Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Each return to Ukraine is a new beginning - a renewal of friendships and acquaintances, a reviewing and catching up on projects and activities at the Mennonite Centre, learning and adjusting again to what works and doesn't work in this part of the world.  This time it didn't take us very long to plunge in.

After our arrival last Tuesday evening and a short night's sleep we were off before 8 a.m. to attend a very important and delightful event marking the beginning of the new school year.  "First Bell" much like "Last Bell" in spring, is a pageant involving school children, teachers, parents, town dignitaries and all others interested.  We had received a special invitation.  The red carpet is rolled out and proceedings take place on the school ground.               Children, bearing flowers for their teachers, are dressed in their finest.  First graders and the graduating class are particularly singled out and honored.  All are encouraged to put in their best efforts as they embark on another year of learning.  Prior to this, parents have spent time and effort cleaning, renovating and decorating classroom; no state budget for this type of thing.  A prize goes to the most creative effort.  Again, it becomes obvious that Ukraine loves its children.

On the other end of life's spectrum, the elderly, haven't received as much care and attention.  In this past week we've been pleased to learn that there is now some state funding to provide residential care to needy seniors in our area.  Right next to the building that was once Muntau hospital, built by Mennonites in 1889, is the former Molochansk hospital.  The second floor is currently being renovated to become a 30 bed senior's home.  To assist this venture the Mennonite Centre has provided an industrial size stove, fridge, washing machine and boiler, also funding to rebuild the bathing/shower areas, replacing old plumbing with plastic pipes.

In addition we've funded the purchase and installation of three large water storage tanks to maintain constant water pressure and a sufficient supply should the water go off, which has happened four times since we've been here.  Twice this past week we've been invited to come and view the progress.  It was deeply heartwarming to discover that a prominent businessman, living in the apartment above us, has volunteered his time as project manager.  Not only that, he is also donating sinks to be installed in each resident room.  He told us, "I have observed the work Mennonites have been doing through the years and now it is my turn to give something back to the community."
He had a bright smile on his face as he showed us around.  Modeling civil society is one of our mandates at the Centre.  How wonderful to see this becoming contagious. Another new beginning!  It is worth remembering that back in 1903 Mennonite villages in the Halbstadt (Molochansk) community established a 60 resident facility for the elderly who could no longer be cared for by their families.

Over the past five years the Kutuzovka Mennonite Church, the church where we worship, has been providing elder care on a smaller scale. Currently nine women are being cared for.  On Sunday four of these babushki with their caregiver Lili, sang a praise song during the service.  They feel that they are living in a paradise.  It is our privilege to also support this venture financially.

Saturday, as an expression of  thanks, we invited our staff and their families to a picnic at the river.  Lots of food, fun and games - a great way to launch a new season.

Our continued gratitude to all the donors that make this work possible.  If you wish to contribute to the work of the Mennonite Centre in Ukraine make your Canadian cheques to "Friends of the Mennonite Centre in Ukraine" or "FOMCU".  Cheques from American donors should be made out to "MFC-FOMCU".  All cheques should be mailed to George Dyck, Treasurer,  3675 North Service Rd.  Beamsville Ontario, Canada  L0R 1B1  Check our website at http://mennonitecentre.ca/ for information on credit card giving.

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