Pandemic Impacts Partners in Ukraine
The impact of COVID has been felt around the world in different ways. Here in BC, we have experienced a variety of restrictions during the first two phases of response to the pandemic. In Ukraine, our colleagues at the Florence Centre spent two months in complete lockdown. It was a challenge to support the people they serve but just as with our staff here, the staff there found creative ways to stay connected.
“My staff team is young, innovative and creative,” Director Lucy Romanenkova says proudly.
The Florence Centre is a unique community development program located in Zaporozhye, Ukraine. Communitas, in connection with the Canada Ukraine Agrarian Development Inc., has partnered with The Florence Centre since 2007. The organization supports children, adults, and families who live with disabilities and mental health issues, and who have experienced abuse and addiction. Families who once kept their children at home, ashamed of their disabilities, have found support at the Florence Centre.
But when the pandemic forced a lockdown in Ukraine, staff there were no longer able to meet with families or have the children and youth come to the centre for services. They had to adapt.
From mid-March until nearly the end of May, staff connected with families by phone or through Viber – an online platform similar to Zoom. Staff created demonstration videos for parents to give them specific activities to do with their children. They also made use of Facebook to make recommendations for families and other followers on ways to deal with stress and other mental health challenges caused by isolation. As a staff, they were also committed to their own continued professional development.
“Staff took part in online seminars, lectures and training courses and prepared research articles for conferences,” Lucy says.
Recently, life in Ukraine has begun to open up again with some restrictions in place. At The Florence Centre, they have returned to a regular schedule for children but staff meet with them outdoors. Masks, materials for sanitization, thermometers, and other equipment have been provided. As a precaution, parents are still not allowed to go into the centre. After months of lockdown, Lucy says that staff have returned to work energized and eager to try the new things they have learned.
“I am very proud of their devotion to their work and the unconditional love they have for all children,” she says.
Karyn Santiago, CEO of Communitas, says the stories that Lucy has shared about her team show that the pandemic has impacted people of diverse abilities all around the globe. Whether in Ukraine or in Canada, COVID has also brought out the best in those who provide support and care.
“What I have appreciated about these stories are the common experiences of staff creativity, a ‘can-do’ spirit, and a commitment to finding new ways to keep serving and giving,” she says.
Lucy is grateful for the connection to Communitas. The fact that their colleagues half way around the world not only think of and remember them but also support them fills her with gratitude.
“I want to say ‘thank you’ to Karyn (the CEO of Communitas) and all the staff at Communitas for being wonderful partners,” she says. “Your presence in the life of the Florence Centre has helped many, many people in the Ukraine. God bless all of you!”