I have been visiting Ukraine and supporting Friends House now for over 5 years. I try to visit at least 3 times a year, sometimes by car and sometimes I fly and if possible I like to stay for 4 to 6 weeks. This visit by comparison was a quick 2 week fly in fly out trip but I managed to cram a lot in to those 2 weeks.
My role in the Friends House team is mainly to take photographs for the website and sponsors. Mirjam and I have an idea to put together an exhibition and book in the future to raise money.
However, it is impossible to witness the needs here without wanting to help so I also sponsor a couple of families too.
This visit coincided with the team buying and giving out lots of shoes to the children they support plus some local refugees that are in desperate need of assistance so I had lots of photographic opportunities.
Being both a sponsor and a helper gives me a unique insight in to how the work the team do in Friends House really makes a difference to many children’s lives. For some families life was tough even before the conflict in Eastern Ukraine but now it’s even harder. Prices have risen by at least 3 times, wages have stayed the same and there is less paid work to be found. There is some money from the government for families with young children but it is woefully inadequate so without outside help families would be on or below the bread line.
Luxury sandwiches at Sunday school.
I see this all the time when we visit the families, I always look to see what food they have and it is not unusual to see the children eating just dried bread.
Because Friends House works in relatively small communities it is possible to identify and look out for the most vulnerable. Working closely with the schools and social workers they find those families in the most desperate need and where the children are in danger of being put in the Internats( state run children’s homes). Sometimes it only takes a little help to take a family from a desperate situation to one where they are able to cope. Working to keep families together is a main aim of the team.
For a lot of these families a one off fix, whilst being appreciated, is not the answer. Families need long term support to ensure the children are given a chance in life. I have been supporting my families for a few years now not only with clothes and food but also in helping improve their home situation.
The first family were having to get water from a well several hundred meters from their home. This was a family with 6 small children and I couldn’t understand what it must be like to wash, clean and cook when your water comes from a bucket. With the teams help and some money from me it was possible to install a sink, with running water, and a washing machine. It gives me immense satisfaction to see the house clean and the children in clean clothes every time I visit them.
The second family I sponsor are a mother and 5 children. When I started sponsoring them one on the children was already in the Internat and the others were in danger of joining her as their temporary home was considered uninhabitable by the authorities. With some financial help from me and a lot of work from the team it was possible to provide them with a renovated home of a suitable size to accommodate them all. We also installed a sink and running water. The child is no longer in the Internat and the mother is doing a fantastic job keeping the home and children clean and tidy.
Please understand my sponsorship has not made life for these families easy but it has given the children a much better life and opportunity than they would otherwise have had.
Even a simple thing like a new pair of shoes can give a child a new found confidence to go to school in comfort. I have tried to capture the joy in the children’s faces when they get their new shoes.
It is a privilege for me to be able to see first hand what great work the team do and how even a little money can make a big difference to a child here.
Ukraine is not at the top of the big charities lists and sometimes it is the smaller charities that are hands on that make the biggest difference but on a small scale.
Some persons in Piski team: Sveta, Victor and Katya.
My objective when I first came to Ukraine was to make a difference to one child. Thanks to the team I think I may have done that several times over and for that I am truly grateful to them all:)