This article was originally published by The Mennonite

MCC responding to needs of displaced in Ukraine

Although Alyona Maruschak left her home because of the fighting in eastern Ukraine, she volunteers at the Baptist Union’s City Aid Center in Zaporizhzhia, which offers MCC-supported food parcels and other services to people who fled their homes. (MCC Photo/Igor Semenova)

As people in Ukraine continue to be forced from their homes by violence, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is asking for donations to support its work with church partners that are responding to the needs of displaced people.

Continued violence and armed conflicts have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes to seek safety in neighboring countries and within Ukraine. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and wounded.

“Every person has to decide how to respond,” said Vadym Proshak, a pastor of Baptist Union church in the town of Zaporizhzhia. “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 would enable the church to expand services.

When the first displaced families from more than 100 miles away arrived in Zaporizhzhia, Baptist Union opened a City Aid Center. 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,” said Proshak. “We wanted to do something.”

Seven months into the conflict, about 200 people a day are using the services at this center. With additional funding, the church plans to open five more centers in the region and expand medical and legal services.

“The main needs are food and medication,” said Dima Matyukhin, who works in the center.

The center also has mobile teams that risk getting caught in the cross fire as they deliver food parcels and other humanitarian assistance to villagers who do not have the financial resources to flee the violence and destruction.

“Many villages are without electricity and water,” said Matyukhin. “Stores are closed. There is shooting.”

People living in these villages, he said, 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,” said 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 Zaporizhzhia are Larisa Semenova and her husband Igor.

They fled from Donetsk, more than 100 miles 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 Center and for other church ministries. “Helping others helps us to go on,” said 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 Kiev region.

To support MCC’s response to displaced people in Ukraine, click here.

Gladys Terichow is a freelance writer from Winnipeg, Man.

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