Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is appealing for donations to significantly scale up its humanitarian assistance in eastern Ukraine.
Continued violence and armed conflicts have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes to seek safety in neighbouring countries and within Ukraine. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and wounded.
“Every person has to decide how to respond,” says Vadym Proshak, a pastor of the Baptist Union in Zaporizhia. “As a church, we decided that we needed to be one of those forces who help and engage in the situation of internally displaced people.”
MCC supports the church’s services for vulnerable and displaced people through cash assistance and shipments of blankets, kits and canned meat. Additional support from MCC will enable the church to expand services.
When the first displaced families from up to a few hundred kilometres away arrived in Zaporizhia, the Baptist Union opened a City Aid Centre. It provides services that meet immediate needs, ease the trauma of displacement and help people establish stable living conditions.
“People showed up in the door of our churches asking for food and clothes,” says Proshak. “We wanted to do something.”
Seven months into the conflict, about 200 people a day are using the services at this centre. With additional funding, the church plans to open five more centres in the region and expand medical and legal services.
“The main needs are food and medication,” says Dima Matyukhin, who works in the centre.
The centre also has mobile teams who risk getting caught in the cross fire as they deliver food parcels and other humanitarian assistance to people in villages who do not have the financial resources to flee the violence and destruction.
“Many villages are without electricity and water,” says Matyukhin. “Stores are closed. There is shooting.”
People living in these villages, he says, are mainly families living in poverty, the elderly, people with disabilities and families with many children.
“When we go to these villages we suggest they leave but people say they have no place to go,” says Matyukhin. “We visited one family who did not have anything to eat. They don’t have money to buy food. They don’t have money to leave the territory.”
Among the 40,000 people who have fled their homes to seek safety in Zaporizhia are Larisa Semenova and her husband Igor.
They fled from Donetsk about 200 kilometres away, where they lived near the airport and were surrounded by intense fighting. In July, a bomb struck their apartment building but it did not explode.
The couple now volunteer at the City Aid Centre and for other church ministries. “Helping others helps us to go on,” says Larisa Semenova. “It distracts us from our problems. When people come to City Aid we tell them our life story. It is easy for us to understand them because we have similar experiences.”
MCC also supports the activities of Nikopol New Life Charitable Fund, Zhytomyr Care and Mercy Regional Charity Fund and Good Shepherd Charitable Fund as they assist displaced and vulnerable people in and around the cities of Nikopol and Zhytomyr and the Kyiv region.
—an MCC release by Gladys Terichow
View the story on MCC’s website: mcccanada.ca/stories/mcc-appeals-donations-respond-ukraine-crisis
See other stories on MB-connected ministries in Ukraine:
A note of hope from Ukraine (August 2014)
Logos Canada: 25 years (June 2014)
Dairy farms and church plants (December 2013)
Moviemaker forgoes macabre for missionary memoir (July 2013)
Family follows “way of Jesus” to Ukraine (August 2012)