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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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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.
Anna Edelstein

Selling handbags in a Ukrainian market enables Anna Edelstein to assist her husband in providing for their 3-year-old son, Yaroslav. She has received two loans—for $560 and $750—that have helped her significantly expand her inventory. When asked to describe HOPE’s impact on her family, Anna responded, “We have joy; we have income; we have subsistence.”