Photo by Pavel Sulima

Emergency relief worker, Dima Matyukhin brings blankets and other humanitarian assistance to families living in conflict-ridden villages. Names of families are withheld for security reasons.

WINNIPEG, Man.—At great risk to their own lives, emergency relief workers from Zaporizhzhia Baptist Union bring food, clothes, warm blankets and other supplies to people living in very difficult situations.

Now that winter has set in, many people in eastern Ukraine continue to live in villages where electrical and water systems are destroyed and stores are closed. Those living in poverty, with disabilities, the elderly and people with large families are the most affected.

“When we go to these villages we suggest they leave but people say they have no place to go,” says emergency relief worker, Dima Matyukhin. “We visited one family who did not have anything to eat. They don’t have money to buy food. They don’t have money to leave the territory.”

Emergency workers risk getting caught in the gunfire and other violence as they deliver humanitarian aid to people who cannot leave their homes.

At the same time, hundreds of thousands are fleeing from the relentless violence and conflict. They are seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. Some flee hundreds of kilometres to other areas of Ukraine. At least 40,000 have fled to Zaporizhzhia region.

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is appealing for donations to assist the Zaporizhzhia Baptist Union with supporting vulnerable families and internally displaced people in and around Zaporizhzhia. MCC’s support includes cash assistance and material resources, such as blankets, kits and canned meat. You can donate online to this relief work. 

“Every person has to decide how to respond,” says Vadym Proshak, a pastor of the Zaporizhzhia Baptist Union. “As a church, we decided that we needed to be one of those forces who help and engage in the situation of internally displaced people.”

When the first displaced families arrived in Zaporizhzhia, church leaders opened a City Aid Centre. The centre distributed its first food parcels last May and now provides services to about 200 people a day. It offers basic humanitarian assistance, medical and legal consultations and works closely with employment agencies to help people get jobs. The centre also has a library and is a place where people get to know each other.

 With additional support from MCC the church plans to open five more centres in the region.

The conflict in Donetsk forced Larisa Semenova and her husband Igor to seek refuge in Zaporizhzhia. The couple lives in a guest house owned by the Baptist Union. They don’t have jobs but are able to volunteer for the City Aid Centre and other church ministries.

“Right now we have everything we need,” says Semenova. “The difficulty is there are a lot of IDPs (internally displaced persons) but there are no jobs for us.”

MCC also supports services provided by Nikopol New Life Charitable Fund and Zhytomyr Care and Mercy Regional Charity Fund assist uprooted and vulnerable people in and around the cities of Nikopol and Zhytomyr. 

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