During our recent mission trip to Ukraine, the DHM team visited a disabled home in a remote region of Eastern Dnipro Region. The “home” was a dilapidated crumbling old building, which was built during the rule of Stalin. We were struck not only by the ugliness and brutality of the architecture, but also by the appalling stench of the unhygeinic conditions in which people, abandoned by family, friends and social services, were forced to live. We saw people living in rooms, which we in the UK wouldn’t dare to put a dangerous dog into.
Deji gives a bag full of medicines, as well as some fresh fruit, to one of the residents of the disabled home.
The people living in this home had literally nothing except the clothes they were wearing. It was therefore a special blessing to be able to visit the residents of this home and listen to their stories and share some precious time with them. We heard from one man, Vasya, who had been abandoned by his mother as an infant and spent a terrible childhood in brutal orphanage. He wept as he told us how, having no friends or family and with failing health, he was forced to go and live in this disabled home. That was over 30 years ago and he is still there.
Nat, one of the DHM volunteers from the UK, with Vasya at the Disabled Home in Dnipro
We also heard from one woman who had spent the past 30 years in the home. Her disability and the lack of equipment and support meant that for this whole 35 year period she had not once stepped outside or seen the light of day, except through the glass of the small window in the corner of her room.
Joshua and Deji, leaders of DHM, with Denys, one of the blind residents of the disabled home.
Some residents had suffered catastrophic injuries and become paralysed; others had become destitute as a result of disability or illness. One thing that many (almost all) the residents had in common was the lack of any family. They had been abandoned and forgotten by everyone.
Some members of the DHM team with Yuri, one of the residents. Yuri told us about a horrific accident that he suffered 13 years ago when he dived into a shallow river and broke his spine.
Thanks to the generosity of our faithful DHM donors, we were able to bless each of the home’s 163 residents with a gift of a new soft cotton towel, a bar of chocolate and some pieces of fresh fruit.
When we were making arrangements to obtain the fruit from a local supermarket, the manager of the store, on finding out that the fruit was for people in the disabled home, instructed his staff to make a special order at no extra cost for the best quality fruit available. Good quality fresh fruit is often difficult to obtain in Ukraine, especially in winter, so it was wonderful to see dozens of crates full of the choicest fresh ripe bananas and oranges.
This is an example of the gift package, which thanks to the generosity of our donors, we were able to present to each of the 163 residents of the disabled home.
When we presented one of the women with a couple of oranges and a bunch of bananas, she gave an expression of grateful disbelief. She told us that she couldn’t remember the last time she ate a piece of fresh fruit.
We also received enough donations to be able to buy medicines for each resident. to treat their particular health issues. We consulted with the staff at the disabled home to determine precisely what medicines each individual needed. When we gave one woman a packet of tablets to treat her stomach complaints, she held out the packet and wept, saying, “It’s too expensive! It’s too expensive!” What a blessing it was to be able to say to her that her life was worth more than a million packets of any medicine!
Carolyn, one of the DHM volunteers, with Valentina, who said that the medicines she received were “so expensive”.
We left the disabled home that afternoon with so many impressions of every precious person that we met. While we were grateful to have been able to give to each resident the gifts of medicine, a towel, a bar of chocolate and a small supply of fresh fruit, all of us on the DHM team realised that this wasn’t enough and we all prayed that we’d be able to do more.
We wanted to guard against the impression that the people at the disabled home were objects of our charity. Our aim was not simply to give gifts, but to befriend them and spend quality time with them. In keeping with our vision, we simply wanted to treat the people we met with respect and dignity and to demonstrate the love of God to “the least of these”, who were some of the poorest and most abandoned people in the world.
It was a moving moment when just as this photo was being taken, one of the residents, Nina, reached out and put her hand to my heart and broke out into a smile. We were able to tell her that she had a very beautiful smile!
As the leadership of DHM, we would like to think more strategically about what we could do to help the disabled home residents in a more sustained and long-term way. I was struck by the number of blind people at the disabled home and wondered if there were anything more we could do to support them in particular. If any person reading this blog has any ideas about what we might be able to do or if you know of any funding sources that we could apply to, please let us know your thoughts.
Thank you for your prayers and your priceless support.
Joshua with Ivan.
Akin with two of the residents.
Svetlana, one of the residents at the disabled home, receives a gift of medicines, oranges, a cotton towel and a bar of chocolate from the DHM team. It turns out that she hadn’t seen a piece of fresh fruit since she entered the disabled home, over 20 years ago.
DHM volunteer, Nat, with one of the residents. Not knowing any Russian or Ukrainian, Nat spoke to her in English. She looked up and asked me in Russian, “What’s this guy saying? He’s talking total nonsense!”
The DHM Team assembles outside the disabled home with our Ukrainian partners from Tsarichanka Baptist Church.
This is what the disabled home looks like from the inside of the common room.