Ukraine church creatively assists community during pandemic
Sergei and Olga Onofriichuk, who lead ministries in the town of Kazatin, Ukraine, have creatively assisted their community during the COVID-19 pandemic through food distribution to many who experienced great need, ongoing rehabilitation for addicts, and an alternative kindergarten and school for the town.
Recognizing that many of the poorest people in the town were heavily affected by the virus, members of the Kazatin Church of the Nazarene organized and delivered food packages, basic medical and toiletry supplies, and school materials. Most importantly, they checked on the needs of these families. While similar projects were happening throughout Ukraine, the projects in Kazatin are worthy acts of service to new families, especially to those facing vulnerable situations.
Quarantine restrictions made the work of the church’s rehabilitation center in Kazatin more difficult. The rehab program helps people who come to the center after being freed from addiction to drugs or alcohol, and the center serves as a hostel for those without housing and needing guidance. The participants’ spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being are at the heart of the program.
The residents in the first step of rehab continued with their in-house programs during the pandemic, but those in the second step transition house were often without work unless they had an essential job. Even though this situation was challenging, all the men in the transition house, except for one individual on medical leave, have now resumed work. In fact, not being able to work during quarantine was frustrating to everyone, but they survived and are now thriving. Throughout the 16 years of the rehab center’s work, many men who have experienced the transformative love of Christ now serve with their families in the Kazatin Church of the Nazarene and hopes for a brighter future.
Olga is the administrator for the alternative kindergarten and school—the Marvel Kindergarten and Cleverland School—located in the Kazatin church. Currently, the school serves about 60 children from the community through their creative program that includes daily training, allowing them to learn English. All the teachers are Christians, and most of them are from the Kazatin Church. Often, the school children are invited to Kids Club events (the field’s name for Nazarene holistic child development programs), forming a bridge between church and school programs.
Through the school, church members and teachers were also able to identify families needing food assistance.
“This is a very difficult time for me,” one parent shares. “I am raising two children myself, and it’s always difficult for me. But last year, due to quarantine, I practically didn’t work and everything was simply unbearable. The food that the church gave us literally helped us through this terrible time.”
Actually, COVID-19 served as a benefit for this school because during the six months of public school closings in Kazatin, many new students attended this private school when adaptive quarantine was in effect for four months, allowing private schools to operate with restrictions. Thus, many new families have discovered the witness of the church in Kazatin through their experience with the school and its teachers during the pandemic.
“Thank you so much for the help that your church provides to our family during this very difficult period of quarantine,” another parent told the church. “I thank you for the school that you opened and for the opportunity to work, for taking care of my children and all the help that you provide to us.”
-A version of this story previously appeared in NCM Magazine. To view that story, click here.