Fighting broke out once again in Ukraine's east last Thursday, prompting the authorities to declare a curfew across the city of Lugansk (also referred to in the media as Luhansk). Schools and nurseries were closed indefinitely across the region in the face of rising violence.
We run an SOS Children's Village in the city of Lugansk and support vulnerable families throughout the community. Our Village in Lugansk is known as an integrated Village, meaning that families live in houses across the city rather than in a centralised SOS community. As the security stituation intensified last week, we decided to close our SOS social centre and suspend all services for the safety of staff and families. We advised all SOS families to stay at home over the weekend to ensure they didn't get caught up in the fighting.
Tough times as unemployment rises
The ongoing violence in Ukraine is making life extraordinarily tough for ordinary families. Times were hard before the unrest began, and it was partly the threat of economic catastrophe that led to last November's demonstrations in Kiev's Independence Square. Today, financial hardship has spread. Unemployment is soaring and many people are reliant on food handouts for their day-to-day survival. We are doing what we can to help those most in need.In Lugansk, it is both moving and profoundly worrying to see the extent of people's gratitude as the SOS team hands out food. “When we started to give out food, many parents simply cried because they couldn't believe it,” says Lyudmila Hartchenko, the director or our work in Lugansk.
Food handouts are a striking sign of the level of need in Lugansk at the moment. However, they are not the only way we are helping. Of the 148 families we are supporting in the community, nearly half are unemployed. Without a job, parents struggle to meet their children's basic needs, as Lyudmila explains: “The need for medical supplies has increased because when the parents are without a job they are not able to provide help for their children.”
Finding jobs and providing training
Employment is the best way for families to care for their children, and we are doing what we can to ensure disadvantaged parents benefit from the few job vacancies out there. This can be as simple as helping people with their job applications, but can also mean providing training where people lack the right skills. “If we can't find a job for them, we help them to learn a new profession,” says Lyudmila. “We had a case where a lady learned to be a hairdresser and now for the first time she has money and was able to organise a birthday party for her child.”
Along with all this extra support, our everyday work supporting vulnerable children in SOS families remains at the heart of what we do. Our integrated Children's Village is growing. “We continue renovating the apartments for new families and we carry on selecting families who could work with the children in the future,” says Lyudmila. Right now, she is pleased to welcome some new arrivals to the SOS community: “This week we brought three new children from an orphanage to our families – two brothers to one famuly and a girl to another. This is the best news for us at the moment.”
Amid Ukraine's unrest, we continue to provide the best care for the nation's most vulnerable children. You can help by sponsoring a child. Find out more.