human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Caritas-Spes joins efforts to respond to COVID-19

In times when the COVID-19 pandemic is speedily spreading worldwide, bringing about death and destruction, the Caritas Family is doing its best to consolidate all efforts to assist the needy. The coronavirus outbreak has resulted in new challenges for Ukraine, such as forced unemployment and impoverishment. Caritas-Spes Mission, present in every Roman-Catholic diocese, has joined efforts with religious orders and congregations, and launched a number of emergency programmes to respond to COVID-19.

Caritas-Spes Mission has coordinated well these initiatives. It has united two congregations to provide hot meals to the people experiencing homelessness in Kyiv. There is a Mobile Soup Kitchen run by Brother Sebastian Jankovski, OMI. The Missionaries Oblates of the Immaculate Mary in Obuhiv prepare meals for more than 150 people twice a week. The Missionaries of Charity Sisters cook three times a week. This is around 350 litres of soup (700 portions) and 125 litres of tea. Nowadays, as the homeless get in most cases the chance to eat only once a day, they are also given a sandwich with few pieces of bread and sometimes a boiled egg, which is more than 7 kg of meat spread and 150 loaves of bread per week. In addition, the people get facial masks, hand sanitiser, disposable cutlery and hygienic products, while the volunteers are provided with some protective items against COVID-19.

Hunger has become an issue for many families and the elderly retired people since the long lasting quarantine began. Caritas-Spes Mission in Kyiv has been cooperating with the Knights of Columbus of St. Olexandr Parish to provide basic food products to the most needy. The Knights of Columbus are co-initiators of the programme and they have volunteered to deliver 40 food packages per week to their beneficiaries. As they bring the packages, they witness tragic situations in every home. When asked about their experience, the common thing everyone has shared is how much he has been moved by the expression of gratitude in the eyes of the person knowing he or she has not been left alone.

In western Ukraine, Caritas-Spes is carrying out a local emergency programme. Around 1,500 lonely sick and bedridden individuals receive medicines, food, and wood for heating and cooking. The Roman-Catholic Caritas-Spes in Mukachevo has been operating the St. Elizabeth Soup Kitchen for many years. In response to COVID-19, it has turned its services into the provision of relief packages, delivering food kits to the needy residents of Chop, Mukachevo, Beregovo and Solotvyno. Caritas-Spes Lviv has also been providing daily bread. In cooperation with the Albertine Sisters, it has been providing hot meals to 24 people twice a day, altogether 48 portions to lonely seniors and people with health issues. The Sisters also bring them some groceries, such as cereals, pasta, canned food and fruits.

In east Ukraine, Caritas-Spes Kharkiv announced a Merciful Box fundraising action to provide food to the poor and the elderly. They collected UAH 18,700 in a week. 72 families benefited from this, as did two Caritas-Spes Single Mother Homes – the Nadiya Home and the St. Joseph Home in Korotych, which received 24 food packages. The mothers residing in our three homes for single mothers sew facial masks thanks to the donations. The money helped maintain the homes, giving shelter to 17 mothers with their 30 children and supporting another 7 non-resident mothers. More than a thousand facial masks have been distributed.

In the north of Ukraine, Caritas-Spes Zhytomyr local centre has assisted 100 low-income families from Zhytomyr, Burtyn, Baranivka, Berdychiv, Liubar and surrounding villages. In the south, our Mission has been providing food relief services to children from 60 families who used to attend the Quo Vadis Children Centre. Caritas-Spes Odessa has started a number of online activities called ’Stay Home’. Four times a week there are virtual master-chef classes for children, and a child psychologist is available to parents online for advice.

In spite of the pandemic’s destructive power invading the world of today, we should not forget that the worst pandemic is the one that destroys the human dignity of another person.