Friday, June 10, 2016


Andrew and Katie in front of the window
Our second day began with a visit to the MCC Ukraine office in Zaporizhia, meeting with staff and directors Andrew and Katie Geddert, a young couple who speak fluent Russian.  MCC partners with a number of organizations, including our own, working in development, health and education, helping people to restore their documents, particularly those who fled and have had to leave everything behind.  They say here, "without documents, you aren't considered a person."  They also help young people leaving orphanages integrate into society.  Many of these children are not prepared to live in the community.  Some have been found living underground in sewer systems.  There is a movement afoot called "Ukraine Without Orphans."  It is said that if every church would adopt one orphan there would no longer be a need for orphanages.  Another organization called "Safe Kids" works in building strong families to avoid institutionalization.  In response to the conflict in Ukraine, MCC is putting together a plan for peace building - exchanging ideas with other countries, i.e. Serbia, Croatia.  Peace building experts will be meeting in Zaporizhia.  On a local level they have developed three levels of workshops, helping people reflect on their communication and learning conflict transformation.  They desire to maintain unity with the several hundred Protestant churches in Donetsk People's Republic.  Crossing the border checkpoints can take from 5-24 hours.  No trains are going through.  There have been occasions of shelling.

We met with another IDP family from Crimea who left everything behind during the vote when things got dangerous.  She was pregnant at the time.  They grew roses for the market and were successful beekeepers.  A friend offered them sanctuary and some work in their greenhouses.  They are industrious people and dream of starting their own business again.  They have developed a detailed business plan, however will need help getting started.

Another area of Mennonite Centre involvement in Zaporizhia is providing information and support for youth in making healthy lifestyle choices. UNICEF  states that Ukraine has one of the highest rates of increase of HIV/AIDS in Europe.  The war has unravelled much of Ukraine's progress in halting this disease, especially in the east. We visited a clinic "Friendly to Youth" connected to the Children's Oblast Hospital.  People can come for free diagnosis and treatment.  Among other supports we have provided educational signage, Wi-Fi, and test kits. There were many expressions of gratitude.

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