By AT News Team and ANN, Jan. 7, 2015: The conflict between Ukraine and Russia has significantly disrupted life for those living in certain areas in eastern Ukraine. The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), the humanitarian agency of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, is active in the region, supporting internally displaced Ukrainians as well as Ukrainians who are now refugees in Russia.
ADRA told Adventist Today that in Ukraine it has been distributing water in cooperation with UNICEF, distributing food parcels in cooperation with the World Food Program, and leading other smaller food projects.
As of mid-December 2014, the food distribution program had successfully delivered 9,000 parcels, each one containing enough food for one person for one week. Distributions include oil, sugar, rice, buckwheat, milk and canned goods. ADRA distributes food to fifteen different regions in Ukraine, including parcels for approximately 300 families currently living in Kiev.
Ukrainian Adventists are also involved in the East Angel Project, where Adventist congregations collect food and winterization supplies and ship them to communities affected by the conflict. Additionally, volunteers have work on damaged homes in eastern Ukraine, repairing more than twenty houses to date.
ADRA explained that it is “partially operating shelters, but we are working with individuals and families to winterize their own shelters, through the distribution of funds and supplies.” The proposed goal of the winterization project is to equip more than 2,400 vulnerable households for the harsh winter months.
Psychosocial support has been provided to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Kiev, and ADRA plans to reach out to one or possibly two other cities. Furthermore, ADRA is developing a program to educate 15,000 children on the dangers of entering mines, where unexploded shells represent just one of the many dangers.
The Adventist Review reports that ADRA has also “been busy on the Russian side of the border, providing food, clothing, shelter and money to scores of refugees who have fled Ukraine since the turmoil started in April.” The report continues, “About 810,000 people have fled to Russia over the past eight months, according to the United Nations and Russia…. The Russian government has opened refugee tent camps and ordinary Russians have opened their homes to the refugees. Humanitarian organizations, including ADRA, have stepped in to help.”
Dmitriy Plugatariov, ADRA coordinator for the Adventist Church’s Caucasus Union Mission, explains, “People were often forced to flee from their homes in the military conflict in only their underwear, and they needed absolutely everything.”
The news release shares a number of projects coordinated by ADRA in the region:
Donetsk. The Adventist congregation in the city of Donetsk (not to be confused with a city of the same name in eastern Ukraine) has housed about 20 people in its church building for several months. Church members supplied the people with a shower cabin and daily hot meals. A tent camp with about 1,000 refugees is located in the area, and the church has provided its residents with food, water, medicine and personal hygiene items.
Gukovo. The church has cooperated on several projects with City Hall in Gukovo, a town of about 2,000 people. At the beginning, church members collected and distributed 100 food packages to refugee families. “They could see tears of joy and gratitude in people’s eyes,” Plugatariov said.
The next project saw church members provide food to 300 refugees living in a temporary facility.
Many refugees, however, lived in the homes of local residents, and they sought food and other assistance at a specially designated distribution point set up by City Hall. The church brought food and personal hygiene items to the distribution point.
In addition, the church gathers food baskets (each weighing 8 kilograms, or about 18 pounds) for refugees living in private homes, and members distribute them to families weekly.
“Thus with God’s help, they are able to support 400 families every month,” Plugatariov said.
Shakhty. About 2,000 refugees are receiving temporary housing in Shakhty, and the local church has collaborated with City Hall on fulfilling several charity programs. When the first refugee families started arriving, the church provided them with food baskets, water, personal hygiene items and medicine for several months. Later on, when the number of refugees increased, the church decided to consistently assist 350 families with food baskets.
The Dmitriadovskiy settlement. The largest refugee camp in the Rostov region — more than 600 people, most of them children — is located in this small settlement. Some of the residents were born in this camp. The first project that the Seventh-day Adventist Church carried out at the camp saw the delivery of food, baby food, towels, a washing machine, a refrigerator and other equipment. Later, the church provided medicine and personal hygiene items. More recently, the church distributed personal hygiene items, medicine and school supplies to 145 families.
The Primorka settlement. Some 700 refugees live in this small settlement, with 200 of them in a tent camp and the rest in private homes. The church installed restrooms at the tent camp.