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Current Issue
March, 2019
Volume 45, Number 1
  
5 June 2019
Carl Hétu




Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak speaks to his flock in Philadelphia after his enthronement. (photo: CNEWA)

I had the privilege of representing CNEWA yesterday at the enthronement ceremony of Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak, as he became head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia — and, consequently, leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the United States.

More than 1,000 people from around the world — including CNEWA’s chair, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York — came to the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for this important day.

There was a great atmosphere in the cathedral, and no wonder: Metropolitan Borys has demonstrated in the last 20 years that he is driven by the Holy Spirit to do God’s work. He has inspired so many, in many corners of the world. I am reminded in particular of the remarkable work he has done at the Ukrainian Catholic University, where he was one of the founders.

In his very humble and moving speech after the liturgy, he spoke brilliantly of his vision for the church. He warned people not to be too distracted with all the glory of the celebration, with its fine vestments. Yes, it is a grand day, he said, and we should celebrate. But, he added, the church is about finding Jesus and promoting his teachings.

The metropolitan also asked a good friend in a wheelchair to come and join him for part of his talk. He alluded to the humanitarian and theologian, the recently deceased Jean Vanier, saying that he is a model of what the church should be. He explained how Jesus is found in the poor, in the handicapped, in the marginalized. The church is to serve them, he said, and he invited everyone to join him and the Lord in this great work.

Metropolitan Borys was clearly moved by the day and by the task ahead. I was humbled to be there for this moment. I left the cathedral uplifted and inspired — more committed than ever to continue CNEWA’s work with Ukrainian church leaders such as him in Ukraine, in Canada and in the United States.

For more, read Prayer and Protest, Borys Gudziak’s first-person account of the 2013 Kiev uprising in the Spring 2014 edition of ONE.



Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

10 May 2019
CNEWA Staff




Some of the girls at the Abune Endreans Children's Home in Ethiopia pray during Mass.
(photo: CNEWA)


Recently, we received an encouraging update from Argaw Fantu, our regional director in Addis Ababa, about a home for children that CNEWA is supporting in Ethiopia:

The Apostolic Vicariate of Harar, in the eastern Ethiopia, was erected in March 1937. Since then, the Catholic Church has become more visible with its social development services — providing education, emergency services during times of food shortage, and potable water for the vast rural population.

For a variety of reasons, family life in this part of the country can sometimes be unstructured and lead to poverty. Some of the children are semi-orphans. The Catholic Church in eastern Ethiopia is striving to help young girls and children through boarding facilities and the guidance of Capuchin priests.

The Abune Endreans Children’s Home in Dire Dawa is one of these initiatives. It has helped many girls to grow, become self-reliant, and contribute to the good of others. Several weeks ago, CNEWA’s staff from Addis Ababa had an opportunity to visit this home and meet the children, their guardian Capuchin community and Abune Angelo Pagano, OFM, Cap, the Apostolic Vicar of Harar.

The girls are receiving a good education, following a well-organized schedule for study and chores. Older girls are in charge of assisting and training younger ones. This kind of program, we learned, allows children to grow — being responsible for each other and becoming caretakers of one another.

Abba Wondwossen Wube helps some students during class. (photo: CNEWA)

We met two girls who recently went to university for their higher studies after successfully completing secondary education. They were at the home during their semester break. They said that the home is everything for them. Though they have left the home to study, they said they really missed the family atmosphere. That is why they came during their break to stay with their “sisters.”

Abba Wondwossen Wube, OFM, Cap, recently assigned to be in charge of the home, said that the girls in this home are very special. On Saturdays, they are caretakers of the parish church compound; he said that they like singing and serving in the church. They feel very responsible for each other.

In the past, many girls have passed through this home. A few of them are now supporting it in whatever ways they can. For example, as Abba Wondossen put it,”one of the former resident girls of this home, who now lives in the United States, comes every summer and covers the annual school fees of many girls. Some others at one time bought a washing machine for the home. At another time, some former residents helped repair the kitchen. When I see these things, I feel proud of my Church.”

CNEWA is a longtime supporter of Abune Endreas Children’s Home. Currently 48 girls are being served there. CNEWA covers many of the larger expenses for maintaining the home, and we sincerely thank our donors who have made all this possible. The visit was very touching. Looking around the area and reflecting on the changing landscape of the vicariate, we witnessed the significant effort of the Catholic Church to help these young girls through this facility and others. Our partners are really navigators through these waves of challenges. Thank you, indeed!

