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UKRAINE: Salesian Center in Need of Renovation to Continue Programs for More Than 600

(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries living and working in Odessa, the third largest city in Ukraine and a major seaport and transportation hub located on the northwestern shore of the Black Sea, are seeking funding to help renovate their building, which houses a chapel, youth center, kindergarten, elementary school and the hostel for boarders. Since 1999, Salesian missionaries have been living in the building and providing education and social welfare services to poor youth and their families living in the area.

In recent years, some of the rooms were renovated and well-equipped. At this point though, the entire building needs to be renovated. Currently, the priority is thermal insulation in order to reduce heating costs—a very important factor, especially because of the unstable economic situation in Ukraine, which has led to an increase in gas and electricity prices. Salesian Father Miguel Wocial, a Polish missionary and rector of the Odessa community, noted that life is difficult for those living in and accessing the building because of the cold and damp, which will become worse during winter and the rainy days.

In addition, because of the dampness, the walls are covered with fungus that could affect the health of the children attending nursery and primary school. The renovation of the walls will definitely improve the conditions and facilitate the work and study of all who use the building, which sees about 600 people each year. Moreover, the money saved on electricity and heating will be used to carry out the activities of the Salesian mission in Odessa.

“The health and safety of our Salesian staff and youth accessing our programs is very important to us,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “This Salesian center was also instrumental in housing and assisting those internally displaced during the conflict in the Ukraine last year as well as maintaining normal programs for youth in the area.”

During the height of the conflict in Ukraine, the Salesian center in Odessa provided shelter, food aid and clothing. Often, those arriving at the center came with nothing more than what they could carry, having left all behind when fleeing the fighting. The program met the basic needs of the displaced and then assisted them in finding long-term housing and employment to ease the transition to their new lives. The program helped more than 500 people find stable employment. Those displaced received assistance with training, résumé creation and interviewing skills while being given access to Salesian resources and partnerships that connected them to employers who were hiring.

“Those displaced fled their homes, their jobs and their support systems in search of safety and shelter,” adds Fr. Hyde. “The services at the Salesian center in Odessa helped those displaced make the transition to their new community while assisting them to regain stability, employment and hope for the future.”

Nearly 25 percent of those living in Ukraine live in conditions of poverty, according to the World Bank. The jobless rate in Ukraine increased to 10.3 percent in the first quarter of 2016 from 9.9 percent in the previous period. It was the highest rate since the fourth quarter of 2014. The World Bank also estimates that Ukraine’s GDP declined by almost 10 percent in 2015, but progress on reforms would enable a gradual recovery and growth of 1 percent in 2016. De-escalation of the conflict since September 2015 and reforms have contributed to returning some stability of the country’s economic confidence. However, the current political uncertainty poses a serious risk to continued reforms and economic recovery in Ukraine.

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Sources

ANS – Ukraine – A presence among the poor

World Bank – Ukraine

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