Summer 2015 Newsletter

UKRAINE CHILDREN’S WORK

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Ezra International
Summer 2015
 

In our recent trip to Ukraine, even though it looks peaceful in Kiev, we were very much aware of the uneasiness in this country.  Soldiers are fighting in the east, conscription is in place, and Russia continues to be a very real threat.  People are fleeing from towns and villages in the east and we met many refugees in Kiev. Their stories are traumatic as they tell of homes destroyed and loss of life.  One lady told us how at the end of January in an attack on their town she lost her 20 year old daughter, husband of another daughter and 2 year old grandson.  Eight adults and 18 children escaped in a van they found that had no doors or windows but still ran.  Her grandchildren who lost their father and brother take part in the After School program we participated in this trip.

On top of all this, the economy is in a critical state. But despite all these uncertainties, the people we work with maintain their focus on helping children. To them it is a calling, not a job.

We are all immensely grateful to everyone who helps support this work!

Bruce Elliott

 

FATHER’S HOUSE –   a Christian children’s home I am on the board of and Ezra assists, has taken in many refugees.  They are full to overflowing yet still keep up their wonderful level of care to children.   Dr. Roma has started a church for children called “The Church of the Heavenly Father” where he leads but the children participate and it is pretty remarkable. As Roma says, “children often have more faith than adults”.

Roma praying for children
Roma praying for children

This summer, out of the great need, Father’s House has set themselves a big project. On an island just off Kiev in the Dnieper river they are holding  camps for a total of 200 children – 4 groups of 50 children each coming for two weeks.  Some of the children come from Father’s House, some from crisis families, refugee children and children whose fathers are soldiers fighting in the east and their mothers are working.  A child psychologist will be at the camps to help children who have suffered trauma.

WOMEN IN PRISON WITH YOUNG CHILDREN UNIT – this visit we were presented with a certificate to thank  Ezra for donating the funds that renovated the bathrooms in this unit of the prison and for purchasing a heart monitor.

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We got to hold several of the children, from a few months  to 3 years old, but we weren’t allowed to take photos.

Lena, who also works as a social worker in our Child Rescue unit, heads up this outreach. She has known hard times in her own life but has such a wonderful, happy personality she draws people to her.   Lena helps with paperwork when children turning 3 are placed in government orphanages so that the mothers will be able to keep track of them.  One could not imagine the trauma involved. There is, however, a recent new law that allows exceptions if the mother has only a year left for the child to stay till 4.  Also there are now times the mother is released early when her child turns 3.  Lena corresponds with the women between visits.  When the mothers are released, she helps them reconnect with their children, gets them into a Christian rehabilitation center or linked with a Church if they would like the support, and helps them find work and somewhere to live. Along with us on this visit was a lady Lena is mentoring who had been twice in this prison but has been on a good path for a year.

CHILD RESCUE MOBILE UNIT –  Because of the great number of calls regarding child abuse to the unit’s 24/7 help line,  we have expanded from 3 to 6 Kiev districts. These are children who in many cases would get no help apart from that of our unit.  The unit is fully backed by Police, which in itself is amazing. The team is made up of Christian professionals in social work and child psychology, headed up very ably by Vera whose degree in law is really needed for all the “red tape” that exists in Ukraine.  The ultimate goal is to keep families together if possible.  Where necessary, children in danger are removed, with the backing of Police, hopefully for a temporary time.  To get their children back these parents need to go through rehabilitation from alcohol or drug abuse.  In situations where children remain in the home, regular home visits are made to check on changes to create a clean, safe living situation for them. The starting condition is almost always deplorable.

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Vera is talking to these two boys whose mother is an alcoholic and had been leaving them alone and hungry. The youngest boy, aged 2, had a nasty cough. They are both now in a sanatorium for their health.

AFTER SCHOOL CENTER – Vera’s sister, Aliona, oversees this program for children the Child Rescue Unit works with.  Refugee children are also taking part.  What really impacted us was the sense of family they have created.  We watched the children run in hugging each other and the leaders and the laughter as they did activities together.  Gone were the sad faces we see on home visits.

We were asked this visit to help teach English and do activities and crafts with the children.  The English was a challenge with a full range of ages and zero to fairly minimal ability but we tried to show them speaking English is fun!

