take a shower.
    "Bailey loved it," Lyne Hitt said. "It didn't bother him at all."
    When he returned to the United States, Hitt did a presentation for 4-H and his teacher, Carol Bergh, found out about his trip and wanted him to share his experiences with the class.
    "I've always told them they have no idea about how things are in the rest of the world," she said. "I tell them they're so fortunate to live in a country where they don't know about true hardship."
    Bergh said the fact one of the students was the one telling the class about the conditions in the Ukraine made a difference in her class' interest in it.
    Hitt's story also tugged at Bergh's heartstrings, particularly that of Masha's. She was talking to her class one day about trying to do something to help when a student gave her $5 from his pocket. She asked him where the money came from and he said it was his Easter money.
    Before accepting the money, she wrote a letter to the student's parents to let them know what he did with his money and from there the class has been raising money to try to help.
    Ideally, enough money would be raised to fly Masha to the United States to have eye surgery to correct her vision, Bergh said. However, she's not sure if they'll be able to collect that much.
    Lyne Hitt said she's been in touch with a representative from the Lions Club in the Ukraine about the possibility of a doctor from that country performing the operation, though that is still in the early stages.
    The trip to the Ukraine made a big impression on Bailey Hitt, who said he now realizes the United States is "a five-star country."
    He said he'd like to go back one day to the country to continue the work being done by his grandmother.
    "I want to try and do what I can to improve things there," he said. "I also found the people of the Ukraine to be very loving and it's my second home."
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