Let me introduce myself: my name is Victoria. I am 35, not married yet. But anyway I have a wonderful family – my parents and my brother. I love them very much. What is the most important for me is that we all know the Lord for more than 17 years now. Sometimes I say that we experience a little heaven in our family. At the moment my brother studies in Germany social science. He will finish his studies soon. My parents live in a little village. In the church I am the leader of our Sunday school.
Almost 10 years I am working with the children in our “Living Hope Foundation” (www.hope4kids.com.ua). For me it is not only my working place, but a part of my life. I am thankful to God for the possibility to put the seed of God’s Word into the kids, who attend the day care centers and we see how it changes them. During these ten years about 10 kids lot their mothers and two also their fathers. It was good to have the chance to help and support them during these difficult times.
In 2010 the number of kids in the center where I am responsible decreased a little, due to the fact that the teenagers, who were with us from the beginning, finished school and started vocational trainings or study at university now. So now we invite new kids and please pray, that God might direct the way of children in need to our day care center. My work is to be a constant friend to the approximately 30 kids and teenagers who attend one of the centers. We cook together; I help them with their homework’s, teach them the word of God and how to pray and I am just available for them, when they need me. Most of the kids come from so called dysfunctional families, so they are grateful when there is a place where they are very welcomed.
So I was happy to share a little bit about my work and I want to ask you to join us in prayer for the following issues:
- For the restoration and salvation of the families of our kids. Many of the parents are addicted; don’t pay attention to the needs of their kids.
- For the healing of the hearts of our children. May God heal them from all the emotional pain they had to experience.
- For new possibilities to expand our work and open more day care centers in Odessa.
- For faithful and dedicated co-workers. Especially for man, because most of our kids grow up without a father and need good male role models.
- For all of us, that God may fill us every day with wisdom, patience and love.
I want to thank you so much for your help and support. May the Lord bless you, reward you and fulfill all your needs! I also want to wish you a merry Christmas and a blessed New Year! May your lives be fruitful and have impact on the lives of other around you!
Please write about your church and how we can support you in prayer.
Victoria from Odessa (Ukraine).
Living Hope is a local Ukrainian NGO, sponsored in part by our All Nations Church Global Outreach ministry, that helps children and youth at risk as well as their families. The main aim is to establish day care centers in different areas to give children and youth the chance to spend their leisure time meaningful and protected, to give them assistance to develop life skills and to transfer Christian values.
Child and family support system in Ukraine – the current situation
Ukraine has a population of almost 47 million people of whom around 10 million are under the age of 18. Negative impacts of the Soviet Union’s welfare and child protection system – such as the institutionalization of millions of children and the state taking responsibility instead of parents, as well as the results of the transition process following the break-up of the Soviet Union refer to the systems of child and family support. The transition processes resulted in a country with a major gap between the rich and the poor. Over 20% of the Ukrainian population today lives in poverty and 3% in extreme poverty, which means on less than USD 1 per day. According to official statistics, 2.6 million of children were living with an income below the subsistence minimum. Many low-income children have poor nutrition and no access to primary health care. 50.000 children live in dysfunctional families. The number of these families is increasing. The number of raids conducted among families to identify and register those families who are dysfunctional with women and children exposed to domestic violence and abuse amounted to 80.000 raids in 2006. Domestic violence is a serious problem. A Ukrainian Academy of Sciences survey estimates that 20 per cent of women suffer abuse on a regular basis. Often this kind of behaviour is accepted not only by the women and children themselves, but also by the environment of the family. There is also a failure on the part of social services to provide adequate assistance when disaster strikes a family, such as a serious illness, addiction or the death of family members. The Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Ukraine 2006 states also that in Ukraine there were also many complaints of abuse of children related to child prostitution, pornographic video sales, child molestation, and illegal child labor.
The quality of the Ukrainian health care system is poor. While the Ukrainian State guarantees free-of-charge access to health care services, unofficial payments for diagnostics, treatment and care remain common for all groups of the population. Further there are other barriers to accessing health care services for children and young people including legal barriers such as a lack of parental care, capacity barriers such as qualification of doctors and gaps in services for instance in the area of mental health or drug rehabilitation. Vulnerable young people have no health-seeking behaviour. They suffer from a lack of information, drug use, and lack of incentives to provide prevention services and professional services to vulnerable groups.
Education is free, universal and compulsory until age 15, however, the public education system continues to suffer from inadequate funding. Children from poor families continue to drop out of schooling, and illiteracy, previously very rare, remains a problem. The problem of growing violence and crime in and outside of schools persists, particularly in the vocational schools and discouraged some children from attending school.
Day Care Centers in Odessa / Ukraine – The Work of NGO Living Hope
Odessa is a big city situated on the Black Sea with 1.1 million inhabitants. The day care center is situated in the Suworowskie rayon where more than 263 thousand people are living. It is an area with an accumulation of social problems. Many single parenting families as well as dysfunctional families live in this region. The local NGO «Living Hope» running the day care center rents about 300sqm in a kindergarten. It has started its work in January 2001 targeting children and youth from social disadvantaged families. The age ranges from 0 to 18 years. The day care center aims to prevent dropping out of school and community, occurring of deviant behavior and to offer the children and youth at risk a healthy environment for developing life skills. The day care center also provides assistance in emergency life circumstances, such as illness or death of a parent.
The first center (start in January 2001) is attended by up to 40 children and young people daily. It is open from 12.00 to 18.00 from Monday till Friday. The group of children is constant. Attendance is obligatory, and if children or young people are not coming regularly, the social workers have to call their homes, schools and find out the reason of not attending the center.
The program of the day care center includes:
- Helping with the home works
- Common lunch
- Support with cloth, shoos, scholar materials and other things
- Variety of leisure time activities, such as table soccer, table tennis, computer games,
- Teaching of christian values.
- Summer Camps and Excursions
- Possibility to take a shower, to wash cloth, to get a haircut, assistance in going to the doctors, dentists. Often the center purchases prescribed medicine for the children.
- There are different types of working groups, for instance to learn English or German, to learn how to make puppets etc.
Through the children the contact with the parents is established. There are regularly organized family events like summer parties or Christmas Parties. The program aims to establish stable relationships with the children and young people, support their development and prevent them from dropping out of school, family and community. In May 2009 a second center was opened in the same region. About 15 young children from 4 to 9 attend the day care regularly. In this center also 3 young people, which grew up in the first center work as volunteers. Other young people study at university or do one year of social voluntary service in Germany.