by Elena Cret, Field Communications Fellow in Eastern Europe
In Eastern Europe, the Roma community is often ignored by the government and society. The Roma people are seen as a burden, as having very little value. But two years ago, HOPE Ukraine started reaching out to this underserved community. As HOPE Ukraine’s manager for western Ukraine, Pavel, said:
We wanted to serve our community, we wanted to make an impact, and we realized how much the Roma community is overlooked. We wanted to see financial, social, and, most importantly, spiritual changes among the Roma people.
Here are three ways HOPE Ukraine is impacting the Roma:
- Savings and credit associations: These are groups of people who save money together, partnering with the local church. The Roma people have historically been nomadic and often haven’t learned the value of saving money. At these meetings, members also do Bible studies and learn to incorporate financial knowledge with God’s Word. Currently, there are seven active savings groups. Katea, a savings group leader, told me, “We discover through these savings group meetings how purposely to serve our community and seek God’s will through our finances.”
- Tomorrow Clubs: These are weekly Bible clubs where kids and teenagers learn about God’s Word. It can be hard to get an open door to share God’s love with the Roma, but HOPE Ukraine gained trust as they served the community. One of the leaders of the Tomorrow Clubs said, “These kids love learning about God, even if all can’t read the Bible, but all love to hear from the Bible.” Currently, there are five active Tomorrow Clubs in the Roma community.
- School for children: Illiteracy among the Roma community is around 80 percent. HOPE Ukraine collaborates with local teachers and Roma pastors so that, each Saturday, a local teacher comes to a Roma church to teach the kids how to read. Some adults come to these lessons. Madga, one of the teachers I met, said: “It takes me hours to come teach these kids, but it is worth it to know that you can impact someone’s future.” In four Roma villages, local teachers come to teach the kids and adults how to read and write.
When we seek to do His will, God can use us to do amazing things for His glory. Just as HOPE Ukraine seeks to serve and love those who are overlooked by many, let us be encouraged to love and serve those around us.
Elena Cret, originally from Moldova, served HOPE International as eastern Europe field communications fellow. An alumnus of Cairn University in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, she loves road trips, eating international cuisine, and appreciating the beauty of each culture.