Before the fighting escalated in Ukraine this year, Nadiya O.* and her husband lived near the city of Uman, Ukraine. Together, they grew a vegetable garden and kept bees, selling their honey to make some extra cash. But shortly after the conflict worsened, her husband died from a heart attack.
Then Russian military bombing destroyed their home, burning most of the beehives they had tended together to ash. The ones that remain still stand, empty and quiet. An unexploded rocket lies buried in what used to be their garden, among the rosebushes. In Ukrainian, the name Nadiya means "hope," but her situation left little to be hopeful for.
But a measure of hope found its way to Nadiya O. when a container full of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) canned meat, comforters and other relief items were distributed through MCC partner Uman Help Centre.
The container that arrived in Uman was one of five shipped to Ukraine by MCC, each loaded with essential relief items, including relief kits, hygiene kits, infant care kits, comforters and canned meat. Shipping routes into Ukraine have been majorly disrupted by the conflict. Before fighting escalated, MCC relief supplies could be sent by container ship to the Port of Odesa in southern Ukraine directly, but these containers had to make a much longer journey overland.
Using contents from the five containers, MCC partners in Uman, Kharkiv, Nikopol and a few other places distributed emergency supplies to more than 16,000 people.
Nadiya T.*, program coordinator for MCC in Ukraine, says that a lot of attention is paid to who receives the supplies to make sure they reach the people most in need. “The recipients of material resources are the most vulnerable groups, the people who are in the most critical need. People whose homes were destroyed. People who lost their jobs, the elderly people with small pension benefits and people living with disabilities.”
Donating material resources isn’t the only way MCC donors are responding to the needs in Ukraine. Donations to MCC’s Ukraine response totalled US$9.7 million at the end of July. These generous gifts have provided survival essentials, fuel, comforters, child protection and counselling support to more than 22,000 people. Thousands more received food and emergency kits from the supply shipments.
But Nadiya T. says there’s something more intangible that the support has provided—the same measure of hope that Nadiya O. felt.
“Ukraine is facing a humanitarian catastrophe,” says Nadiya T. “So many people in Ukraine are still suffering, and they feel helpless in the face of circumstances they cannot control. The fighting has been going on for months, people get tired and discouraged. Ukrainians need to know that they’re not alone in this, and that they’re supported, that there are people around the world who are not indifferent to the suffering. Please keep praying for us. And please keep supporting Ukrainians in the ways you can. Every prayer and every bit of assistance is very meaningful and much appreciated.”
* The villages and last names of the people quoted are not provided for security reasons.
To hear more from Nadiya T. about the experiences of displaced people in Ukraine, listen to her episode of MCC’s Relief, Development and Podcast at mcccanada.ca/relief-development-podcast.