Some of the young ladies pose for a portrait. (photo: CNEWA)



Tags: Ethiopia Education

25 April 2019
Carl Hétu




A young woman holds candles during a vigil in Lahore, Pakistan, on 23 April 2019, in solidarity with the victims of Sri Lanka's Easter suicide bomb attacks. (photo: CNS/Mohsin Raza, Reuters)

At Mass a few weeks ago, I heard an unusual noise coming from the entrance of the church. Without thinking, I turned and found myself fearing the worst. An attack? After Mass I asked others if they felt the same way and, to my surprise, some did. How many of us are experiencing this type of fear in our places of worship? For most Canadians, the answer is not at all; the risk of this happening is still very slim, after all.

But it may not feel that way. This past Easter Sunday, the killings of innocent Catholics while celebrating Mass in Sri Lanka would certainly reinforce this fear. We could add to this the stabbing of a priest while celebrating Mass at St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal; just before that, the killing of innocent Muslims in a New Zealand mosque; and last year, the killing of innocent Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue. The list, regrettably, goes on.

Are these despicable acts of terror and inhumanity starting to have their effect on our sense of safety?

As we just celebrated the great feast of Easter — not just with chocolate bunnies but with the same spiritual vibrancy that millions of Christians still feel today — let’s remember that there is another way to fight this looming fear.

I’m refering to the Christians of countries such as Egypt who, over the past 10 years or so, have experienced the worst at the hands of well-armed and organized extremist groups that are determined to target minorities on specific feasts and in sacred spaces. Easter and Christmas, for example, are moments of particular worry for thousands of Christians in that country.

A few years ago, I traveled to Egypt and experienced how this drama plays out. One night, in a rural town, I joined a local Coptic Catholic community to celebrate Epiphany. To my surprise, I saw a small battalion of well-armed men coming to the church. They’re here to protect us, I was told. Somehow this didn’t reassure me.

I was in shock to hear that this happens all over Egypt: armed men come to Mass to protect the faithful. “How do you do it?,” I asked, referring to the heavy burden and fear on their shoulders. Their answer was very simple. “There is a level of fear, sure, but we’ve been practicing our faith, here, for more than 2000 years,” I was told. “We’ve lived through much worse and we have a mission given to us by Jesus.”

And there it is. Our journey is to follow Christ, wherever that may lead us. We shouldn’t be afraid when we are led towards people who are different from us; but, rather, we should follow the example of Middle East Christians and persevere in encountering others through dialogue, service and love, no matter what. Each day, these Christians offer inspiring works in the areas of healthcare, education and service to the handicapped, elderly, poor and so many more, regardless of their religion or ethnicity.

All are welcome. They know by experience that God’s compassion and mercy are the keys to fighting fear, building lasting relationships and, ultimately, bringing a lasting peace.

The terrorists can attack them, and yes, there will be broken families, pain, and horror, as in Sri Lanka this past Easter weekend. However, our Egyptian brothers and sisters can be witnesses that the faith will remain and love will prevail through forgiveness, reconciliation and compassion. It isn’t easy to do — but what an example to follow.

These values are the basis of CNEWA’s mission and this is why we have been working with Eastern Christians in the Middle East, India, northeastern Africa and Eastern Europe since 1926. They are the ones who started it all with great sacrifices and pain — but also with an amazing and deep commitment to Jesus.

So yes: in my parish earlier this month, for a short moment, I was distracted. But ultimately, I will keep my focus on the love of Jesus, which will help me to counter fear and to live in peace — no matter what.



Tags: Egypt CNEWA Canada

15 April 2019
Anubha George




Father Sebastian meets with two survivors of the storm, Joy Kannatt and his son.
(photo: Meenakshi Soman)


In the March 2018 edition of ONE, writer Anubha George describes in vivid detail what happened in Kerala last summer When the Rains Came. Below, she offers some additional impressions:

How do you even begin to take in the devastation that a natural disaster causes? What do you say to someone who has lost family, friends and pets? How do you forget the tears of people who tell you life will never be the same again? I have no answers and perhaps I never will.

Last summer, the southern Indian state of Kerala was affected by severe flooding. At least 400 people died. More than a million people lost their homes and were displaced in relentless monsoon rains. Kerala hasn’t endured anything like it in over a century.

All of us in Kerala were glued to our television sets in that week of mid-August 2018. We saw pictures of landslides that blocked the roads in the hilly areas of Kerala. We watched people crying out for help as the rivers swelled and the water made its way into their homes. We saw the rescue and relief operation that saved lives. We all came together as a community, irrespective of religion or class. We cooked for each other and prayed together.

