A frequent question from home is, are you aware of all the events occurring in the world?I have to admit that we are somewhat disconnected from outside events.Our TV is unreliable and our news comes via the Internet.The people around us are not buzzing about the latest disaster in Japan or Libya, and if they are, how would we know as we don’t speak Russian.We are aware of the tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan, the attack by world powers in Libya, the possibility of a federal election in Canada, and the state of the negotiations in Phoenix regarding the possible return of a NHL team to Winnipeg.What else do we need to know?It is an amazing discovery for me to understand that without the constant reinforcement of news media and discussions on the topic with colleagues, that we are much calmer about the disasters in the world.Our world is the Mennonite Centre in Molochansk.
Mary and I are trying hard to adapt to our surroundings but it is obvious that we have a long way to go.We were walking down the street of Melitopol the other day and I asked Dema, the manager of the Mennonite Centre, if I was recognizable as a foreigner.He assured me that I was.When I asked what the people were seeing , he told me that I looked “too smart”.Unfortunately he was not referring to my intelligence or even the style of my clothing but rather to the “smartness” of my general appearance.He said that the face of a man of my age in Ukraine is quite haggard and worn – the result of a hard life.This could have come, for some, through the abuse of alcohol and for most, through the general hardship of their local circumstances. I am starting to see this, now that the difference has been pointed out to me.It would have taken a long time for me to figure this out on my own.I must have been subconsciously thinking that there were no men my age in Ukraine.
My lack of knowledge regarding local practices has continued to hurt me.For example, we were touring the Kindergarten next door in response to a request from them for assistance in buying new cups and dishes.In Ukraine, a Kindergarten covers children from 6 months to the completion of grade 1.The children are provided with three meals a day and consequently needed to have dishes that were not chipped or broken.We were given a royal tour of the place including a beautiful dance performance by some very cute children.I was amazed at the orderliness of everything including numbered potties so each child could use their own.Their bedrooms are clean and the beds all made up uniformly.This is a substantial organization and my mistake came when I innocently asked if they would show us their financial statements.After all I thought, if you are requesting financial assistance, it would be good to substantiate your need.The director gave me a puzzled smile and handed me her note book in which she recorded each financial transaction – in Russian.It was too much information.In an environment where the government pays the salaries and utility bills, the parents pay for the food and some urgent repair bills, and the rest is done through fund raising, what is the need and relevance of a financial statement?I am slowly learning.
We anticipated coming across some events that would stay with us.One such event occurred last Thursday.An elderly lady came requesting assistance.This lady is known to our manager as they have helped her in the past.She lives with and looks after her incapacitated brother.The problem was her pension money had been stolen and she was destitute.While the Mennonite Centre does not normally give out cash, it was agreed that it would be safe to do so this time and the lady was given the equivalent of $25.00 and a food hamper.We gave her a ride home and saw her place.It is hard trying to imagine anyone living in such filth.I could not see a bed in her bedroom - just piles of empty boxes and other containers.Her brother is bedridden.I do not know how she copes. The heartfelt thank you from the lady needed no translation.
While we were dropping off this lady at her residence, we noticed the body of a man lying in the road.On closer inspection, he appeared to be totally intoxicated.We called an ambulance.The emergency crew tried to revive the man with something I will call smelling salts.He did not regain consciousness.We helped roll him onto a filthy canvas stretcher and loaded him into the back of the ambulance.The ambulance is basically a van with the back seats removed.I am sure that it carries a first aid kit but it has no equipment, such as oxygen tanks, which we would associate with an ambulance.I watched the vehicle leave and prayed that I would never have to be transported by ambulance in Molochansk.
The Mennonite Centre is such a pleasant ray of sunshine in a sea of need.It is properly equipped to do its work.The surroundings are pleasant.The staff is cheerful.It is a pleasure for us to walk to our office every day and look forward to the unexpected.Mary and I are glad to be here.
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