By Peter Wooding, ASSIST News Europe Bureau Chief
KONOTOP, UKRAINE – Christian charity Mercy Projects has launched an urgent appeal to keep a centre for special needs children open this winter in Konotop, Northern Ukraine.
According to the charity, during the harsh winter months the Hearts of Love centre struggles to maintain the rising heating bills and desperately needs help to stay open.
“Winter time is the most difficult, both for us working at the centre and for the parents and children,” explains Hearts of Love Centre Director Lena Yuschenko.
She added: “The weather is cold and gray, and it adds to the depression everyone feels. Then, the parents bring their children and the centre can be cold inside because we cannot afford to heat the building.”
The charity says this centre is a beacon of God’s love, staffed by mothers and teachers who love and train the 55 special needs children registered there. The doors are open all winter, rain, snow, or shine, including Bible studies on Saturdays.
Each day, 12-year-old Dima and his mother walk a couple of miles from their tiny village home in freezing temperatures across icy dirt roads to the Hearts of Love Centre.
“For most of us living in America or Europe, this challenging journey would simply be too much to ask. Not so, however, for Dima and his mom,” said Mercy Projects Director Jeff Thompson.
“Yes, there is usually lots of snow in winter, and yes, the weather is bad and it is a long walk with a 12-year-old who is autistic. After being kicked out of the public school system because of his autism, however, the walk doesn’t seem so long. Actually, their daily slip-slide through the ice is a journey full of hope.”
Lena continued: “Another autistic boy at the centre is five-year-old Zhenya. His mother is taking care of him 24/7 and those few hours she can drop her son here are a blessing and an opportunity to have a little break and do some things that are not possible to do with him around. She is very grateful.
“In the past, families like Dima’s and Zhenya’s would just sit at home and have nowhere to go. They are so glad to be here. There is no place else for them to go and find help.”
Mercy Projects Director Jeff Thompson concluded: “Lena, the parents, and the kids are so grateful that they no longer just sit at home alone. The centre is like a lifeline for these families. As part of our Christmas appeal this year, we are going to bless these families with warm classrooms all winter long.
“Mercy Projects replaced the antique heating system this year and now, as heating prices rise, they need our extra help at Christmas. All the kids will get a small present and a Christmas party, but our first goal is to keep the heat flowing throughout the building. It’s our hope that this winter nobody will need to huddle around the heaters to stay warm!”
To find out more go to: www.mercyprojects.org