But none of that prepared me for what I saw when we visited Idukki, a place overwhelmed by landslides caused by excessive rain and flooding. Idukki is beautiful and picturesque. Photographs do not do it justice. The tall green trees right to the top of the highest hills make your heart sing.

But it was the same tall trees that fell on houses in the early hours of a mid-August morning, just before daybreak. The only way I can describe it is this: look up at the sky. Now imagine the sky falling down on you. No matter what you see on television or the videos you watch on social media, that is what it is in a nutshell: it is the sky falling down on you.

But what was heartwarming was the effort — especially of the church — to help those in need. The Rev. Sebastian Kochupurackal, one of the friendliest, kindest, most generous people I have ever met, took us around. He heads the High Range Development Society (HRDS), the social arm of Idukki diocese. He knew every single person by their name. He held hands and consoled. He was ever hopeful and cheery.

We went up the hills to meet parishioners. The stories had one common theme: Thank God, I’m alive and my family is safe. Father Sebastian said in times of natural calamity, we take stock of things. That nothing is permanent. Things can change in the blink of an eye. But we are also supremely grateful for the gift of life.

We spent time with people who had lost everything they owned. In a house down the hill, we found a picture of Jesus in the rubble. The lady who lived there picked it up. It was a miracle that the picture was there, she said. All else had been washed away in the rain and the landslide that followed. The church, she knows, will help her. She cried.

But she was not weeping in sorrow. Those were tears of hope that everything would be alright.

You can read more about the flooding in When the Rains Came.

Also, CNEWA’s regional director in India, M.L. Thomas, shares his own personal account of the storm in the video below.



Tags: India Kerala

28 March 2019
Michel Constantin




On the road outside Rableh, Syria, visitors see the extent of the damage from years of war.
(photo: CNEWA)


We received the following report a few days ago from our regional director in Beirut, Lebanon, Michel Constantin:

To better assess and evaluate the current situation in Syria — now that the regime’s forces have regained control of more than 75 percent of the country and secured the major cities and rural areas — CNEWA-Pontifical Mission visited our partners so as to touch base with the beneficiaries of our aid and the volunteers who are work on behalf of the church.

Our plan was to visit three areas: the capital of Damascus; the central city of Homs and Tartus on the coast; and finally, Aleppo, where we were asked to participate in a special synod of the churches organized locally to discuss the challenges facing the Christian community there, once the largest Christian community in the Middle East.

Unfortunately, the visit to Aleppo was canceled for security reasons. On the same day we were scheduled to travel there, heavy shelling targeted downtown Aleppo. Nevertheless, we were able to follow the work of the meetings and we were updated on the findings and recommendations.

What follows are our impressions and findings:

Military attacks continue to decrease, especially since the areas under the opposition or the extremists are now very restricted to one area in the northwest of the country (Edlib and the surrounding area, controlled by the extremist militia of Al Nusra) and the northeast (east of the Euphrates River under the Kurdish militias supported mainly by the United States). However, this stability should not be confused with long-term peace, which some question as doubtful. Some observers fear fragmentation and the ethnic cleansing of areas that fall either to government or Kurdish control. This could spin out of control, for example, should both parties face each other in battle around Deir Ezzor. This is particularly dangerous, as each side is backed by different outside powers.

The territorial defeat of ISIS does not mean it will cease to exist. Rather, it is likely to adapt its strategy, continue underground, and use more guerrilla and terrorist tactics. The problem in Syria is not just ISIS, but the lack of inclusive governance and equal opportunities in the country. These are the root causes that enabled ISIS to grow. The organization is not a cause but a consequence of the underlying political situation. As a result, the defeat of ISIS will not lead to the end of the conflict in Syria. If the root causes are not addressed, the conflict is likely to continue. In addition, new conflicts and new extremist groups might arise.

On the other hand, in the aftermath of the war and with the absence of a clear and united opposition, any political process without a clear strategy carries risks. A power vacuum — or political, ethnic or sectarian tensions — could become a source of renewed conflict, which may lead to the further destabilization of the region.

Socially and economically, the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria — and the resulting rupture of socioeconomic ties inflicted on the nation’s economy — has seriously damaged the infrastructure. It has reversed or significantly slowed not only the development of Syria itself, but also of its neighbors — first of all Lebanon and Jordan — as well as Turkey. This has exacerbated the situation in these states and has created new risks.

