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Updates from Ukraine

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Dear Friends,

I am writing you from my Kiev apartment, where it is extremely warm (about 27 C) and feels like summer just threw itself upon us. Just last month I was wondering when spring was coming and now I wonder where it went.

Since my last update in March, I had a few more work-related trips, including a useful training seminar in Georgia, which also had extra days for holiday. Also useful. (If you want the Weekly Reader version of my trip to Georgia, e-mail me for it.)

Upon returning home from that trip in early April, I have not had a single trip outside Kiev (unless you count a trip for barbecued kid goat to celebrate a fellow officer's birthday in a village in early May). It has been nice to be in one place for a while. I do feel that it has helped me catch up. And it's been good to be a bit of a part of what is going on in Kiev - we had really nice Easter weekend (April) and attendance of interesting lecture about church purpose. That has led to some tangible changes already. Quite exciting.

Now we've got quite a few big projects out to Moscow, as well as a series of smaller ones. Monies that were promised by sponsors before my departure for furlough in November have at long last arrived in Kiev. The position I have is not for the impatient or faint-hearted, so I guess this appointment is what my Uncle Pat calls "another opportunity to improve your patience". Today as we were discussing some finance issues, we decided perhaps one day is a thousand years not only to God...

Patience got its reward this week when I finally met up with my friend Masha Ibragimova, who works for an AIDS-related NGO in Moscow, but is frequently in Kiev for work. Just never when I am. It had been more than a year since I last saw her, but this week we had lunch with her, and two of her colleagues. I met their Kiev office, and quite liked the young girl Julia, who is working in tandem with Masha bringing HIV-training seminars to the business world. It was interesting to talk with them as it seems their Kiev office has had some of the same struggles as ours. Among one of my hopes - now as a proud Russia-visa carrying holder (also happened this month), is to get out to Moscow once every few months to remind them about Ukraine. Inspiration makes me think there are clear ways to pay for it too!

Also this week we got our first significant sponsorship from an organization in Ukraine - granted it's the Lions Club and almost all the members are foreign, but we'll take it! We'll take it! We'll take it! They have agreed to purchase camp equipment for one of the corps that is running youth and father-children's camps. It's a good start, and they look at it that way too. Unlike many sponsors, they are quite positive about our being Christian.. If things go well, they seem to be happy to be more supportive in the future.

Well, I think we'll call it a short update and leave it at that.




Renewed Vision for Ukraine

The below update from Southern Territory Overseas Officer, Captain Maureen Diffley describes her recent trip through Ukraine.   

In September, I had a whirlwind tour of Ukraine (Aug. 31 - Sept. 13). The purpose was to see what has happened with project applications that have been in limbo for 3 or more years, to see what projects are needed now, to review ongoing projects, etc. Projects are just ministries that get funding from outside the corps (church) budget. We have in mind property projects. Most corps don't own any buildings, which leads to moving in and out of halls, offices and quarters on a regular basis. This is stressful, but much worse is that it is difficult to keep people who have got used to attending the corps in one place make each move. Other big projects we hope to develop are full-fledged social services center in Kharkov (seniors, children, HIV/AIDS and TB) and Kirovograd, day center for street kids in Odessa, and emergency services response - especially after mining accidents in Donetsk. Smaller projects are outreach programs that cooperate with special schools for disabled children in Kirovograd, homeless in Kiev and the blind and elderly in Yalta.

A few weeks later, Kirovograd Corps held its 10th Anniversary. It was a really well-organized celebration. Despite the fact that the corps officer (husband) can't work more than a block at a slow pace, due to extreme complications from diabetes, and spends 2 days a week at dialysis (the medical staff said kidney transplants aren't done locally, but cost $70,000 - though their answer to my "why" was a shrug of shoulders), the corps officers did a great job of bringing in the local community and the officers from around the country for the celebration.

In fact, there were more than 60 people in the spillover zone by the time the Sunday worship meeting began. There was plenty of participation of all generations - the typical here: children and adults reciting poetry (separately); elderly (man in this case) sharing his own sentimental poetry; children, youth & elderly women's choir singing; solos; skits; tambourine "dance" with guys shaking tambourines.

The anniversary coincided with Harvest or in US parlance Thanksgiving service, so the corps continued its tradition of enrolling new soldiers (members). There were 7, and one of them was actually a man.

In addition to this, the corps officer had invited the many community partners to the service - and they actually came - and shared testimonies of cooperative work. The head of each department of the oblast (state/province) hospital came. Fortunately, they made a joint statement, but each had brought a gift. Also, the principal of a school for children with mental retardation and a mother from its PTA-like group, the director of orphanage for kids with children's cerebral palsy, the director of children's shelter, the president of the association for disabled people, and the oblast (state) minister of religion.

After the meeting ended, there was a lunch. But the corps officers had arranged a separate lunch for the 12 local officers and all the visiting officers, which was a good time for interaction and to really pray for the corps officers.


Maureen Diffley, Capt

Projects and League of Mercy Officer - Ukraine Division

Eastern Europe Territory


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