The Mennonite Centre in Molochansk, Ukraine
In the summer of 2000, with the encouragement of then mayor of Molochansk, the purchase of the former Maedchenschule in Molochansk took place. This is now the Mennonite Centre after renovations were done.
With some modest beginnings in providing lunches for seniors, funds for medical emergencies and access to computers, the Centre now operates with an annual budget of approximately $300,000 for projects in the Molochna and Zaporizhzhia areas. Projects fall into 5 major categories:
1. Seniors: hosting three free lunches at the Centre, supporting two homes for seniors and providing food packages for needy shut-ins.
2. Education: scholarships for post-secondary studies, funds for educational materials, computer technology, and building maintenance for schools, kindergartens, music and sports schools, support for schools in teaching and integrating students with special needs.
3. Medical: paying for four medical practitioners to hold regular consultations at the Centre, funding various individual medical emergencies, eye examinations and glasses, providing funds for computers, medical supplies and equipment for hospitals and clinics as well as building repairs.
4. Community: providing funds for local fire departments, police and probation services for computer technology, vehicle maintenance and general community support. The Centre also maintains close relations with the local Mennonite congregations in Molochansk and Zaporizhzhia and their outreach programs.
5. Internally Displaced Persons: providing funds for food and medications for individuals in war-torn communities and assistance for IDP’s in Zaporizhzhia.
The Friends of the Mennonite Centre in Ukraine (FOMCU) is a registered charity in Canada with a North American board of directors that provides direction, oversight and funds to the Mennonite Centre in Ukraine. Currently this board consists of Alvin Suderman (Chair, MB), Dave Regehr (Vice-chair, MB), George Dyck, (Treasurer, ON), Linda Friesen, (Communications, ON), Dr. Dieter Bueddefeld (MB), Ruth Derksen Siemens (BC), Ben Stobbe (BC), Anita Toews (Michigan), Mike Wilms (MB), Chris Goertzen (MB), Dr. Art Friesen (BC) Emeritus.
The Mennonite Centre in Molochansk is also a registered charity in Ukraine with its own Ukrainian board of directors that provides humanitarian aid primarily to individuals residing in former Mennonite villages in Southern Ukraine with funds from FOMCU. The Centre has a manager in Molochansk (Oksana) with several Ukrainian staff, and a Zaporizhzhia manager (Olga) directing projects in the city and rural communities of the former Chortitza and Yazykowo Colonies. Canadian volunteer directors provide general oversight of the projects by being onsite in Ukraine several times a year, usually for 6 to 10 weeks at a time.
While the financial assistance is of great significance for the people and institutions in the former Mennonite villages, the moral and spiritual support is not to be underestimated. For 22 years the Mennonite Centre, with the generosity of many donors, has taken up the challenge in the spirit of the words spoken long ago by Menno Simons:
True evangelical faith cannot lie sleeping.
It clothes the naked and comforts the sorrowful.
It gives to the hungry food and it shelters the destitute.
It cares for the blind and the lame, the widow and orphan child.
It binds up the wounded man and offers a gentle hand.
We must become everything to all men.
Abundantly we have received and gratefully we will respond.
So overcome evil with good, return someone’s hatred with love.
That is true evangelical faith.
Edited by Teresa Dyck