The other day I had the pleasure of sitting in on a commissioning ceremony for Mission to Ukraine’s new playground.  In what was once practically a junkyard, there is now a beautiful, green and safe place for the children of MTU to play.

MTU’s new playground is a beautiful place for kids to play!

The commissioning was great.  One of the classes of disabled children put on a little skit, we sang songs, there were snacks… But one of the coolest things happened when I met a little girl named Marika.

Before the ceremony began, I was goofing off with a few of the kids; doing magic tricks, taking pictures, making silly faces… At one point, I impulsively decided to let one of the little girls use my camera.  I put the strap around her neck, showed her which button to push, and let her snap away.

To my surprise, she seemed to know what she was doing.  She was framing pictures well, reviewing her shots after she had taken them… she was a natural!

Marika (right) with her classmates before the ceremony.

Her name, as I found out later, is Marika.  She is six years old.  She was born with a malignant tumor in her head, causing her to lose vision in her left eye.  Although the tumor is now gone, the doctors say she must always live with the chance that it could return.

It’s a sad story, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at her.  Marika’s playful smile is contagious. Her energy and life is evident in the way she runs and laughs and plays.  Marika is still a six year old girl, and no disability can keep her from living that out.

After the ceremony, Marika ran up to me and said “Photografia!”

I thought she wanted her picture taken, so I lifted the camera to my eye.

“Nyet, nyet, nyet…” she said with a smile, and held out her hand. She wanted to take the pictures.

What else could I do?  I put the strap around her neck and watched as she snapped more photos.

One of Marika’s photos. It’s hard not to smile when she’s the one taking the picture!

As Marika walked around the new playground taking pictures of people, I was struck with an idea.  What if she had a camera of her own?  What if Marika could take pictures of her life?  Of her world?

Then my imagination started running a little wild.  What if a bunch of the kids at MTU’s upcoming summer camps had cameras?  What if they documented the camps from their perspective?  That would be an awesome way to show just how powerful their summer programs can be!

And of course, within seconds, it already had a name… The Marika Project!

Another shot by Marika. I’m telling you. This girl has a gift!

It’s a very do-able idea.  All it will take is a few donated digital cameras to get it started.

But gee… Where in the world could I find a bunch of used digital cameras? (That’s sarcasm by the way…)  :)

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got an older digital camera collecting dust in your closet right now.  Would you consider giving it as a gift to Mission to Ukraine?

With your help, we can get cameras into the hands of Marika and her friends, we can give them an opportunity to express themselves, and we can show off the fantastic work of MTU in a brand new way.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see the look on Marika’s face when she holds her very first camera…


If you would like to participate in the Marika Project, please sign up below.  We’ll be in touch with you soon with more details.

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About the Author: Barry is the founder and Executive Director of World Next Door. A storyteller, traveller and giant nerd, he lives to compel suburban Americans to get engaged with social justice and find their place in God's kingdom revolution. His ultimate dream is to adopt a pet monkey named Kevin.

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  1. Kevin said... 


    June 25th, 2010 at 8:49 am  

    Another great idea. Another ray of hope.
    Thanks for the work that you do. Your gift for opening up the world to others is amazing.

  2. Curtis Honeycutt said... 


    June 25th, 2010 at 9:52 am  

    Barry, you’d better watch your back…Marika’s got skills. This is a fantastic idea.

    By the way, do you still have someone with a boombox following you around playing Europe’s “Final Countdown” before you do your magic tricks? I got really tired of doing that in Toronto and Haiti.

  3. Jim M said... 


    June 26th, 2010 at 10:52 pm  

    I agree Barry, she’s likely to be an intern for WND in 14 years…or by that time an international correspondent.


  4. Beth said... 


    June 28th, 2010 at 12:04 pm  

    Ahhh, this is fabulous. =) I remember meeting Marika last year. She was so much fun. What a great idea you have.

  5. Kalen Ney said... 


    June 28th, 2010 at 1:59 pm  

    I love this idea! It would be such a new and fun experience for them!

    and Marika is an absolute sweetheart. She’s been at the camp the two times ive been there and she always put a smile on everyones face. i loved it.

  6. Rob Yonan said... 


    July 1st, 2010 at 1:36 pm  

    Great idea!

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