Author: Emily

Special Report: Restoration Project Update

Zingel Home Completed

Many of you generously gave toward two renovation projects last year: Dasha Z.’s apartment, and Natasha K.’s childhood home.

Earlier in 2021, our Restoration Project crew worked hard to restore Dasha’s apartment, and we shared some in-process photos. Now renovation is complete, and the Zingels have a beautiful, safe apartment for their family! Here are a few more photos from the completed project:

Many thanks for your investment in the Zingel family’s future! Safe homes help our Stop the Cycle moms and dads transform patterns of poverty and abandonment into patterns of wholeness and health. 

In Ukraine, All Plans are Flexible

As many of you know, the one rule when visiting Ukraine is that plans will and do change at any time. This holds true for our housing projects too! 

The situation with Natasha’s home has grown more complicated. If she and her two siblings all registered their inheritance, together they would own one room. Other family members have a claim as well. Natasha’s sister hasn’t registered yet due to various personal and family problems, and her brother tried to register but ran into complications. We also discovered that their old house might not hold up under repair work.

We had a backup plan as well. One of Natasha’s relatives had offered a barn to renovate. But he’s now withdrawn the offer.

Registration would still give Natasha the right to use her family property. So our plan is to proceed with helping Natasha and her siblings register, opening up a totally new possibility: building a mobile “tiny house.” 

Our Restoration Project crew has no experience with this kind of project. But we’re excited about the possibilities. A mobile home doesn’t require the same extensive (and expensive) documentation as a standard home, plus it can be relocated if Natasha needs to move. After practicing with Natasha’s home, our crew would be able to replicate the model for other orphanage graduates.

our Restoration Project crew at work on a recent project

This idea comes with many challenges, such as how to decide whose situations require a new tiny home rather than “merely” repair work. And we’re still discerning the wisest way to proceed. We appreciate your prayers for Natasha’s whole situation, which is more complicated than we can explain here! We have set aside the funds you all gave for this project, and will use them for Natasha’s home when we make a final plan.

Natasha is still living at the Shelter, growing spiritually and taking responsibility for her life. She’s studying at a local Bible school for church leaders. Her exam will be speaking in two churches, and she’s preparing a message about parenting from Ephesians 6:1. Thank you for walking alongside this young Christian as she becomes a leader in her community!

Families Healing at Stop the Cycle Camp

Three Stories from Camp with Orphan-Led Families

This year, our Stop the Cycle camp was attended mostly by young families we’d just met. Because of quarantine, it had been difficult to build relationships with them, so camp offered a special opportunity.

Staff couple Yuliana and Sasha shared these stories about drastic changes in the young families who spent camp week with us. Thank you for your part in making it all possible, and praise God for the fruit we see already!

1

Yuliana told a story about one young dad who wanted to leave camp on the second day. So Director Andrey took him to the train station. But the staff prayed, and God answered: he returned to camp. At the end of camp, he thanked everyone, and shared that he’d gotten to know his wife better, realized he needed to change his life, and was open to hearing more about God.

2

Another dad shared with Yuliana that at the age of 22, this was the first time he’d been to the sea. He’d never imagined the sea was so beautiful and pleasant!

On the last day he sat near the shore and looked into the distance for a long time. When Yuliana asked, “What are you thinking about?” he replied, “I think my life will definitely change. I’ve rethought a lot of things here.”

3

Sasha shared a story about Tatyana* and her family. Earlier this summer, at a camp hosted by the organization Young Moms, Tatyana become a Christian. She was worried about how her husband would react. During a home visit, Tatyana talked about how Oleg’s overnight job was hurting his mental health and their relationship.

Then, Tatyana was offered a job at a kindergarten nearby, with a placement for her son—but accepting the job would mean turning down family camp. She chose camp.

Sasha and Yuliana prayed that God would soften Oleg’s heart. At first, he was vehemently against family camp and came up with a lot of excuses not to go. But Tatyana prayed every day and kept asking our staff to pray. Finally, in the last days before camp began, he agreed to go. 

Oleg was very inspired by his camp experience. When they returned home, the whole family began attending Word of Love church where many of our staff go. Oleg also left the job that was causing such problems, and he’s now actively looking for another one. Please pray for provision for this young family as they prioritize their marriage and health! 

*Tatyana and her family’s names have been changed to protect their privacy.

Making New Stories at Camp

Thank you!

Thank you so much to all our friends who gave to Last Bell’s camps this summer! You provided warm afternoons at the sea, honest conversations during evening gatherings, meals together, parents and children playing together, games in the sand… We’re so thankful for you. 

We held two special camps for two special groups of orphanage graduates: our Stop the Cycle families and our Educational Outreach youth. 

