Dear friends and supporters,
another year goes by and we want to use the time before Christmas to think back, say “Thanks” and look ahead.
10 years ago, in December 1999, we founded the NGO “Schiva Nadija” (English: “Living Hope”) in Odessa. When I came across the following Scripture some days ago, I remembered once again how often we could experience God’s guidance and his answers to our requests over the past few years:
“But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him.” – Psalm 4:4
As always, 2009 was a year filled with joy and sorrow, lovely encounters, new friendships and interesting projects. Above all, we were shown that we couldn’t deal with our work without our various friends and supporters. Therefore, we want to say thanks to all those who take part in the events happening in Odessa – especially in the name of our coworkers and the children and families we take care of.
Without doubt, the opening of the second day care center in May was one of the highlights of this year. With the help of many German and Ukrainian volunteers we we’re able to establish a domicile for children and young people. It was a great pleasure for us to welcome my parents and other guests from Germany as well as the wife of the German ambassador Mrs Heimsoeth to the official opening on May 21st. The kids presented some songs and we had the possibility to give some insights in our work of the past 10 years to representatives of the city council, sponsors and friends. Specially touching were the reports of kids and parents who told something about how the foundation helps them to manage everyday life.
Now normal life has found its way into the rooms of our new center, too. The 15 kids who are already coming frequently feel good. Most of them are children of preschool or primary school age with difficult social backgrounds. We are very happy that three of our former attendants are now working in the new center themselves. Besides, in the new year we are planning to establish a consulting service for young expectant mothers and a support group for parents of diabetic children in those rooms.
Another special event for us and our kids was the journey to Uzhgorod. All in all 45 people (kids aged between 1 and 19) spent 10 wonderful days of fun, relaxation and variety in western Ukraine. It was a great holiday. The Christian Center directly surrounded by nature where we stayed the night pleased everyone. This trip wouldn’t have been possible without the extra donation of a Christian congregation in Zwickau and the German women’s club of the German Embassy in Kiev.
Shortly before we were to go on this holiday we got the message that the mother of two of our children who have been attending our center for several years had been murdered. All of us were deeply concerned. Nevertheless, the large day care center family provided great help and comfort to those two kids and kept them grounded during this hard time. Thanks to financial support from Germany we were able to organize a funeral for the mother, and thank God, the youth welfare service allowed those children to join us on holiday. Meanwhile the grandmother of those two children moved to Odessa and wants to take the fosterage.
This year, some of our young people who have been attending our centers from the beginning finished school. 6 of them are in training and two of them started to study at the polytechnic university. The training and university costs are paid by the foundation. Furthermore, we started a cooperating project with the German association “Connect Plus e.V.”. It aims to train people working with endangered children and young people in the job of secondary prevention of drug abuse. Therefore, skilled social workers from Germany come and educate a group of Ukrainian social workers and psychologists. Three seminars had taken place in our rooms so far. Moreover, the participants had the chance to get an idea of social work in Germany during a study visit to Berlin. This project is financed by “Aktion Mensch e.V.” and coordinated by Slavik in Ukraine.
Since September two volunteer from Germany enrich our team. Raphaela and Stephanie are helping in both day care centers. Twice a week they give some German lesson in the secondary school which our Rebekka is attending, too. They already have settled in and support us very well. 2009 is the first time young Ukrainian people are working as volunteers in Germany. Vladik is one of the boys who had been attending our day care center since the opening in January 2001. We are proud and thankful that he is now doing a volunteer service in a similar establishment in Chemnitz. David is working in a institution for handicapped people and his sister Julia is working in a community for handicapped people in Bad Kreuznach, too. The three of them are going to celebrate Christmas with us in the Erzgebirge with my family which is definitely going to be a really special event for them.
In autumn, we were shown once again how financial help sometimes comes in an extraordinary and supernatural way. At this time, it was particularly necessary as the continuous costs (staff, food, additional expenses, etc.) have increased due to the opening of the second center. In June I had made the acquaintance of the famous Russian painter Nikas Safronov who was planning an exhibition in Odessa in autumn. When I told him about our work he was very interested and offered to provide one of his pictures to sell it at auction. Our day care centers should benefit from money gained. Nikas kept his word. Additionally, one of his friends, a very influential and wealthy man of Odessa, was willing to organize the auction. On September the 30th three pictures finally fell under the hammer in favour of our association. With the receipts we could do some immediately necessary acquirements (for example snow tires for the bus). One might see all this as a fortunate coincidence, for us it is obviously a miracle and God’s provision.
The artist also promised us to show our kids from both centers the pictures of Nikas Safronov in a gallery in the port of Odessa. So one afternoon we set off with 50 children. Especially the new kids were glad about the excursion because some of them were at the port for the first time.
This isn’t the end of our review yet. Since a couple of years we have wished to improve the outdoor facilities of the children centers. Again and again we planted flowers and painted the garden fences. Unfortunately, we had never been able to raise the money for playground equipment. Who has ever been to Ukraine knows that the playgrounds are in some extent dangerous to life and in no way suitable for children. With the support of the German embassy in Ukraine our dream now comes true. In the backyard of the new center some wooden toys already have been built up. In the area of the first center will soon be a playground looking as an ark, too. Not only are the kids really happy about it but also our neighbors whose children are profiting as well were shown that we are interested in the good of our district.
To look back makes me thankful. First and foremost to God who has blessed us constantly and of course to our friends and supporters. Without them we couldn’t have done all this work. Helmut Thielicke, a German theologian once said: „The turn of the year should be a red light that is to stop us and let us pause for a moment thinking about the question where we are going.” In the new year we have again the clear intention to provide support for children, young people and families in need, to give them love and acceptance and a chance for a better life. Many projects are already planned. For example a humanitarian transport of relief supplies from the Erzgebirge to Odessa in spring or the possibility for a group of kids to spend two weeks of vacation in Germany again. We are going to educate our workers and to look onward for the well-being of the children and young people entrusted in our care. In doing so we hope for your continuing support.
We wish you and your families a reflective Advent and Christmas season and God’s shelter and blessings for 2010!
Slavik, Nicole, Rebekka and Sarah with the kids and coworkers from Odessa.