Archives For Ukraine

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by Elena Cret, Field Communications Fellow in Eastern Europe

When you think about what you are thankful for, one of the first things that comes to mind may be your family. Family is such a blessing from God that sometimes we take it for granted. As I have traveled and interviewed various clients in Eastern Europe for HOPE International, I have heard from many that the biggest motivation for opening their business was their family. Because jobs are so scarce, many people have to leave home to find work, so it’s been encouraging to see how HOPE’s services have made it possible for families to live under the same roof.

Vasea, a client who grows strawberries in the Vinogradov region of western Ukraine, told me: “I worked for three years in Slovakia in open fields to be a provider for my family, but, at the same time, I was away from my family. I wanted to be close to them. I wanted to see how my three kids were growing.” Vasea decided to return home, purchase some land, and start investing in it. Continue Reading…

Agriculture client in Ukraine

How can we design products based on feedback we’re hearing from clients? This was the question the HOPE Ukraine team sought to answer at a three-day retreat in July, using a process based on IDEO’s human-centered design approach. After collecting client feedback, HOPE Ukraine wanted to step back and brainstorm ideas based on their potential impact on clients. According to Dan Williams, HOPE’s director of spiritual integration:

It can be really easy to go into an operational mindset, to start problem solving, and to think about ideas from the perspective of, “Will it work?” without letting ourselves live in that space of, “What are our clients saying is important to them, and can we find a way to make it work even if our immediate response is that it would be tough?”

The process

First, the team dived into client feedback and came up with a number of observations, which they grouped into themes.

1.1 Grouping observations

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Marya

Each year, HOPE celebrates clients who demonstrate HOPE’s values of perseverance, compassion, character, and creativity by announcing the Thurman Award. Established in honor of HOPE’s first CEO and his wife, the Thurman Award celebrates clients who have not only experienced change in their own lives but have also extended that transformation to others in their community. We’re excited to share the story of Marya, this year’s honorable mention from Eastern Europe!

There came a time when Marya Wozniak had to ask herself, “How much is enough?” For a number of years, her hard-working instinct, coupled with her circumstances as a single mother, led Marya to pursue business growth wholeheartedly. After all, when her husband abandoned the family, she was left to feed, clothe, house, and educate their three children on her income alone.

Marya worked diligently in the market of Drogobych, Ukraine, selling embroidery thread from a small table. After much hard work, she expanded from a table to a rented room. With small loans from HOPE Ukraine, Marya purchased her own storefront and transitioned to a confectionary shop, where she sells both homemade and purchased sweets and candies. Her income helped her children attend college and even become established in businesses of their own.

Redefining success

Since Marya became a HOPE Ukraine client in 2008, she’s developed deep relationships with staff members. “HOPE Ukraine staff is my family,” she says of the support she has found in her loan officer and others. These relationships opened the door for more than just business support.

Marya always considered herself a very moral and religious woman, but as she built relationships with HOPE’s staff, she began to hear them speak about a relationship with Jesus Christ. They shared that each one of us needs a Savior, regardless of our good deeds. Since she respected and cared for HOPE Ukraine’s staff, Marya reflected on their words and their lives. She began to contemplate salvation and started attending services at a local church—where she offered her life to Jesus and was baptized.
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Each year, HOPE celebrates a client who demonstrates HOPE’s values of perseverance, compassion, character, and creativity by announcing the Thurman Award winner. Established in honor of HOPE’s first CEO and his wife, the Thurman Award celebrates clients who have not only experienced change in their own lives but have also extended that transformation to others in their community. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be posting the stories of this year’s honorable mentions and overall winner.

When Elena Borisenko speaks, people listen. Throughout her community in Kamenka-Dneprovskaya, Ukraine, she’s seen as a woman of influence, not only because of her charismatic personality but also because of the changes she has seen as a successful businesswoman and a committed follower of Jesus Christ.

