ChildAid does not have staff working overseas, we work exclusively through local partners.
Following the decision by the Russian authorities on 24 February 2022 to invade Ukraine, the work of ChildAid across eastern Europe has of course been affected, but our core work continues. Ukraine is a land that has known conflict as far back as the Greco-Roman era. Over the last 2000 years – Greeks, Romans, Vikings, Mongols, Lithuanians, Poles, Russians, Ottomans, Swedes, French, Austrians, Germans, Romanians, and Czechoslovakians have all at some stage or another occupied what is now modern-day Ukraine.
But starting in Belarus
To the immediate north of Ukraine, ChildAid continues to support the essential work of the Isle of Hope Care Centre in the capital Minsk. Even here, in a challenging environment, the vulnerable and disabled young people who use the centre chose to help Ukrainians who had crossed the border into the Gomel region. The IoH beneficiaries literally went door to door, collecting in and then distributing vital aid to those in need. And, despite all the challenges we read and hear about, we can report that the essential work of this centre continues to be fully funded, and the amazing work they provide for those living with complex disabilities continues.
And in regard to Moldova
In this land locked country to the west of Ukraine our 3 principal partners are still providing their services; but since the conflict began, they have adapted to help the many 1000s of refugees passing their doors:
Esther House is a “second home” to many children aged 5~15. While the core work of the centre, supporting local children who are deemed “at risk”, continues unabated, the centre did close for a few weeks last year as they adapted their premises to offer solace and practical aid to those refugees who found themselves passing through rural Vălcinet, many with nothing more than the clothes on their back.
The Tony Hawks Centre in the capital Chișinău continues to support parents of disabled children from birth through to their 18th birthday. And, in September 2023 the former observation deck on the top floor of the centre opened with a new disabled friendly kitchen and a large room providing capacity to offer new disciplines such as occupational therapy to young children. During the early stages of the conflict in Ukraine the Centre staff ran an aid station to provide essentials (nappies, slippers, warm clothing, clean underwear, personal and other hygiene related products) to refugee families in need. They also offer free expert advice to help parents with children suffering shock because of the violence they have witnessed. The team continue to provide this service, while also providing practical assistance to refugee families with disabled children. Much of their work is aimed to prevent children from being abandoned to the care of state institutions.
Family Love working within the disputed territory of Transnistria continues to help prevent abandonment of children within the poorest families in eastern Moldova (Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic). But due to the ongoing presence of Russian ‘Peacekeeper’ troops in this disputed region, few refugees have passed through.
ORA-Moldova while not a principal partner of ChildAid, it is a local charity we take delight in supporting. They in turn use their central warehouse, close to Chișinău, to sort and distribute essential aid we and others send, in so doing helping many Ukrainian refugees. They have also proven highly effective in helping those who wish to stop or simply stay-over in Moldova find appropriate housing.
Make-A-Difference (MADaid) is a former partner of ChildAid who have traditionally worked in the north of Moldova. As they start a brand-new project in Chișinău, working once again with children, we have re-established our relationship to ensure the success of this initiative –we wish them well.
And of course – Ukraine
Today ChildAid has three distinct but very, very different partners.
The Little Light-House project in the northern city of Makariv is ChildAid’s newest programme, an initiative setup along the lines of the Tony Hawks Centre in Moldova to support disabled children. During the first weeks of conflict the centre was used as an air-raid shelter, but being so close to Belarus, it was soon overwhelmed by Russian ground forces; when the occupying troops withdrew from the region it became obvious that much of the city had been left in tatters. Fortune had it (God’s blessing), little damage was sustained by the church that generously hosts our project in their former basement; following remedial repairs this programme is now back up and running. Some of the children who had been receiving help have not (yet) returned, most having been taken by their parents out of the country when the Russian forces crossed the border.
New Beginning based in the western city of Mukachevo (Transcarpathia) hosts the foster home ChildAid first built and subsequently fund; the staff team also work with local Roma and other young vulnerable people, in a local Technical School set aside for our team to provide additional education and life-skills support. While Transcarpathia has seen little of the violence affecting so much of Ukraine, with Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania bordering the region, the exodus of refugees fleeing the barrage of artillery, missiles and bombs quickly overwhelmed the capacity of the province to help. With schools closed, and the need great, the New Beginning team quickly established a warehouse to provide essentials for those in need – in so doing providing food, clothing, soap, even a listening ear. The team, often including the older children, have often found themselves counselling those who have lost everything, and they themselves have found solace and comfort in their faith – Jesus was after all a child refugee himself – Matthew 2: Verses 13 & 14.
Children’s Hearts in the city of Kamianske on the Dnieper River has historically provided a broad programme of support to local vulnerable children; not only helping those who are physically or mentally disabled, but also overseeing an abandoned baby’s programme, working with teenage orphans, and helping with an ongoing children’s refugee initiative. The latter began back in 2014 when the first families began arriving in the area, refugees escaping the separatist fighting in the neighbouring provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk. While Children’s Hearts’ house and garden (the House of Light)had to be closed for most of 2022, 2023 saw much of the former programmes being re-instated, even summer camps! But it is the area of refugee support that has seen the biggest change of all, so many have passed through Kamianske that the Children’s Hearts team have worked almost every day of every week to support the children; they even set up pony rides in the city centre, run art classes, and continually work to bring some form of ‘normality’ back into the lives of frightened children. The core work of the abandoned children’s programme changed when the babies were moved away from what became the front line in this conflict. As a consequence, the focus of the abandoned babies programme has become one of the prevention of abandonment, providing hope to desperate mums (and dads) in whatever form is needed.
Additional War Support has been provided since the early days of the invasion to a number of groups, mainly volunteers, who have offered essential care, time and love to so many desperate people fleeing the fighting or even having to remain due to age or disability. This has included: financing emergency shelters for fleeing refugees; supporting a team of volunteers on the eastern frontline providing emergency food and medical supplies to all in need; supporting a mother & baby unit in western Ukraine which became home to many fleeing form the east; this same project also sent aid to some affected by the Kherson dam flooding; providing a lorry load of hospital equipment to the children’s hospital in Kyiv; financing the re-equipping of two classrooms in a severely damaged school in Bucha region; running a play therapy training programme for our partners to help them, and mothers, support their children experiencing the trauma of war. No doubt there will be much more support in the months and years ahead.
The military invasion by Russia into sovereign Ukraine has changed so much for our partners in Moldova and Ukraine. Our partners as you will have read are now seeking to help as best they might.
The team here at ChildAid, and our partners in eastern Europe, are grateful for all the financial giving received, the need is however great and growing. We sadly can’t use ‘things’ at this time, the fuel needed for such journeys has become too expensive, but financial gifts allow our partners aid to buy essentials on the ground, in so doing helping those in need and…, keeping local economies ticking over.
When of course this fighting ultimately stops, the need will be even greater. As we see the levels of destruction, ‘peace’ will need funds to rebuild just about everything. And for ChildAid, we will look to help the children, many of whom will need specialised care and attention, they are after all the future of Ukraine.