Educational Outreach Camp: Learning Forgiveness

Many of our orphaned students are still raw from the way their parents or caregivers treated them—filled with grief, resentment, loss, and loneliness. In this story, shared by staff member Katya T., it’s easy to see how the days and hours at camp draw our youth into trust relationships that bring healing. 

Olya’s mother blamed her little girl for all the family problems. Even before camp, Olya had begun to share with the staff that she couldn’t forget these terrible feelings or forgive her mother. 

Then, toward the end of camp, one of our staff spoke to the group about love and the power of forgiveness. Olya burst into tears. That evening Katya and Olya talked for a long time. Olya poured out her heart. She had tried to forgive her mother, writing all her pain in a letter, but she never finished writing it.  

“I had the opportunity to share my story,” Katya said, “and how God helped me to forgive my dad. We talked about important decisions in her life, and the power of forgiveness—that only God can help, and He wants to help her and loves her very much.” At the end of the conversation, Katya prayed for her.  

After camp, Olya told Katya that she felt like a changed person. She starts her morning with prayer. She expressed her gratitude to Last Bell for her very first trip to the sea—made possible by you!

Happy 15th Anniversary, Last Bell!

On our 15th anniversary (wow!), we’re looking back at 15 years of guidance from God, help from compassionate friends, and the growth of a beautiful community of orphanage graduates! This photo from 2006 includes youth, early staff members, friends from other ministries, and one founding board member. Even before the Shelter opened, Last Bell relationships were beginning. See any familiar faces?


2007 was a big year for Last Bell! We officially opened the doors of the Shelter, which for fourteen years has welcomed orphaned youth in many wonderful ways. We also hired Andrey (now Director Andrey) Pankyeyev and Oksana Pankyeyeva. And it was our first year of camp!


Last Bell was named after “last bell” ceremonies like this one at the end of the Ukrainian schoolyear. For orphans, the final last bell ceremony means aging out into a scary and unpredictable world with no support system. By 2008, Last Bell was consistently serving the graduates of the city orphanage and making sure youth knew they would not be alone after graduation.


In 2009, we took youth on this first “family vacation” (youth camp). We also added staff and a second small drop-in location to accommodate the many young people aging out of the city orphanage. Activities at both locations included Bible Study, English tutoring, independent living skills lessons, and shared meals. On the US side, we received the long-awaited 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, retroactive to 2006.


By 2010, a handful of our youth were moms. Without family support, these young moms needed a lot of practical help and parenting advice. We casually called this ministry “moms and babies,” which later became Stop the Cycle. A recent Stop the Cycle meeting was attended by 58 moms, 92 kids, and several dads!


2011 was a year of building relationships with youth and our community, and planning for the future. Our staff taught life skills lessons right in the city orphanage. And we began planning renovation on the Shelter building for residential care. So many of our youth needed housing!


2012 was another big year! In January, we opened the doors of our first Support Center, home to staff offices, legal help, and counseling. Then, the city orphanage (known as Orphanage #4) closed, and kids were moved to regional orphanages. Our intrepid staff, determined to keep meeting and mentoring new youth, began the work that would later become Educational Outreach. And the Shelter got a makeover!


In 2013, renovation was finally finished, and the Shelter became a residential facility. For the first three years, it was occupied by house parents and many recent orphanage graduates; later it would become crisis housing, primarily for Stop the Cycle moms. We’re so thankful for this warm, welcoming home – provided by the generosity of God’s people – where so many orphaned youth and moms have found a place to belong.


In 2014, a few of our youth studied for and received hairdressing/nail art certificates; we strengthened our relationship with a local moms’ organization, I Am Mom, which hosts our Stop the Cycle meetings; and our staff continued to mentor many orphanage graduates. So much was overshadowed, though, by the annexation of Crimea and the beginning of the fighting at the Russian border. At least one of our young men was called to active duty, and many of our youth and staff knew they could be called up anytime. We appreciate your prayers about the ongoing conflict.


It’s hard to believe it was only six years ago, in 2015, that we officially introduced Educational Outreach! It’s become our primary way to connect with new orphanage graduates. Our staff offer life skills lessons at trade schools, then invite orphaned youth to the Day Center and youth activities, where they’re drawn into our caring community.


2016 was another big year at Last Bell! Our newest program, the Restoration Project, really took off, with our first crew of orphaned young men learning the building trade while they repaired the homes of their fellow orphans. Our youth “graduated” from the Shelter, which transitioned into crisis housing. Right away, staff member Yulia S. met a mom who was a perfect candidate for the Shelter. She needed immediate, substantial help to keep her family together, and the Shelter provided it.


By 2017, our facilities were bursting at the seams! We met over 150 new orphaned youth in 2017 alone. So we moved our support services into a new facility, the Day Center, with lots of room for offices and for bigger gatherings. As soon as our youth became comfortable with the new location, the rooms filled up.


