Stories from the Field

Painting Joy for Ukrainian Refugees
Thursday, February 1, 2024 by Amber Schafer

“Hello! My name is Maria. I am a supervisor for the mentoring program at Help the Children International in Transnistria. The mentoring program is for youth and children from at-risk families.”

Help the Children International (HTCI) is an organization that works in cooperation with the local government in Transnistria to provide social assistance and support services for orphans, vulnerable children, and families. Through assessment, mentoring, intervention, and practical assistance, HTCI endeavors to keep the family unit intact and in the home. Their Community Centers provide safe places where vulnerable children and teens can receive hot meals, tutoring, mentoring, and life skills training. “The mission of our organization is to provide assistance to children and families in need in Transnistria,” says Maria. “Along with improving their quality of life and enriching their emotional, social, material, intellectual, and spiritual well-being.”

Moldova, and its breakaway region, Transnistria, is one of the poorest countries in Eastern Europe with a population of approximately 3.5 million people. The weak and unstable economies and high unemployment rates force many citizens to migrate to find employment abroad, often leaving some family members at home to live in sub-standard conditions. According to the UN, 24% of children in Moldova live in poverty. Although there are no specific statistics, this percentage is sure to be similar in Transnistria. Government assistance in Transnistria is limited, and there are few programs like HTCI operating in the breakaway region.

But this is not where the valuable support and services of Help the Children International have stopped. As Eastern Europe erupted in turmoil, thousands of Ukrainian refugees flooded the borders of Transnistria. Maria says, “From the very beginning of the war in Ukraine (February 2022), we have been working with refugees; meeting refugees at customs, providing them with transportation services, furnishing them with housing, hot meals, and moral and humanitarian support.”

Over this past year, HTCI has hosted several events that have included Ukrainian refugees. For Children’s Day, they held a celebration in the city that Ukrainian refugee children attended. A five-day children's day camp at their Community Center was visited by 50 children, including refugees. Before the start of the school year, HTCI organized a distribution of school supplies for kids who are regular participants of their Community Center project and for refugee children as well.

More recently, another way Help the Children International reached out to the refugees in their community was through several one-day master classes on art. “I was invited to the Help the Children Community Center when humanitarian aid was being distributed in 2022,” says Tatyana. “When I received the invitation to the master class this year, I immediately applied. I've never painted before, so I wanted to give it a try.” Over the five days the class was offered, a total of 54 women, 15 to 82 years old, attended the master class. At each event the ladies could immerse themselves in the world of art, forgetting about the hustle and bustle of ordinary life, while having fun listening to music and eating delicious treats.

Tatyana said “I was worried that my painting wouldn’t turn out good, but thanks to the instructors, my painting turned out better than expected. It was difficult to work with oil paints, but I got a lot of pleasure from painting.” At the end of each class, every participant took home a picture they painted. “My whole family is delighted with the picture,” Tatyana told us. “I want to give a huge thanks to all the program sponsors, the staff at Help the Children, and the art instructors. Because of this class and your efforts, we discovered new talents and for these few hours, we were able to forget about the troubles that have happened in our lives recently. Peace and goodness to all!”

Tatyana’s experience is echoed by Inna, who says, “I learned about the painting master class from a Ukrainian girl who likes to paint. For a long time, I have wanted to paint on canvas in the studio with professionals. Thank you very much for the opportunity. It was easy to paint as the instructors explained everything. All the paintings turned out beautiful. I cannot believe that many of the participants were painting for the first time. I hope to have the opportunity to paint again.”

Help the Children believes that by providing practical help to those who need it, they help bring hope and happiness to life situations that are otherwise difficult and seem inescapable--and this helps the suffering experience Christ’s love.

 

Our Partnership

Summit Missions International has actively invested in the work of Help the Children since it was founded in 2006. Our short-term teams have assisted with humanitarian and educational products and distribution, construction, and repair services on homes of families at risk, and educational and recreational opportunities for HTC children and teens.

 

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