Craft class
Craft class
This was the biggest, most fun birthday party I have ever had. From 10 large pizzas not a crumb was left!
This was the biggest, most fun birthday party I have ever had. From 10 large pizzas not a crumb was left!

The children prepare dance and singing performances for their parents to watch. Out of this comfortableness at the Center, parents have been coming for help and attending the “Parenting without Abuse” classes.

This summer we are putting on another camp like we did the last two years by the river at the New Beginnings Ranch, four hours’ drive from Kiev.  This is a wonderful opportunity for the children to be in fresh air, enjoying their childhood away from the stress of their home situations.

For any questions, please Email: annejelliott@gmail.com
Financially times are very tight and challenging and so many children needing help. If you would like to help, donations can be sent to –
Ezra International, P.O. Box 120926, Clermont FL, 34712-0926
Harvest City Church, 7416 Victoria Drive, Vancouver B.C. V5P 3Z3
Or by Paypal through our website www.ukrainestreetchildren.com
All donations go 100% to the children’s work, with no overheads taken out!

Update from Bruce Elliott on the Children’s Work in Kiev, Ukraine from March Trip

THE SITUATION IN UKRAINE remains volatile. People are very unsettled. Though it looks like a truce is somewhat holding between the Russian backed rebels and Ukraine, it is feared that Putin will continue his invasion. The economy is collapsing and the people are fed up with political corruption. Life is very hard.

But despite all these difficulties, I saw more than ever the resourcefulness and tenacity of those who work with children.

FATHER’S HOUSE is now also a refuge for a large number of children, and some adults, who are refugees from the fighting in the east. Since summer 2014, they have taken in 175 people, 133 of who are children. The children were from children’s institutions, foster families, single mothers with children and children with their grandparents. Some have been housed in a facility Father’s House has three hours drive from Kiev. Others have found a permanent home in central Ukraine.

The Father’s House children are safe.

Two sets of family group parents have adopted the children under their care. Father’s House has managed to get each family an apartment near Father’s House. Both families have a total of 12 children and continue to be supported by Father’s House as before. This has meant more room being freed up for refugees.

I met the parents of a little boy, David, who was adopted from Father’s House at 3 and HIV positive. The mother had great faith that he would be healed. They had just returned from medical testing for David in Israel and the results included he is now HIV negative!

I went to a church service at Father’s House Roma has started for children and there were also some staff and village people present. Roma said he is not modeling it on anything else, but it is uniquely a church of children because he believes that they exhibit more faith in general than adults and he thinks great things can come of empowering children. It is truly the church of the orphan. Roma and the children took the service.

Our CHILDREN’S RESCUE CENTER continues to help children who would have no help without it. I went on three home visits with our staff and, as usual, conditions were appalling. There are so many homes in the 3 districts of Kiev we cover where children are in very bad situations and our staff are doing a wonderful job. They also respond to calls to go to children in crisis in other areas as best they can with their large workload.

We are hoping to have enough funds to once again put on a camp for these children in July for 10 days and in Ukraine they are working on a budget for this for us.

The AFTER SCHOOL CENTER is a happy, safe place children being helped by the Rescue Center can come. Between 20 and 30 children come each day to enjoy a range of activities, instead of hanging around on the street. They are given a meal and for some it is the only real food they get all day. Some children who don’t go to school come at 1pm for individual instruction and one of these is Masha who has a medical condition. She is 8 and was born with no bone in her forearm. She had an operation in Ukraine and has been told she will need to wear a plaster cast on it until she is 18. It is quite apparent they don’t know what they are doing medically and we would very much like to be able to get her help in the USA if it were possible.

The man who owns the building where the Center is held, is a Christian businessman and he provides housing for 60 refugees on the 3rd floor. One of the mothers I met lost both her husband and 2 year old son in the fighting in the east and she has shrapnel in her leg they are unable to remove all of. She is living there with her 4 other children and mother-in-law.

Anne and I will be in Ukraine the second half of May and we are going to take part in a day camp for these children, where they will go out and about for a week doing all sorts of activities and new experiences.

HELPING OLDER CHILDREN has always been our heart. Without help, children from institutions have very little chance of successfully transitioning to independence. Tolik, who worked with us for many years, has set up in a government shelter building a mini hostel for boys. They are all at technical college and have jobs. I was very impressed. The plan is to establish a girls group as well.

