This has been a truly dreadful year for Ukraine and its people as Russia’s so-called “Special Military Operation” has evolved into the mass slaughter of Ukraine’s civilian population. Russia has brought nothing but death and destruction to millions of Ukrainians whose lives have been permanently blighted by this illegal and unprovoked invasion.
As always in war, it is the weakest and most vulnerable people who have suffered disproportionately – children, disabled, the elderly and the infirm. It is for these people that DHM exists to help and serve. Ever since DHM was founded in 2016, our mission has always been to save the lives of as many Ukrainians as possible and to give hope and restore dignity to people in Ukraine whose lives have been blighted by illness, poverty and war.
The date 24th February 2022 will always remain in our memory as a “Day of Infamy”. Waking up to the news that thousands of Russian tanks were illegally entering Ukrainian territory was a horror that none of us will forget. That same morning, we immediately made contact with all our partners in Ukraine, one-by-one, reassuring them of our prayers, support and solidarity. We were able to draw on our close relationships with key leaders in Ukraine – relationships that we had nurtured for over a decade before the outbreak of the war.
DHM created direct funding channels between donors in the UK and churches in Eastern Ukraine that were responding to the humanitarian disaster created by the invasion. With DHM funds, our ministry partners have been able to fund and resource a number of live-saving initiatives, including:
- Poltava: The setting up of a humanitarian aid sanctuary at Poltava Baptist Church, which at the start of the war, provided warm accommodation and dry rations for thousands of refugees fleeing the Kharkiv Region. DHM funds were used to buy rations and to pay the heating bills of the church. Thanks to the DHM funds, up to 2,000 refugees were given warmth and food during those critical early months of the war.
- Vasylkivka: In collaboration with our partners in the eastern Dnipro region, we provided funds to a church to enable them to build a modern toilet block and shower facilities, as well as a reception area. In the early months of the war these spaces were used to care for refugees fleeing from Donetsk. More recently, the facilities have been used to care for Ukrainian soldiers returning for a few days from their frontline duties. DHM funds have been used to provide warm showers, comfortable bedding and warm meals for the Ukrainian soldiers.
- Tsarichanka: We have worked closely with our friends at Tsarichanka Baptist Church to provide urgent and life-saving medical and humanitarian aid to the nearly 200 residents of a care home for people suffering from critical illness and infirmity. DHM funds have been used to buy essential supplies of insulin for the diabetic residents, as well as essential medication to ease the pain and suffering of those in the care home. The funding from DHM has been especially critical since the outbreak of the war, because the cost of drugs has increased sharply and the care home administrators were not able to meet the rising costs themselves.
- Pastor Boiko’s Ministry: Pastor Boiko uses DHM funds to provide a local garrison of Ukrainian soldiers with food, drinks and warm clothing. He also buys medicines, such as antiretroviral drugs, and takes them to residents of a nearby orphanage for young people, several of whom are HIV-positive and who depend on a regular supply of essential medication.
- Pastor Sergey’s Ministry: DHM has helped to fund the ministry of Pastor Sergey R., who is serving as a military chaplain to Ukrainian troops on the frontline in the Donetsk and Luhansk Regions. DHM has helped to repair and maintain Sergey’s van, which he uses to deliver aid to Ukrainian soldiers.
These are just a few highlights. DHM is also involved in other ministries throughout Ukraine, including the essential work of our Mennonite friends in the Zaporizhe Region, who have used DHM funds to take essential supplies to people in Kherson Region, whose homes and villages had been destroyed by the retreating Russian occupiers. We’ve also been heavily involved in supporting our partner churches in Lviv, who have been providing urgent temporary accommodation for refugees fleeing from Eastern Ukraine, who were making their way to Poland and other European countries.
It is also worth mentioning the work that DHM has done to settle Ukrainian refugees in the UK. Although our main focus of our ministry has been on Ukraine itself, we have devoted some of our resources to helping people in Ukraine to find asylum in the UK. We have matched Ukrainian refugees with UK hosts. In the summer one of the families that we helped to settle in the UK was featured on the BBC programme, Songs of Praise. In total, we have matched around 20 Ukrainian refugees with host families here in the UK.
It has become clear from speaking to our ministry partners in Ukraine that the ministry of DHM is making a huge difference. Although we are a small charity, entirely dependent on the work and goodwill of volunteers, we are able to make big difference at a local level in the places where we have trusted partners. It is humbling to hear from our ministry partners that there are people who are alive today who would otherwise have died had it not been for the support that we have provided through our partners.
Dozens of elderly and disabled people have been saved from freezing to death because of the warm spaces that DHM has funded. Many more people have been given life-saving medicines at a time when regular supply lines broke down as a result of the chaos and upheaval caused by the Russian invasion.
We can’t save everyone and as a small organisation, we’re limited in what we can do. But as Christians we believe that the life of every individual person is of infinite value, because life is a gift from God. As an ancient Jewish text puts it: “Whoever saves one life saves the whole life of humankind.”
As long as God gives us strength and as long as people continue to support our ministry, we will continue in our mission to stand in solidarity with our Ukrainian friends.
We at DHM wish all of you, our cherished readers and supporters, a happy and victorious New Year!
Joshua T. Searle (on behalf of the DHM Board of Trustees)