WINNIPEG, Man. — As people in Ukraine continue to be forced from their homes by violence, Mennonite Central Committee is asking for donations to support its work with church partners that are responding to the needs of displaced people.
Violence and armed conflicts have forced hundreds of thousands of people 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 city 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,” Proshak said. “We wanted to do something.”
Seven months into the conflict, about 200 people a day are using the center’s services. 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,” Matyukhin said. “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,” Matyukhin said. “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.
The couple now volunteer at the City Aid Center and for other church ministries.
“Helping others helps us to go on,” Larisa Semenova said. “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.