My husband and I are leaving for Ukraine in a few days’ time.
This will be my third time going to Ukraine.
Often people ask me,
Why care about Ukraine?
And I get where those questions are coming from. After all, they are a people I have no relation to, and they are far away.
Even if I really wanted to help, I could just donate money. Wouldn’t that be enough?
Deep down, I know I can do more. No, scratch that.
I must do more.
When I first saw the news of the war in Ukraine, my heart went out to them. And somehow, there was an opportunity to serve the Ukrainian refugees in Germany. Someone later gave us the opportunity to enter Ukraine.
If you ask me what’s the turning point moment that made me realise the significance of our work, there are many. But perhaps I will share one.
Once, I met an 89 year old lady. She started screaming when I came near her. She thought I was a soldier and she kept shouting at me. I didn’t understand it at that time, but later someone told me that she was shouting,
You’ve already taken everything! What more do you want from me?
She had been living in an underground bunker for a long time, with limited food supplies. All she was living on was the potatoes that she grew and the food we handed to her.
In winter, when temperatures drop to -20, she won’t be able to grow anything.
I often wonder how she will survive.
That’s when I saw how much our presence there meant. Sure, living in Singapore, things like food, shelter, and safety were things I used to take for granted. But being in a position where we could provide that to people with little, made me realise how little could change much.
What we are focused on this time
We will be checking on the homes that we’ve built. We want to save as much resources as possible, and improvise where possible.
NEW HOUSING SITES
We will then be looking for new sites to build on, and people who still need homes.
We are looking to see if we need to build more.
But what’s of greater concern to us is the issue around the single mothers, and those mothers who have been widowed. Some of these mothers have lost their husband over the war, and it has been difficult for them to see the hope of carrying on.
They are trying their best. And we want to support them to continue seeing the possibilities of life after the war. We are providing them with practical support like food, diapers, and milk powder. This is provided through a local partner we are working with who has built a shelter to house these mothers and children.
We are also looking at helping the handicapped, such as those who are physically or intellectually challenged. In Ukraine, we met a physically disabled lady in a wheelchair who was rescued by two other blind people. They were the ones who remembered that she was still living in a place that had been under attack and eventually rescued her.
That made us realise the desperation of the situation. We hope to provide more practical help to these people.
For us, it’s important not to provide for their short term needs, but their medium and longer-term needs. That’s why we have been creating employment opportunities for the men in Ukraine, by hiring them to build, renovate, and retrofit the homes.
We believe work can give these men a renewed sense of purpose and hope, especially as they are building it for their fellow Ukrainians.
Lastly, with power shortages everywhere, the government hopes to evacuate about 3 million people out of Kyiv, the capital.
With this power shortage, water and sewage is a problem. There is a lack of generators and heaters. We hope to help by bringing generators from outside Ukraine. This allows for hot water for babies and the heating of homes.
You can help too
Feeding 1 person costs €30 a month.
Feeding a Ukrainian family of 4 costs €120 a month.
Buying a generator costs €700.
Building a home for a Ukrainian family of 4 costs €4000.
You can help, with whatever you have, wherever you are. No amount is too small.
Thank you for sharing courage, strength, and hope to Ukrainians.
This is Bao Yan’s letter, as told to John.