The streets of Homs are showing signs of life. (photo: CNEWA)

Conditions need to be created for the return of refugees and the restoration of life-support systems. These can bring not only humanitarian or economic dividends, but also political and strategic ones. But despite the improvement of the security situation in many areas, international experience shows that the absence of fighting is rarely the trigger for return of the displaced people. Numerous other factors are involved. These include:

Loss of human capital. The number of people lost to injury, death or emigration is staggering, and it will create permanent hardship for generations of Syrians. The decrease in the quality and quantity of public services — due to international sanctions on one hand and the absence of the qualified staff on the other — is clearly shown in schools, universities and especially in hospitals and other medical services. It is important to mention that more than 90 percent of available services in the country are public services. Moreover, many on the ground are saying that the highly qualified personnel who left Syria for other countries during the war were often granted citizenship rights. This means they were integrated into the society and the economy, and it makes their return to Syria unlikely, if not almost impossible

Security and socioeconomic conditions. Economic sanctions against Syria and its ally Iran impact directly the situation for Syrians on the ground. For there to be any improvement, sanctions must be eased, if not lifted altogether, reported local church leaders. The severe shortage of basic supplies, such as electricity, fuel and gas, has made it difficult to produce and export products for external markets, cutting off Syria from the flow of cash and imports. Until there is a change in the status of sanctions, post-conflict life will be much harder on the remaining population and will delay the return of the more than 5.6 million Syrians registered as refugees outside the country.

During our visit, we were in contact with school teachers and other civil servants who reported that their salaries have lost most of their purchasing power, falling more than 800 percent, from $600 per month before 2011 to $72 in 2019. And when we inquired regarding the need to continue with some emergency activities, we were told that sometimes even buying a bottle of vegetable oil would represent a challenge. More seriously, others informed us that some people lost their lives because they were not able to pay for the cost of dialysis treatment, which costs on average $25 per session.

Access to property and assets. Law No. 10 of 2018 established the concept of “renovation zones,” which put conditions on residents who want to return to their properties. They must present their deeds or proof of ownership within a certain short time period, or risk losing everything. Knowing that already many deeds were lost, the public perceived this step very negatively and many consider it a threat. There is much uncertainty.



Tags: Syria ISIS

22 February 2019
Michel Constantin




Families line up to receive medical care and food at the dispensary. (photo: CNEWA)

Lebanon is now witnessing a new phenomenon, according to our local church partner, the Socio-Medical Intercommunity Dispensary: Families and the elderly are approaching the dispensary for bread.

A member of the CNEWA Lebanon field staff writes:

I just came back from the field from Socio-Medical Intercommunity Dispensary in Nabaa where I had a meeting with the staff to follow-up on the health project CNEWA has been supporting. I was shocked at the sight of elderly women and men as well as families approaching the center asking for bread. A staff member told me that they are witnessing a new phenomenon, one they have not seen before, even during the war. Many well-known workshops in the area of Nabaa-Bourj-Hammoud are closing down and laying off workers. It is forcing families—who were barely able to cover their living expenses—to seek bread.

Through its local church partner, the Socio-Medical Intercommunity Dispensary, CNEWA for two years has supported the poor population of the area with food portions and medical aid; in 2018, 309 extremely poor families were provided with nourishment for five months.

The Socio-Medical Intercommunity Dispensary (also known as “Dispensaire Intercommunautaire”) is run by the Assembly of Female Religious Congregations. It was originally founded in 1968 by the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary to serve those in need in a variety of ways — socially, medically and culturally. The Assembly took charge of the dispensary in 1973 and has been running it since. The dispensary is located in Nabaa-Bourj Hammoud, known to be poor districts of East Beirut with mixed communities. The residents are predominantly Christians displaced from Mount Lebanon and other parts of the country during the civil war. There are also a large number of foreign workers (Syrian, Egyptian, Iraqi, Sri-Lankan, Filipino, etc.) seeking shelter in cheap, small apartments. These areas are densely populated, characterized by rates of high illiteracy, delinquency, unemployment, drugs and prostitution.

Hanna Issa's wife receives bread at the dispensary. (photo: CNEWA)

One of the beneficiaries of CNEWA’s program has been Hanna Issa. He and his family have been supported with food and medical aid which helped them to overcome their dire economic condition. Hanna, 55, is married and has a 13-year-old daughter. He used to work in a shoe workshop in the area of Bourj Hammoud. Due to the difficult economic situation, the workshop went into bankruptcy and had to close down, laying off dozens of workers. Hanna tried hard, but in vain, to find a job to provide for his family. But through CNEWA, Hanna and others in similar circumstances were kept afloat and did not drown in despair.

