I had visited once before, with an Uzhgorod Film Festival group last year. This time I met one of the founders and present-day Hungarian director László Katko, a former engineer. Also, his English-speaking son, who shares the same name and is the foundation's relations administrator. Together, they are meticulous in their running of this organisation, its farm and guests, giving me a closer insight of this remarkable, self-governing place.

There are 58 girls from three-years-old upwards, often from very poor families who have no means of looking after them, or with no families at all. They live in a community similar to a hostel arrangement.

When first established this was an orphanage for handicapped girls only, as well as a care centre for disabled children from elsewhere. With help from nearby medical services, the Good Samaritan Children’s Home now provides care and assistance programmes for anyone in need.

Some of these children have been through many traumatic experiences, whether abandonment, abuse, alcoholism or death, and they need much care and assistance to help pull them through. They receive professionally prescribed therapies and treatments, and much encouragement.

The children find eventual confidence to walk, speak and generally reach out, inspired by the care and dedication of the specialists and staff. There is much hope as they engage with activities they like, take part in social events and obtain an education.

Those children who can, walk along the village lanes to nearby local schools. Special arrangements are made for those who cannot, with the state occasionally providing teachers to visit the Good Samaritan.

I was fortunate to meet Donald Fraser, a teacher originally from Scotland, who works at the local Reformed school and has lived in Nagydobrony since 1998. He has contributed greatly to these children's needs over the years.

From a religious perspective, the children have devotions and are raised within the Christian faith of the Calvinist church, similar to the Presbyterian denomination. There are other associations to which the children’s home is connected, such as the Hungarian Reformed church in Budapest and Debrecen.

In addition this organisation provides many hands-on, behind-the-scenes jobs for locals, such as caretakers, kitchen staff, farm labourers, construction workers and so forth. With this in mind, the environment is geared to providing much of the resources needed, such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products and meat, and producing their own variety of paprika.

They also provide for other orphanages and schools close by, which brings in some essential income.

The Good Samaritan has various outside connections and professional volunteers sometimes assist the local recruits. I also had the pleasure of meeting Dr. James Waite, a dentist from Kentucky, US, who is a great friend of the home and whose treatments there are assisted by special dental equipment brought in from America because it is sometimes difficult to obtain in this region.

The management are always looking for better ways to maintain the premises and are very progressive in energy saving. In particular, during winter they use high-energy, wood-burning stoves and devices, as local gas prices are too high and always on the increase. They also apply the best form of insulation around the premises where need be.

The future

Still, it is undeniable that the circumstances of the children are heartbreaking and the future remains uncertain. What is really clear is that everyone is given a chance and the best possible care and support.

Many of the girls, once they reach age, will eventually move on, perhaps going to university, finding a job and getting married. But there will be those who are still not able and will always need 24/7 care throughout their lives. New housing is required on the premises for these older girls as they make way for the next lot of children to be admitted.

Nothing is simple when dealing with each individual child's case, as often there are many additional complications. Some have papers, some do not. Some are and some are not officially recognised as orphans by the state.

There is some cooperation with the local authorities to place some of the children at universities, but local (Hungarian) children from the Bereg region must pass a Ukrainian exam if they wish to proceed further there. This is not so easy because Hungarian influence and language still flourish in this immediate region, post-Trianon 1920.

But times and circumstances are changing as new legislation often comes in. Due to these children's life status, there may be some exceptions allowed to the rule, and some will apply and qualify for “Ethnic Hungarian minority” status, thus finding their way into EU Hungary to make a life for themselves here.

Further on

But the tragedies continue with the humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine, and the displacement of over 800,000 people. As much as 20 percent of Ukrainian GDP, including the medical budget, has been cut due to the fighting. Inflation and the devaluation of the Ukraine hryvnia currency have taken their toll.

This has led the Good Samaritan to expand its mission and help further afield with other charitable organisations and mobile medical clinics, trying to avoid “third parties” seeking bribes.

Hospitals throughout Ukraine are desperate even for the most basic supplies. An estimated 40% of medicines are counterfeit. Staff are doing their best with new laws designed to overcome such corruption and restore confidence in the medical system, but it is a slow process.

One goal for Good Samaritan is to import medical equipment and get it directly to where it counts in Ukraine for the benefit of doctors, hospitals and patients alike.

Finally: The highly commendable Good Samaritan Children's Home and Good Samaritan Children's Charities appreciate all kinds of outside help. They need clothes, books, toys, educational and general essentials. To assist with hands-on work and be part of the community, in exchange for board and lodging, write in and ask. Donations can be made by bank transfer.

See www.goodsamaritan-cc.org

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