In 2018, Last Bell hired Anya H. part-time. Anya was our second former orphan on staff, following the first, Yulia S., who came on board in 2017. That means over 10% of our staff is drawn from the community we serve, which is so important! We need the skills these women bring – Anya is a doctor, Yulia a nurse – and we value their voices and their vision for the future of orphaned youth in our city.


In 2019, after thirteen years of serving orphaned youth in Zhytomyr, we published our first Impact Report. We love showing off our staff’s hard work, and the lifelong work of our youth as they take hold of opportunities, change their own lives, and create new paths for their families. Our second Impact Report came out in 2021. It featured our new data-gathering on the impact of our programs. The data matched the stories: our model of long-term mentorship and practical help really works.
2018/19 report
2020/21 report


Nobody had planned for 2020! Like nonprofits everywhere, we quickly learned how to get creative about meeting needs. In January we rolled out our new Stop the Cycle mobile unit, which was perfect timing: even in the midst of a pandemic, we were able to meet the needs of orphan moms who live in the villages outside Zhytomyr.


That brings us to 2021 – and the future! We look forward to continuing to serve orphanage graduates in Zhytomyr for the next fifteen years and beyond. Thanks for walking alongside us with your support and prayers!

Making Orphan Care Better in Zhytomyr

Training the next orphan care leaders

In late July, Last Bell Ukraine hosted a training for orphan care leaders on mentorship and basic orphan care principles. Our five newest staff attended (Sasha, Katya, Vitaliy, Sasha, and Lilly), plus friends from Next Generation and Samaritan Ministries, and a few individuals who plan to serve orphans personally. A training like this helps us serve our youth better; according to Director Andrey, it also reinforces our relationships with social services, associates Last Bell with “a higher level of expertise,” and “makes our voice louder” nationally.

Our very newest staff member, Katya, said, “Thanks to this training, I can better understand our youth and look deeper… Three days passed in a single breath. There was a lot of practice, communication, and important information.”

Lilly, another new staff member, was deeply moved by the stories she heard. The training “had a significant impact on our worldview and our real assessment of the situation in Ukraine… This teaching gave us the impetus to keep learning more and to love these special young people!”

Dasha’s dream of being a dental assistant almost died

Housing and tuition can make a dream come true

Dasha dreamed of being a dental hygienist. And while the state provides free education in many fields, this was not the case for dentistry. So Dasha’s grandparents paid for her education from their pensions. It wasn’t easy, especially because Dasha’s grandmother was ill.

Then, a year before graduation, Dasha’s grandmother died and her grandfather began drinking. Dasha was studying hard and didn’t have time to add a job, but somehow needed to pay for housing and tuition. 

So Last Bell stepped in. Our staff helped Dasha find a place in a social dorm, where her cost of living would be reduced. And we were able to help pay for her studies. 

Now, Dasha’s dream has been fulfilled! At graduation, she was so happy about her achievement. Staff member Luba shared, “Thank God for our organization, for people who donate finances for orphans. It’s so important!”

Dasha is looking for a job as a dental assistant. She called Luba recently to make plans. We pray that Dasha experiences God’s deep love through our concern for her future.

Left: Dasha with staff member Lena A.

Your gifts made it possible for us to step in and make sure Dasha’s dream didn’t fall apart after she’d put in so much time and effort. Many thanks for your generosity and your prayers! 

Monthly supporters Dre & Tony tell their story

We’re so thankful for each one of our DRUZI – our recurring donors. Some give monthly and some quarterly. You decide what works for you! 

Andrea and Anthony Kline have been giving to Last Bell monthly for over five years. They shared this testimony about why they love giving to Last Bell:

Thank you for your kind words, friends! We love hearing that Last Bell is a nonprofit our supporters have thoughtfully and prayerfully chosen.

As monthly donors, Dre and Tony are founding members of DRUZI. Will you be the next new member? Even $20 per month helps us invest in long-term mentorship and care of orphaned youth. Learn more about the impact of your monthly gift by clicking “DRUZI” at the top of the page or at this link:

DRUZI

Thanks so much for listening and caring!

What makes a good friend? Introducing DRUZI

Perhaps kindness… interest in your life… patience… gentle admonition when needed… and of course faithfulness even when times are tough. Last Bell’s youth are blessed with the friendship of our staff, volunteers in Ukraine and the USA, and those who give and pray. 

Our new program, DRUZI, names a very special group of friends: recurring donors. “Druzi” means “friends” in Ukrainian. Our DRUZI keep showing up faithfully, month after month!

Even a small recurring gift can make a big impact.

$5 provides tea and snacks for a one-to-one mentorship meeting each month.

$20 provides medication and antibiotics for one child in our Stop the Cycle program each month. 

It’s easy to securely set up a recurring gift by clicking “DRUZI” at the top of the page or this link:

JOIN DRUZI

Your monthly giving shows our young people they are loved, they’re worth investing in, and you believe they have a good future.

