WINNIPEG, Man.—Larisa Semenova and her husband Igor are preparing to spend their first winter in Zaporizhzhia . They know they are lucky to be alive.
In July 2014, a bomb, measuring two metres in length, struck their apartment building near the Donetsk airport, about 200 kilometres from Zaporizhzhia. The bomb did not explode and has since been removed from the building.
“It is a difficult time for me but I trust in the Lord,” says Semenova. “This trust helps me and gives me hope.”
This couple is among hundreds of thousands of people in eastern Ukraine who fled their homes to safer regions in Ukraine or neighbouring countries.
Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is appealing for donations to assist four partner organizations with supporting displaced and vulnerable families in and around the cities of Zaporizhzhia, Nikopol and Zhytomyr and the Kiev region. MCC’s support includes cash assistance and material resources, such as blankets, kits and canned meat.
The Baptist Union in Zaporizhzhia, an MCC partner, opened a City Aid Centre in May 2014. “People showed up in the door of our churches asking for food and clothes,” says program supervisor, Vadym Proshak. “We wanted to do something so we started the City Aid Centre.”
Seven months into the conflict, about 200 people a day are using the services at this centre. The centre also has mobile teams that deliver food parcels and other humanitarian assistance to people who remain in their homes.
MCC’s initial response of $10,000 enabled the centre to assist 35 families for three months. With additional funds, the church plans to open five more centres in the region. Services will respond to immediate needs, ease the trauma of displacement and help people establish stable living conditions.
Semenova and Igor now live in a guest house owned by the Baptist Union. They are among 15 volunteers who assist the eight-member staff at the City Aid Centre. They also give freely of their time to continue supporting ex-offenders and look for ways to support others displaced by violence.
“Helping others helps us to go on,” says Semenova. “It distracts us from our problems. When people come to City Aid we tell them our life story. It is easy for us to understand them because we have similar experiences.”
For this and other relief projects in Ukraine MCC is partnering with Zaporizhzhia Baptist Union, Nikopol New Life Charitable Fund, Zhytomyr Care and Mercy Regional Charity Fund and Good Shepherd Charitable Fund.