Others have not been so fortunate. Deteriorating economic and social conditions in Lebanon have led to a shocking increase in the number of acts of self-immolation—most offered in protest against the crushing economic conditions.

It is a reminder to us of how circumstances have changed so suddenly for so many. Tragically, a growing number of Lebanese hunger for more than bread; they crave human dignity and hope. CNEWA is privileged to help in any way we can, thanks to the support and generosity of our donors.



Tags: Lebanon

20 February 2019
CNEWA Staff




In a project supported by CNEWA, young Indian women from poor families develop computer skills so they can have a brighter future. (photo: CNEWA)

We recently received the following update from our regional director in India, M.L. Thomas, describing a project CNEWA is supporting to help uplift and support the poor — in particular, helping girls develop vital skills they can use in the future:

More than 300 young women were trained in trades that can help sustain a good quality of life.

This was one of the highlights of the project supported by CNEWA in 2018. CNEWA accompanied a few church institutions to support the poor, particularly the Dalits, to help them earn a living on their own. This was made possible through the support of generous donors of CNEWA.

CNEWA helped 352 young women through these dioceses/institutions:

Archdiocese of Trivandrum helped 90

Diocese of Marthandom helped 89

Diocese of Thuckalay helped 65

Diocese of Palghat helped 64

St. Joseph’s After Care Home, Changanassery helped 44

St. Joseph’s After Care Home has been helping poor children for the last 24 years. Many grew up to become qualified nurses, who completed their schooling in the orphanage.

The Catholic Church, a pioneer of educating the young, has helped bring revolutionary changes to India in terms of providing basic education to the poor and to Dalit children. The Church is now working to support the poor in higher education and job training.

More than 300 young women have been trained in a variety of jobs, including nursing and health care. (photo: CNEWA)

In normal circumstances, the parents —being poor—would opt to send the young women away in marriage. Such women are often not prepared to take up the responsibility of running the home and raising children, and their lot in life never improves. So we need to help give them skills to make a living and have other opportunities.

During the last few years, CNEWA has helped hundreds of young women in their studies. Most have been able to settle into and well-paying jobs in nursing, computer or tailoring that give them a secure footing for the future and help them support their families.

We remain grateful to our generous donors for making all this possible, and helping to change the lives of India’s poor for the better!



Tags: India

11 February 2019
CNEWA Staff




The staff and students of Bethlehem's Paul VI Ephpheta Institute. (photo: Ephpheta/CNEWA)

We recently received this report on the most recent semester at Bethlehem's Paul VI Ephpheta Institute for the Deaf, which CNEWA has supported for decades. As we described it in the pages of our magazine:

Ephpheta was founded at the Pope’s request after his visit to the Holy Land in 1964. Supported almost entirely by CNEWA, Ephpheta admits children on the basis of need, not their parents’ ability to pay. Ephpheta is run by the Sisters of Saint Dorothy, a largely Italian community dedicated to spreading the love of Christ through fostering human and Christian development. Although engaged in many types of educational and social work, the sisters have specialized in educating the deaf.

The latest:

Currently, there are 182 students attending classes at Ephpheta Institute; at the beginning of the school year, the number of students fluctuated (more or less) according to various reasons: new students enrolled at the school while some students due to several factors such as difficult access issues; expensive transportation costs which parents cannot afford; change of residence; and other personal reasons/ decisions taken by parents. Currently, there are 14 or 15 students enrolled in the kindergarten and preschool; in the upper classes, the attendance tends to decrease.

Teacher training and activities (divided by class), were drawn up in accordance with the new academic programs offered by the Palestinian Ministry of Education. The common goal agreed upon, is to deepen the value of respect and cooperation towards oneself and others. This value involves teachers and students and will be implemented within the year through various initiatives and activities.

During the past four months, several initiatives have been implemented to help develop the skills of the students and help them overcome, at least in part, the “barrier” which may affect them psychologically, and their ability to communicate. The initiative included various activities such as Arabic dance, art, music, cooking and student-to-student exchange with semester.

Students learn to express themselves through fingerpainting. (photo: Ephpheta/CNEWA)

Students also had the opportunity to get creative, participating in a course by “CheArte” an organization dedicated to children’s expression through art. During the course, both students and teachers learned how to express their emotions using art forms and color. They learned how emotions can deeply affect us and by using art, to express their inner feelings, helping them to improve their wellbeing.

