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Some of you will have seen in international news bulletins that the military activity in Ukraine has gone up a notch. Sadly, this is true is the Sumy region also. Bohdan reported that large cruise missiles exploded in between Sumy and Lebedyn, missing towns and large areas where people live. Sirens over the weekend and through this last week have been non-stop again, affecting all walks of life, raising fears of what might be in the days ahead. The children were not in school last Monday and Tuesday, and then on Wednesday when I was speaking with Bohdan the sirens were activated once again, meaning he had to go and collect his children from school. Everyone is now feeling the frustration of this way of life from the youngest to the oldest. There is no normal and children are missing out on vital education.
Education is a big issue as the government have changed their teaching curriculum but have not issued any books for the children. This means it is all online. This brings a massive problem as power is still erratic in its supply, so no internet when power is down. Generally there is only one computer per household, so if you have more than one child, who gets to use the computer? If you do own a computer then in most areas of Sumy you are blessed. Many children are now not getting the rightful education they should be getting. Bohdan has asked that we could pray into this so a good way can be found.
War fatigue is definitely rising and many are fed up – quite understandably. This can change behaviour patterns which in turn creates more tensions. The work that the team do through the Centre helps to diffuse these and brings love and normality through all they do. The bakery has been good for this, as the team each week give out hundred’s loaves of bread to the many that are struggling. We have just purchased enough ingredients to buy all the flour and yeast for the next 3 months. Supplies are increasing in price, but thankfully are still available.
This week, the team have been doing preparations of the grounds for the many summer activities planned. We have started to build a new playground, so there are safe spaces for children to find “normal life”. All other playgrounds are closed in the town, but because these will be in enclosed grounds and the area is secure, parents will be able to bring their children to play. There will be hedged boundaries so people cannot see from the outside what is going on, protecting the families. There will even be portable toilets there! This project has been part funded so we will be raising further funds to complete this.
The team have planned more camps. We know the success of these and four will be held through the summer. Two for younger children, one for the youth, one for older children early teens, and one for those with severe disabilities. Given all the military activity recently, this is a bold and ambitious plan but the team feel that this is the right thing to do. This is a time when all will get fed well, they will have fun, see the puppet theatre, and they will also hear stories from the Bible, with practical help on how to cope with life. The spring camp was such a huge success that we want to ensure as many young people as possible can be part of this amazing programme in the summer.
There is also good news in that we have been able to replace Alla who has now safely arrived in Germany for a new life there with her family. Svetlana will be joining the team on June 1st to help run the children’s work at the Centre. Svetlana is studying child and military psychology at Kharkiv University (online), which will help to give training to children on how to cope with the trauma of war. She is a gifted musician and runs a children’s gospel choir who are in a competition soon. She comes from Dnipro which is at the heart of the battles in the south. Her father is a pastor of a church down there and is known to both Pastor Sergey and Bohdan. We need to find her accommodation and this is a big problem as most spare accommodation is full of displaced families. Please pray for this to have a quick resolve.
Lastly the team have still been out into the surrounding villages taking aid, bringing help and showing love. Here are a few pictures…..
Thank you for your continued support. Whilst the war continues to rage there some ambitious plans to help and reach people through this next season, and without your prayers and support we could not do this. Thank you!
Founding Director of Hope Lebedyn