Pasha, who also worked with us at one time, has had a dream for years to help young men who have come out of government orphanages, prison and drug rehab. He has set up an apartment that is working successfully. The boys are expected to work and contribute to the rent and there is a man who lives with them who oversees the boys. We are hoping to be able to contribute to the monthly shortfall.

A huge thank you to everyone who helps us with this work. Be encouraged, you are making a difference! If you have any questions, please Email Anne at annejelliott@gmail.com.

Bruce

Ukraine Children’s Work – November 2014

Ezra international November 2014

Anne and I have just returned from Ukraine. As you will know from the news, these are extremely difficult times for Ukraine with fighting in the east backed by Russia, the gas supply issue still not resolved with Russia and it is getting cold in Ukraine, and their economy is in shambles. On the positive side, while we were there an election was held for Deputies (comparable to MPs/Congressmen) and all communist party representatives got voted out. The government is now pro-west and also making moves to come against corruption.

Below is an update on the children’s work which, despite all the uncertainties of life in Ukraine, is going very well. A very big thank you to everyone who helps support this work!

Bruce Elliott

In October there was great excitement at Father’s House when the Ukraine President’s wife, Mrs. Poroshenko, came to visit them.

FATHER’S HOUSE

I am on the Board of Father’s House and was there for their tri-yearly Board meeting. Father’s House is full to the brim with currently 96 children living there, including many children who are refugees from the east. An orphanage from Mariupol in the east with 36 children who had been rescued and brought to Father’s House has been relocated in Kiev. This family is now living at Father’s House with 7 adopted children who are all HIV positive, the Isaeva family. They are refugees from the east but at one time were given an award by the Ukraine government for the work they do.

Father’s House has had to reorganize and move away from the family group concept for the time being to accommodate all the incoming new children. They continue to give wonderful, loving care to the children.

CHILD RESCUE MOBILE UNIT

This unit began at the request of the Social Services Director of Kiev, a Christian man, and the only one of its kind in Ukraine. It is now well established and covers three regions of Kiev. We employ a team of professionals and someone is on call 24/7 to receive calls and make immediate visits to homes where children are in crisis situations. With the backing of Police, children can be removed right away if in danger or our team makes regular home visits to see if the living situation/parenting can be changed to create an environment for children to be safely in. The team has around 60 families it follows up on.

We went on home visits with our team and, as usual, the living conditions were deplorable with very minimal parenting. The children in this photo are siblings living in one small, very damp room under the care of a grandmother who can’t walk and the mother is HIV and an alcoholic. Our team is in the process of arranging for these children to go to a sanitarium for their health as a first step.

Our goal is to be able to provide Christmas food packages and gifts for the crisis family children.

For these children in crisis families, 8 months ago a group working alongside us started an after school center (from 3:15 to 7pm and Saturday afternoons). So our mobile unit staff on home visits invite the school age children to the center. There is a schedule of all the classes they can take part in – English, crafts, dancing, music and football for the boys. They are fed a healthy light meal. The center name translates to English as “Achievement” – to give the children dreams and goals through acceptance and encouragement. It is full of life and activity and the kids never want to leave to go home. Parents are encouraged to come and receive help and it is such a comfortable environment many do come.

MOTHERS WITH CHILDREN IN PRISON

In Ukraine there are some prisons where women can have children with them till they turn 2. After that the children are taken away and put in government orphanages, which is very traumatic. The lack of record-keeping has meant mothers have great difficulty in finding their children when they are released. Lena, who is on staff with the Rescue Unit, is very called to this work and is now visiting two prisons monthly building relationships with the mothers, writing to them during the month and helping with records. We provide supplies for her to take. Lena said to date since her involvement 16 women have been released and reunited with their children and she helps them get re-established.