The teachers also participated in a workshop and ‘formation courses’ in cooperation with the Ministry of Education which taught them how to present the new revised curriculum to students. Ephpheta Institute also continued to offer parents workshops that raised awareness and enhance understanding of the needs of deaf children and how to be an effective, supportive parent.

Finally, all operators, teachers, speech therapists, specialists, continue to demonstrate commitment in carrying out their role with the aim to accompany and help students towards a positive assimilation into Palestinian society.

You can read more about the institute below:

The Miracle of Ephpheta

A Milestone: Ephpheta’s First High School Graduation



Tags: CNEWA Bethlehem

1 February 2019
CNEWA Staff




The corridors at the Rosary Sisters School used to be open to the cold and rain. (photo: CNEWA)

We received the following good news from Laura Schau-Tarazi in our Jerusalem office:

Every winter, students and teachers of the Rosary Sisters School in Bethlehem had to brave the harsh conditions of the second and third floor corridors, which were open to the rain and covered with large puddles due to the lack of windows. Many classes are held on both floors and hundreds of students and teachers use the corridor daily in order to get to and from class. All of the students and teachers needed to wear winter coats, hats and gloves every day for the entire season. Teachers complained that the open corridors created cold, damp conditions in the classrooms, putting everyone at risk for contracting viruses, colds and the flu. The school building is well over 100 years old and the need for rehabilitation work continues to be a serious issue, especially since the building must meet modern safety codes.

The sisters appealed to CNEWA to help the school enclose the corridors with panels containing large aluminum windows. With a generous grant from the Representative Office of Germany in Ramallah, we were able to procure and install the windows that sealed off both corridors.

CNEWA helped provide a grant to enclose the corridors. (photo: CNEWA)

Plaster and paint were also applied to the problem areas. Additionally, the project hired three local laborers as well as a local engineer who inspected the work.

The work was completed during the Christmas break, allowing students and teachers to return to a warmer, dryer school!

Now the students and their teachers are able to walk the corridors without worrying about the weather. (photo: CNEWA)



Tags: Education Bethlehem

25 January 2019
Mark Raczkiewycz




The video above shows the very real struggles of Ukraine's elderly poor — and the efforts of Caritas to bring them light and hope. (video: Ivan Chernichkin/CNEWA)

In the current edition of ONE, journalist Mark Raczkiewycz looks at how Caritas Ukraine offers Windows to the World for the country’s elderly poor. He offers further impressions below.

There’s a saying in Ukraine that translates in English as: “Growing old isn’t a blessing.”

There are about 11 million pensioners here, who comprise about a quarter of the population. They eke out a living by relying on their paltry monthly pensions that amount to less than $100; the average monthly nationwide salary is $320. Yet they somehow survive. Statistics show that this segment is the most diligent when it comes to paying their utility bills on time. When I speak to them, they usually say that all their money goes towards buying medicine, paying bills and food. They really don’t have much left after that. They can’t afford to do what they want like go on trips and pursue hobbies in their leisure time. The healthier, more mobile ones help by taking care of grandchildren. Many often supplement their pensions by staying in the workforce. For example, they’ll sell fruits and vegetables from their summer home gardens or work as newspaper vendors near subway stations or hawk honey from their hives, anything they don’t consume.

It’s a necessity — otherwise, they wouldn’t survive. They usually don’t stray from their household budgets so they’re immediately vulnerable to any shocks in the economy like a rise in natural gas prices for heating or consumer inflation.

Their plight is impossible not to notice.

I’ve heard of women working as nannies or house cleaners and men who will moonlight as plumbers or basic repairmen. They’re resourceful in that way, doing whatever they can to make extra money to stay afloat. People joke that the seniors who gather and sit on benches act as the most effective community watchdogs. But that company is valuable for them to avoid being alone.

The more unfortunate really can’t rely on the state, which is why groups like Caritas as well as humanitarian efforts by the Greek Catholic Church are so important.

For the elderly, homecare assistance is more than helping them do things they can’t. Human interaction brightens their day and makes them feel like they’re not abandoned. Otherwise, the world becomes a lonely, cold place. Depression sets in. Dementia as well. I’ve seen how even taking a pet like a cat or dog improves their lives. How house calls by social workers, even for one hour a week makes a difference. The elderly deserve better and should lead more dignified lives.

They actually don’t ask for much, are the least demanding and the most patient. Thank goodness the church and Caritas are there for them.

Read more in the December 2018 edition of ONE.



Tags: Ukraine





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