CNEWA Canada helps Ukraine cope with COVID-19

Caritas Ukraine delivers aid to the lonely elderly

Marco Levytsky, National Affairs Editor.

The Catholic Near East Welfare Association is stepping in to help Ukraine cope with its COVID-19 pandemic.

CNEWA itself does not send Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) or other material to Ukraine, but raises funds in Canada to support its official agents in Ukraine who do. These are: Caritas Ukraine, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), and the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU). The funds are distributed according to Government of Canada rules.

With the start of COVID-19 outbreak, the Parish Social Ministry project, which CNEWA has been assisting since 2018, started supporting emergency initiatives across the country, says Anna Dombrovska, the project officer who coordinates the CNEWA’s work in Ukraine.

“For example, support and coordination is provided to local parish volunteers who sew and deliver masks, health safety information and food to the most vulnerable as well as to social workers of local Caritas branches who deliver detergents to the hospitals.

“The Parish Social Ministry project is coordinated on a national level by Caritas Ukraine. Funds for the Parish Social Ministry project go to Caritas Ukraine and are administered by the Parish Social Ministry program of Caritas Ukraine. Part of the funds are given as grants to support most vital local parish projects. The whole network of local Caritas branches is involved in the project as well as local parish volunteers led by priests and parish leaders.

“The program inspires and provides tools to local parishes all over Ukraine to serve their neighbours in need. Social services in Ukraine has been devastated since Soviet times,” she told New Pathway – Ukrainian News.

Another initiative, the Medical Equipment Lending program, provides durable medical and rehabilitation equipment to the marginalized with temporary or permanent disabilities, and educates and consults families and caregivers of those in need. CNEWA supports this program in Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and Kharkiv. Now the program continues to provide individual home care and consultations, and lends equipment.

Generally, CNEWA supports pastoral and humanitarian projects in all regions of Ukraine with special attention to eastern, central and southern parts where at the moment social and spiritual needs are greatest.

“Beyond the ordinary worries of life, now the people of Eastern Ukraine have two additional fears – a random shelling and a pandemic. Volunteers at Caritas Volnovakha and Severodonetsk have sewn and distributed masks to neighbouring towns and villages. Locals are grateful for the masks and for answers to their medical questions. In and near war zones, information can be scarce,” Dombrovska said.

In April 2020 social workers of Caritas Sloviansk handed out masks and COVID-19 safety information to seniors in their city, which is located 70 kilometres from the occupied zone. Caritas Sloviansk also donated masks to the Sloviansk Shelter for the Homeless.

But aid is also distributed in Central and Western Ukraine.

“In the middle of a pandemic, securing food is not only difficult but also a dangerous task for the most vulnerable. The elderly and people with disabilities and chronic diseases are the most susceptible to coronavirus. The Sheptytsky Hospital in Lviv, Caritas Ukraine and priests and seminarians distribute food to those in greatest need,” Dombrovska said.

The Sheptytsky Hospital runs a “Meals on Wheels” project in Lviv that delivers hot meals, medication and provides medical advice to the immobile elderly in times of pandemic. This initiative is a part of a larger ecumenical project called COVcheh that works together with the city of Lviv to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and cure those who are sick.

“Priority is given to the most socially vulnerable people with no means to take a proper care of themselves or their children: immobile and lonely elderly, families with disabled kids or families with many children, socially deprived children, displaced families, single mothers, etc. Government social services pass on information to Caritas about people whom they do not have the capacity to serve. These lists are verified by the government social services and by Caritas. All distributed aid is listed, regular reports are provided by Caritas to CNEWA. Sheptytsky Hospital follows the same procedure,” explained Dombrovska.

CNEWA has been present in Ukraine since 1991. Founded by Pope Pius XI in 1926, the agency works on behalf of the Eastern Catholic churches. CNEWA has been helping the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to re-establish itself through the renovation of churches, providing aid to seminarians, supporting the Ukrainian Catholic University and helping the many social service initiatives aiding the poor and the marginalized.

CNEWA works together with the eparchies of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada and other faith-based organizations that provide funds for various initiatives in Ukraine through its partners: Patriarchal Curia of the UGCC, Caritas Ukraine and the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU). CNEWA continues supporting the church in Ukraine by sustaining its leadership, attending to the needs of the internally displaced, helping the socially vulnerable and developing strong Ukrainian Catholic Church communities.

“Despite difficult situation in Canada and the U.S., CNEWA continues providing help to the less stable countries like Ukraine. It is shocking that even pandemic does not stop attacks in eastern Ukraine. So, now the country must find out how to survive with even more problems,” noted Dombrovska.

“Ukraine has been under attack since 2014. COVID-19 pandemic multiplied the effects of the ongoing war in the East of Ukraine that has been bringing instability, hurting the economy and causing suffering in the country. In these difficult times it is important to reinforce the Ukrainian Catholic Church so that it can provide relief and bring hope to the people of Ukraine,” she added.

If you wish to make a donation to CNEWA, you can mail cheques to: CNEWA Canada, 1247 Kilborn Place, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 6K9; call their toll-free number: 1-866-322-4441, or visit their website: www.cnewa.ca.

Please make a note of the country or project you would like to support.

If you have questions about CNEWA’s program in Ukraine, please contact Anna Dombrovska, CNEWA’s project officer at adombrovska@cnewa.org.