I would entrust my own grandchildren to these volunteers in various fields of need

22 August 2019, 14:21 | Monitoring | 0 |   | Code for Blog |  | 

Ksenia Hapij

The Ukrainian Weekly, June 21, 2019

Ten years of charitable work at St. John’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Newark have taught us many things, but most of all they have taught us to develop a close relationship with the volunteers that we work with, be they here in the United States or overseas. Close interaction gives rise to understanding and deep respect. I coordinate the St. John’s volunteer projects and periodically travel to Ukraine to visit those who help put into motion the dreams that we have for helping the less fortunate in Ukraine.

Several weeks ago, I traveled to Kyiv, Chernivtsi and Lviv and, as always, was inspired by the many dedicated individuals with whom we work. Sometimes people ask me, “How do you know that you can trust these people?” It’s very simple. We selectively choose those who share our philosophy, we watch how they live their lives, and consequently, find that it would be an insult to these particular people if we did not trust them.

Take, for example, Halyna – a mother of two adult invalid sons who are totally dependent on her and her husband. Instead of falling into despair, she reached out to other families like hers. She traveled from village to village in search of other invalid children and gathered them into an organization of 300 families. Through this organization, she inspires desperate mothers and frightened children, and offers them support groups, programs, contests, trips and much else. Who better to understand them if not Halyna, who has had such a difficult time caring for her own sons for many years?

Another example is Oksana, who lives in the Carpathian Mountains. She was involved in our project of feeding the hungry in Ukraine (a project that brought in over $38,000 and delivered large bags of food to over 2,500 poor homes). Oksana does not drive, so unless she can find an available driver, she makes many deliveries on her bicycle. She visits the elderly and is shocked at the living conditions of people who are destined to survive on a pension of 1,500 hrn (more or less $50). This amount is not sufficient to cover rent and heating expenses, not to mention medication, food and clothing.

And there are so many elderly who are barely surviving. When Oksana visits them in their homes, she often finds that they lack warm clothing, so she goes to thrift shops and buys pants, sweaters and other necessary items. She often comes home and makes holubtsi or borshch, and brings them to those who haven’t had a warm meal in a long time. She once visited an elderly woman who was thrilled to be the recipient of a warm meal. The woman asked Oksana who it was that sent her this wonderful gift. When Oksana replied that it had come from a church in America (meaning that we at St. John’s had paid for this), the woman looked at her and said, “From America? It’s still warm!”

I also enjoy working with Iryna in Kyiv, who belongs to the Society of St. Egidio, an organization whose prime concern is to help those who are very poor. Members of the society prepare and serve meals in three locations in Kyiv, where over 100 people come for food three times a week. During my most recent trip to Kyiv, I joined them for one of these food distributions. Some of the recipients are mentally disabled and unable to provide for themselves, but many are simply elderly people who cannot survive on small pensions.

I was most impressed to see that the members of the Society of St. Egidio (all young people) not only distribute food, but also take the time to speak with the people who come to them – people, who are lonely and hurting. Every Wednesday evening, a square near the post office on Khreshchatyk turns into a place of solace, a place for people to find not only food and warm clothing, but also a kind word. I spoke with several of the recipients of these meals, and one, in particular, touched me deeply. She said, “I had a good job for many years, and was a respected member of society. But today, I live on such a small pension, that I not only lack decent clothing and food, but I have to stand in line for someone to give me a piece of bread.” It’s heart-breaking.

Father Roman, who heads the international charitable organization Caritas in Kyiv and four other regions, deserves special mention. He is a young, energetic, idealistic person who has a heart as big as the city where he lives. He and his co-workers embrace invalids, the elderly, poor families, people of the streets and many more. I would trust my own grandchildren to his care.

And I dare not forget to mention Kalyna, who lives in Lviv. She and her uncle, a Catholic priest, visit the poor in villages. The stories they share are heart-wrenching, yet the warmth they bring to unfortunate families is an inspiration to all of us. There are many other volunteers whom we have had the blessing to befriend – both men and women, young and old, and in various parts of Ukraine. Each has his or her own story, and each deserves our gratitude.

When I was in Chernivtsi, I had the distinct privilege of being present at a concert honoring volunteers in the entire Chernivtsi region. The hall was filled with people who had come to thank all those who work as volunteers in various fields of need. It was interesting to see that among the volunteers were entire schools that instill the philosophy of volunteerism in their students. What a beautiful gift these teachers and administrators give to their students and to their country! This was only one of many such celebrations that take place in Ukraine.

This particular concert acknowledged the accomplishments of many people and organizations, and I am proud to say that, in the category of help from abroad, St. John’s received first prize. But even though the award was granted to the St. John’s Charitable Program, this prize also belongs to other generous people from outside our parish, many of whom are readers of The Ukrainian Weekly, and who have supported us through the years. Congratulations to all of our donors, and thank you.

If anyone would like to join us in our charitable ventures, please write to St. John’s Charitable Program, 719 Sanford Ave., Newark, NJ 07106, or call 201-207-4555.

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  • Zenia | 20 September 2019, 16:38

    пробачаюсь, для Александрії.))

  • Zenia | 20 September 2019, 16:37

    Котра вона буде за чергою - це вже не так важливо! Важливіше те, що проти Константинополя ця церква теж не піде, бо та "велика" росія для Антіохії що є, що нема.)))

  • Zenia | 20 September 2019, 16:32

    А кто здесь врёт, кроме тебя, лживый москаль Мишка?))

  • enzian | 18 September 2019, 16:43

    Ніякий з тебе пророк, Мішка.

  • Paraeklezyarh | 18 September 2019, 16:37

    Котрою за чергою в признання автокефалії ПЦУ буде православна церква Александрії одному Богу відомо . Але факт співслужіння та євхаристії є.