• Pantemeinolivs’ka, 76, Odesa, Ukraine, 65000

Donor Email, Wk. 4: A Merry Christmas to everybody! Hallo! Whoop!

Dear donors and friends,

The subject line for this week’s email is drawn from the classic ‘A Christmas Carol’, by Charles Dickens, which I re-read this week, as I do almost every Christmas season. At the end of the story, poor Scrooge, after what must have seemed an interminable journey with ghostly spirits, finds himself waking up in his own bed, in his own room, on Christmas morning. Overcome with joy, he begins to shout madly out his window, wishing the same joy on every passer-by. On everyone in the world. It is that joy I wish to you and yours this holiday season. Despite the suffering, here in Ukraine and across the world in human hearts of all kinds, we will overcome. Joy will come in the morning.

Enough sentimentality. How was the week, you ask? Excellent. We’ll start with a budgetary update:  Of $2,239 collected so far (thank you generous holiday donors!), we’ve spent $810.81, receipts of which can be found on our website at the following link:

Additional expenditures this week were kept to a minimum: primarily gasoline for an assessment in the Kherson area (more on that later) and more cookies and socks for the psychiatric hospital patients here in Odesa. However, we’ve also committed to several more payments in coming weeks and days, including fuel for a distribution on Thursday and a small grant for a developer on a cool project some Odesa volunteers have been working on. Your donations are doing a world of good. Thank you.

As far as my activities on the ground, it’s been a busy week. Monday and Tuesday I spent time wrapping presents and unloading pallets for Manifest Mira, a local charity who does distributions in surrounding villages and was prepping big-time for Christmas and needed help. On Tuesday I also attended the coordination meeting for humanitarian aid in Odesa, which was all in Ukrainian but luckily a kind friend interpreted for me. It was extraordinary to see the work that people are doing all over the map, from hospitals to schools to soup kitchens, and I was so grateful to make connections with many great souls. Wednesday and Thursday were spent in meetings and administrative work (a planned distribution Wednesday was postponed), including great conversations with local partner Safe Refuge (https://saferefu.ge/). These wonderful volunteers are building an application to help internally displaced Ukrainians find safe humanitarian help in one centralized place, and I’ve agreed to give them a small grant to help them find a developer and finish development, so we’re discussing plans for that. Amazing people.

Friday was a big day. I went to Kherson. The city was recently liberated from Russian troops, and there are still occasional artillery shells falling in the area. But tens of thousands of people are living there and many organizations are still doing work there, so when a local partner asked if I would go with them to help assess the situation, I couldn’t refuse. What we saw was heart-breaking: volunteers and small organizations desperately trying to meet the needs of thousands of people who have been displaced by war, wounded by military action, unemployed by the general situation, frightened by the awesomeness of it all. We discussed many options of how we might help with the military administration, local NGOs (non-governmental organizations), and regular citizenry. I am so grateful for those who let me come. Below you can see a quick photo of me in a bullet-proof vest, staying safe in the area.

Then, Saturday, we did our normal distribution in the psychiatric hospital of Kherson! This has become a weekly event, with the best of people (all volunteers of course). I swear I saw more smiles this week than any other time. I don’t know, of course. Mental hospitals are difficult. But I really think we’re making a difference. It’s just bananas, oranges, cookies, and some socks. But even the staff seem astonished that we keep coming back week after week. And I am genuinely recognizing some of the patients. Bless them all.

Sunday was Christmas, of course. I spent the day in church, in meetings, and in dinner with friends. It was beautiful, even in this crazy time. I was so grateful for the generosity of strangers all day. I am grateful for your generosity. Reach out anytime, friends. ‘Til we meet again.