Archives For Ukraine

Jeff meeting with farmers in Ukraine

by Jeff Rutt, Founder & Board Chair of HOPE International, Founder & CEO of Keystone Custom Homes, excerpted from the foreword to Created to Flourish

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine faced a debilitating economic crisis, leaving many without enough food to eat or clothes to wear. Along with others in my church, I felt compelled to respond. There were people who were hungry, who needed shelter, who didn’t have the hope of Jesus Christ. As we read in Isaiah 58:7, God has a specific idea about how we should translate our faith into action:

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

We couldn’t turn away, so my church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, established a partnership with Pastor Leonid Petrenko and his church in Zaporozhye, a city located along the Dnieper River in southeastern Ukraine. We wanted to respond not just with money or donations but through building relationships. We greatly desired to join together as communities of faith seeking mutual encouragement.

Eager to respond to pressing needs, we began transporting containers of flour, rice, canned meat, clothing, and medical supplies. It seemed like a way we could care for the physical needs of our global neighbors, following Jesus’ command that if you have two tunics, you should give one away.

Before long, distributing the donated food and supplies to the people of his church and community had become a regular part of Pastor Petrenko’s job. Continue Reading…

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Nestled in the mountains of western Ukraine, the small town of Khust boasts some of the country’s greatest mountain biking trails. Tourists from all over the world come to experience the region’s beauty. For Lesya Login, a native of Khust, biking is a deep passion—something she and her husband, Nicholai, dreamed of sharing with others.

Early in their marriage, Lesya worked as a coach at a school while Nicholai worked as a bike repairman. They dreamed of one day starting their own business selling bikes. After Lesya purchased and sold several bikes to test out their idea, she was convinced that the business would work—but the Logins lacked the capital needed to get it off the ground.

As Lesya sought a solution, commercial banks repeatedly denied her loan applications, doubtful that someone so young—just 22 years old at the time—and with no business experience would be able to repay. Determined, Lesya continued to search for a bank that would give her a loan. That’s when their neighbor, Michael, told Lesya and Nicholai about the organization he worked for: HOPE 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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