Hungry to learn

As a child, Elena loved the land and enjoyed tending her family’s garden, where new life was always sprouting. She moved to the city to attend college and continued living there after graduation. But when her mother was diagnosed with cancer, Elena immediately moved home to care for her. Together, the two women cried out to God. In time, Elena’s mother grew healthy and strong again, and the answered prayer left Elena hungry to know more about Christ.

While living with her mother, Elena met and married her now-husband. She soon gave birth to a son. With her husband’s encouragement, Elena left her job at a local post office and began growing tomatoes. She and her husband built a greenhouse using income from his job at a feed mill, and Elena says her family had everything they desired.

In 2006, Elena’s husband fell seriously ill. Doctors offered little hope, and Elena again put her hope in the Lord. She prayed fervently for her husband, and from his hospital bed, he dreamed that a powerful ray of light ascended from Elena to the sky and then entered his body. “From that moment I got better,” he testifies. After this, Elena’s faith was strong, but she still hungered to grow spiritually.

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In light of months of unrest in Ukraine, and especially with this week’s escalating violence, Ukraine weighs heavily on the hearts of HOPE’s staff and partners. Ukraine is the place where HOPE’s work and the Tomorrow Clubs first took root, and we know this instability will undoubtedly impact the 14,000+ individuals served by both ministries nationwide.

Because HOPE Ukraine does not serve clients in Kiev, we’re thankful that those we serve are not living in close proximity to the violence. Throughout this time, we’ve been in regular communication with our staff and have been conducting business in normal ways. We will continue to closely monitor political developments in the capital as they unfold.

Amid uncertainty and hopelessness, HOPE Ukraine’s leaders rejoice that we have an incredible opportunity to share our experiences of hope and eternal assurance in knowing Christ. We eagerly invite you to join us in prayer for Ukraine and for our work there in the following ways:

  • Pray for a quick and peaceful resolution to the unrest. Pray that a recently announced agreement, brokered with the help of European Union representatives, would hold and bring an end to the crisis.
  • There have been serious fluctuations in Ukraine’s currency exchange rates in the past two months, and this may result in Ukraine defaulting on national debt. These fluctuations may also trigger rising inflation and an increase in business costs for HOPE Ukraine clients purchasing goods from abroad. Pray for wisdom for Ukraine’s leaders and solutions to ongoing economic challenges.
  • Pray that God would provide for clients’ needs as they manage disruptions to their supply chains, transportation, schedules, and business operations in the coming months.
  • Pray that God’s presence would be made known in the midst of uncertainty, and that the local Church would find many opportunities to share the love of Christ with their neighbors.
  • Pray for the political, economic, and civil future of Ukraine.

When I traveled to Ukraine last January, I was unprepared for several things. The first was the below-zero temperatures, as the country experienced its coldest winter in years. When I arrived bundled in the warmest clothes I owned, I was roundly scolded by our local staff for not listening to their advice to bring warm clothing—as they loaned me something more suitable.

The other surprise came more gradually as I talked with staff and clients and realized the impact of widespread corruption and fraud on people’s perceptions of the future. That the government and its laws would actively obstruct its citizens was expected, a given, and it changed the way people spoke about their dreams.

Oksana

When I talked with Oksana, for example, she proudly told me of how she had used HOPE’s loans to successfully expand her small market stall selling coffee and tea. She now had two stalls and employed one person, and she’d used her profits to send her daughter to college and make improvements to her home.

But when I asked her about the future, she said she’d have to move to another country in order to fulfill her dream of opening a small coffee shop. Ukraine’s current economic and political situation, she explained, would make opening her own shop nearly impossible.

I’ve been thinking of this lately as I read about the protests in Ukraine over the government’s decision not to sign an agreement with the European Union. HOPE has a long history in Ukraine—it’s where we first started distributing loans 16 years ago. We’ve seen men and women exhibit ingenuity, determination, and hard work as they seek to provide for their families despite the corruption and uncertainty.

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