“NEW BEGINNINGS RANCH” (REHABILITATION VILLAGE)

This visit cold was beginning to set in. The Ranch is 60 kms from the Russian border and they will be snowed in all winter. The houses we purchased are very old and had been deserted. They have now been done up to be lived in but are very basic. One good thing is that the big Ukrainian concern over gas for the winter doesn’t touch them as each house has a hole in an inner wall where they burn firewood and this keeps them very warm and enables them to cook with the heat generated. Pastor Vladimir heads up the Ranch and his heart is huge – he takes anyone who needs a home and wants to be part of the little community there – mothers and their children who had been homeless and people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, whether they can work or whether they are crippled. All ages. They work hard during the summer to provide food for the winter and are almost self-sufficient. Our plan is to continue to buy houses and do them up to be habitable so that more very needy families can be housed.

In the summer we were able to do a camp out there for children from the ranch and some of the children from the crisis families in Kiev we work with were brought out to it. This is our second year of doing a camp and it is the most wonderful experience for these children. Our goal is to have the funds to do one again next year.

If anyone has questions, please Email annejelliott@gmail.com.

Donations can be sent to –

Ezra International, P.O. Box 120926, Clermont, FL, 34712-0926

Harvest City Church, 7416 Victoria Drive, Vancouver, B.C. V5P 3Z3

Or by Paypal through our website www.ukrainestreetchildren.webs.com

All donations go 100% to the children’s work, with no overheads taken out!

Father’s House Needs Help!

You will have been hearing in the news about the situation in Ukraine – the takeover of Crimea by Russia and the ever increasing threat of further takeovers in cities. Plus the economy of Ukraine is on the brink of bankruptcy. .

Bruce Elliott is on the board of Father’s House. These are extremely tight financial times for them for several reasons. A children’s home has been forced to close because of government funds no longer being available and Father’s House is taking in the children from this home, with the likelihood there will be other situations where they will need to take in more children who would otherwise be homeless. This puts a large strain on Father’s House and we are collecting funds to cover the costs. Also, Father’s House needs to stockpile food that would last several months because food availability could become an issue. There also needs to be a contingency plan in place if it becomes necessary for Father’s House to move the children to somewhere safer.

If you would like to help Father’s House, please click on the ‘donate’ tab. Thank you!!

Ukraine Crisis

After going to Maidan (Independence Square) in downtown Kiev, Ukraine in February where the big protests were held to remove the President and corrupt government, Bruce Elliott wrote:

“It is beyond anything I could possibly have expected. There are still barricades, row after row, so you have to get through them like layers to get to the city center. They start at the very top of the hill. As soon as you get through the first barricade you see all the paving stones are gone and it is just dirt. It is black and desolate like the war zone it was during the protests. There are burned out buildings all around. The smell is indescribable. A really burnt smell. As we went up the first street there was still lots of blood on the dirt, walls and steps. In a bank above a wall is a gravestone where a man buried his son and left the stone. You couldn’t help but weep at what you saw. Everybody is somber and respectful through the whole area. There are flowers and candles in countless piles all around. It is overwhelming and you have a real sense of the price that was paid.”

Family Visit Report – Ezra Rescue Center

I  (Bruce Elliott) recently tagged along with two of our Social Workers from the Ezra Rescue Center to see what a typical day looks like for them. These are my observations from just one day and I’m amazed at how this prgram is having far reaching results. It is the only one available to high risk families in Kiev.

I went out with Vera and Natasha. Natasha is really good at this. Where parents were open she was friendly and kind. On the first visit where the parents are reportededly abusing alcohol and she was able to make contact with the family. Visits 1, 3 and 4 were first time while visit number 2 has had a number of visits.

1. There was a single mom with a daughter. The mom had had mental problems and her daughter had been at a sanatorium while she recovered. She has lost her job as a result. Our workers are going to try and find her an new job so she can provide for her daughter. She does cleaning work.

2. There is a family with 2 children living in a hovel of a barn with no heat and no cooking facilities. An uncle has taken over the family residence and won’t let them in. Our team is working on paperwork for a court process for to get them access to the house before winter.

3. There is a home with 3 women and 4 kids. One mother and 2 children are HIV positive. They are getting drugs for this but are very poor and often don’t have food. We are going to work to get them a larger apartment and access to food.

4. The last one was reported for heavy alcohol use around children. Evidently the grandmother reported it to Social Services, but doesn’t want it known that she did the reporting. Natasha spoke with the parent and communicated to the parent what the laws are concerning this kind of activity and offered support to help with the ongoing drinking issues.  Our team will go back one night to follow up on what is going on.