Additional UCC aid to Ukraine refugees to be sent through partners in four countries after trip to region

As the people of Ukraine and their allies prepare to mark the first anniversary of the Russian invasion, the United Church of Christ will be sending additional assistance to help those displaced by the war.

The aid will be sent to partners in the four countries the UCC recently visited to benefit refugees and their host communities.

The UCC delegation, the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, the Rev. Kent Siladi, the Rev. Joshua Baird and Peter Makari, attend worship in Budapest, Hungary.

Associate General Minister the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson led a four-person UCC delegation, which just returned from 12 days in Hungary, the Transcarpathia region of Ukraine, Greece and Moldova. They met with refugees and partner organizations in the communities that have taken them in.

“We are now aware of places where we might want to send funds for specific projects or extra funds for others,” she said. “We will continue to be a part of the collaborative efforts as we have always been, rather than being independent in our response. Our partners are on the ground, knowledgeable and responsive. We will continue to follow their lead as we address the short-term and long-term needs of the war.”

In Telenesti, Moldova, a group of new friends gather at the community organization, Diamant. Pictured are Andrew Blakely (CWS Moldova Team Leader), Nastya* (Ukrainian refugee), Alexander and Aneta (founders & directors of Diamant), Josh Baird (UCC Global H.O.P.E. Team Leader), and Steve Weaver (CWS Regional Director for Europe and the Middle East).

Thompson, the national executive who oversees Wider Church Ministries and is co-executive of Global Ministries, was joined on the journey, Jan. 27-Feb. 8, by the Rev. Josh Baird, who leads Wider Church Ministries Global H.O.P.E. team; the Rev. Peter Makari, Global Ministries executive for the Middle East and Europe; and UCC Director of Philanthropy, the Rev. Kent Siladi. The group shared their experiences daily in a blog during the first UCC trip to the region since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

“The response on the ground is phenomenal,” Thompson said. “Churches, NGOs, United Nations, diaconal agencies — all have opened the way for millions of Ukrainian refugees to find the assistance they need to navigate the challenges of fleeing the war. Across the countries we visited, there was a consistent theme. We saw individuals and communities that were responding in large ways to the crisis with the little they had.

The Revs. Karen Georgia Thompson and Joshua Baird accept bread from Bela Nagy in Transcarpathia in Southwest Ukraine.

“We visited food pantries and refugee centers. We learned about the coordinated efforts at integration, which include language services, cultural knowledge and the support services for individuals to live in a new place. Children are being supported by distance learning and on-site teachers, as many are unable to attend schools in the places where their families are living because of the language barriers.

“Clothing, food distribution and cash assistance are assisting those who are unable to work,” she continued. “Among the most vulnerable are single parents who need child care. Providing child care services has become an important part of the refugee services provided. Individuals with special needs, especially children, are also in the most vulnerable navigating the borders and trying to find safety.

 The UCC delegation is joined by the mayor and community members in the community center in Mihăileni, Moldova.

“The church is playing an important role in the countries we visited. Churches are providing housing and food. They are opening their doors and the spaces they have available to provide shelter and resources for many. In Greece, Hungary and Ukraine, our primary partners are churches with whom we have had historic relationships. With these churches, we are providing much-needed resources for refugees.”

Since the war began, the UCC has collected almost $3 million through an emergency appeal for the people of Ukraine. Thompson said those generous donations will be funneled through partners in ACT Alliance and Church World Service to address the needs of the refugees and those marginalized by the war.

Peter Makari, Kent Siladi and Josh Baird take in the supplies at one of the food banks in Moldova.

“Funds provided for the UCC appeal go through our partners in the region and assist in communities where organizations are addressing the needs of refugees and those marginalized by the challenges of the war,” Thompson added.

She said that the trip “opened our eyes to the realities of service provided, the dynamic environment that continues to shift. We learned of emerging projects and saw places where gaps in services or reduction in funding are challenges for refugees.”

The UCC, through its partners on the ground, will work to help people displaced by the war find transitional stability.

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Categories: United Church of Christ News

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