Thanks for being a faithful friend,

Megan Hershey
Executive Director

PS: Once a year, DRUZI will have special access to a Zoom call with our Director. Don’t miss out!

Dad Camp leaves Sasha in tears

Last Bell’s two “big camps,” one for Educational Outreach students and one for Stop the Cycle families, will take place in August this year. But some of our families already enjoyed a special weekend in June: a camp for dads and their kids, organized by DADCAMP (Kokomo, IN).

Dad Camp brought in 60 dads and 90 kids from all over Zhytomyr, including a few of our own Stop the Cycle dads. Staff members Yulia, a former orphan, and her husband Sasha, were beneficiaries of our Stop the Cycle program many years ago. Now, they serve as examples of lifelong learning for younger Stop the Cycle parents. Sasha wrote this about his camp experience:

“This is a very important event for fathers and their children… It’s an event that helps to distract dads from the hustle and bustle of work, so they can devote 100% of their time to their children.”

Dad Camp, Sasha said, helps a dad learn about his children’s experiences, and make changes to his own inner life to improve his relationship with his kids. 

Above: Sasha (center) with daughter and American leaders

Dad Camp includes games, crafts, teaching sessions on how to be a better dad, and one-on-one time for kids and dads. Dads and kids worked on gifts for each other; at the end of the week they presented the gifts during a quiet conversation. 

This camp includes games, crafts, teaching sessions on how to be a better dad, and one-on-one time for kids and dads. Dads and kids worked on gifts for each other; at the end of the week they presented the gifts during a quiet conversation. 

Sasha shared that at his first Dad Camp, in 2019, that gift-giving moment with his daughter Ksyusha “ended with tears in my eyes.”

Many thanks to Jason Braun, Brian Hertzog, and Brian’s son Elijah, who ran Dad Camp; and to the four local churches who hosted it. We’re so grateful that Dad Camp came to our city!

After camp in 2019

Stopping the cycle for orphan moms – together

When we work together with our community, more needs are met, and we have the joy of serving side-by-side with great people. 

Over a year ago, our staff met Katerina R. at a conference and learned that she ran a women’s center not far from Kyiv. Katerina and Oksana Pankyeyeva got to know each other, and agreed we would share experience and help. 

Soon after, Katerina visited our Shelter Crisis Center and brought gifts of baby food and diapers. She also put our staff in touch with a lawyer in Zhytomyr who specializes in working with public organizations and now helps prepare documents for our youth.

Then Oksana and driver Sasha, along with orphan mom Olya from the Shelter, visited Katerina’s organization. The Center for Mothers takes in women who have difficulty managing their lives – for example, those who’ve been in prison, homeless women with disabilities, or orphan moms. 

With clients from Katerina’s Center. Katerina is third from the left next to Oksana.

Since then, Katerina has helped in many different ways. Recently, she surprised us with many nice women’s handbags, which we gave to our moms during the big Easter meeting in May.

As Oksana said, “It’s great to be convinced again that we are not alone in God’s field!” We’re so thankful for the many compassionate people in our partner organizations—and for all our caring friends.

These sweet dreams provided by you

Sometimes the needs of our youth are very simple – like a bed to sleep in.

Yana’s parents are deceased, along with three of her eight siblings. After graduation from trade school, the government gave her a small room in a social dorm about thirty minutes from Zhytomyr. Social dorms aren’t meant to be permanent housing, but the room is a good solution for now. Yana just needs to pay electric bills.

Luba visiting Yana at her social dorm

However, she didn’t have a bed. And the social dorm kitchen is in terrible shape!

Staff member Luba often meets with Yana for mentorship and to learn about her needs. At the end of May, Luba and Vasya put your dollars to work on a bed for Yana, which they also helped her install.

Like many Ukrainians in tight spaces, her kitchen will be a single burner plate and an electric kettle. She’s really happy with her little space, and she’s excited about buying dishes and other cooking supplies.

Yana has a severe form of epilepsy, and she’s at the hospital right now for examinations that will help her receive disability status. But she’d like to get a job, too. Thanks for helping Yana dream good dreams for the future… and sweet dreams in her new bed!

Stop the Cycle brings new life to orphan moms

Celebrating New Life

Easter in Ukraine was just a month ago (on the Orthodox calendar) and in May we held a special Easter Stop the Cycle meeting at a local church. These photos, most taken by orphanage graduate Masha P., tell all kinds of stories about our orphan-parented families.

The resurrection of Jesus means the end of sin and death, and His victory promises new life for His children. Stop the Cycle is a whole community blooming with new life!

Stay Up to Date With News, Stories and Events

Last Bell Ministries

Loving and restoring orphanage graduates toward life and community.

Address


PO Box 30671
Indianapolis, IN 46230
info@lastbell.org

Social