human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

“Now I understand that together we are strong” – Caritas Ukraine delegation on the Regional Conference 2016

«United in fraternity for more solidarity in Europe» – this was the slogan of the unique Regional Conference of Caritas Europa held on 23-26 May in Lourdes (France). Traditional place of pilgrimages gathered more than 300 representatives of Caritases from 42 countries of Europe. This meeting was unique because for the first time it gathered not only the heads of national Caritas organizations, but also those who directly implement programs of assistance to people in need in the fields – social workers and volunteers, and people whom Caritas helped in a difficult time, dragging a hand of care – migrants and internally displaced, people with disabilities and so on. They all came together to develop the new strategy of Caritas Europe for the period till 2020, the mechanisms of its implementation, and to formulate a common vision for overcoming of poverty, social injustice and exclusion, conflict, violations of human rights and xenophobia – problems that are a big challenge for all countries of  modern Europe.

Ukraine was represented by social workers from Kyiv, Khmelnytsky and Drohobych  – Olena Feday, Dmytro Kozlovsky and Lyudmyla Smolen, who came together with clients of local Caritas offices – Oksana Shcheka, Erwin Abibulayev and Maryna Bukavyn. The story of each of them is an example of selfless work of all employees of Caritas humanitarian programs which change lives, helps to believe in themselves. The voice of the people was heard in Europe, and, what is most important, heard the voice of the people of Ukraine, which cannot see itself outside the united Europe, but now is in need of support and understanding.

The fact of involvement of field level workers and clients is very important for Caritas  as it is the possibility field managers to the decision-making process, as a way not only to tell the wider European public about the problems of the needy, and form their activism, involve into social activities and social work, creating not consumers but active citizens, able to change the country. The conference is  an example of practical implementation of this approach.

«Memories from the visit to Lourdes will be with me all my life. Thanks to the international network of Caritas charitable institutions I received the possibility to communicate with different people and it was very important for me to learn about their experience. During the solemn celebration of the 70th anniversary of Caritas France, I had the honor to carry the statue of Our Lady. There I realized that it’s no matter what language you speak, but it is important that we work on one goal – to create mercy! Thank Caritas Ukraine for the opportunity to participate in regional conference” – Erwin Abibulayev, client of Caritas Khmelnytsky told.

«During the conference I was able to feel the strength of Caritas community, to learn the live history of activity and achievements of organization. Every day spent during the conference was the great opportunity for me to set contacts and common vision of the minimization of problem of European society, overcoming of language and tradition barriers. I was deeply impressed by Lourdes – city of glory and full of hope and faith of pilgrims from all over the world. Conference structure was like well-coordinated mechanism, where every participant had the opportunity of spiritual exchange in small fraternities,  formulation of ways of solution of problems in the working groups and present their opinions on the general events. I’m sincerely thankful to everyone who has contributed to giving me such an opportunity that changed me, has expanded the idea of what I’m doing and formed my vector further movement, – said Olena Fedak, social worker from Caritas Kyiv.

The conference impressed Olena Shcheka from Caritas Kyiv: «Thanks to this trip, I realized that Caritas is the organization that deals with the problems not only in specific city or country, but all over Europe and the world. For me it was a chance to have a different view on this process. I talked with many people, expressed my position and realized that they hear and understand me. It is hard to describe my feelings and emotions, it was the first time when I traveled outside of Ukraine, I was for the first time at such a serious event, and even traveled to Paris and Lourdes. Now I understand that together we are strong».


The story of Erwin

Erwin Abibulayev is  Crimean Tatar, born in Uzbekistan, where his family was deported. The family returned to Crimea only in late 80s, built the house near Kerch, Erwin married here, here his children – Alan, Rinat and Emil – were born. The family owned a small agricultural enterprise and business went well (they started breeding and cultivation of cattle for milk and meat. There were 20 heads of dairy breeds, about 100 heads of pigs for fattening and 500 chickens). But in 2014, after the Russian invasion Erwin and his family were forced to leave the peninsula and move to mainland Ukraine, because he did not want to get Russian citizenship. Erwin started to receive threatening phone calls, experienced moral pressure and constant argues with friends and fellow villagers as he was afraid for the future of children in the occupied territories So the family arrived to in the Lugove village in Yarmolinetskiy district of Khmelnitsky region.

Now the family is getting aquatinted with the new place – so far eight people have to live in two small rooms and to rent premises, where Erwin already began to breed cattle and grow corn and beans. But his dream is to build a large house for the whole family. Erwin did not hand down – he not just revived his business, but also helps to fellow-villagers who have expressed to him their trust and elected to the village council. During the last two years Caritas takes care of the family helping children and supporting and advising adults.

The story of Oksana

Oksana Shcheka is 20 years old. She came to Caritas Kyiv for the first time in 2008, where attended various study and entertainment groups, two years she later became an active member of the football team, which won a nationwide competition of street football. Now her two younger brothers also are visiting Caritas regularly. Oksana has graduated from school and cannot imagine her life without Caritas – now she is a coach of the football team and works as a volunteer with the clients, including the children of immigrants from Eastern Ukraine.

“Thanks to the employees of Caritas, I have learned to live knowing that I am responsible only for my own deeds, but not the actions of my parents. So I want to show my brothers all what I learned in Caritas – that they have the same support”, – says Oksana.




Alternative Text


Maryna Chyketa

Head of Communications Department
Caritas Ukraine