Our Response to COVID-19
Keep checking this page for information related to Last Bell’s ministry to orphanage graduates and the coronavirus pandemic. Last updated: 3/24/20
This is a difficult time for everyone. For those at risk or already struggling, like the orphanage graduates we serve, the situation seems especially bleak.
Ukraine faces the same challenge as the States. Large gatherings are prohibited, businesses shut down, church services canceled – including the churches where many of our orphanage graduates find community.
The Kyiv metro is closed. The first death was in the Zhytomyr region, now in a state of emergency along with several other regions. Buses are limited, and everything but grocery stores and pharmacies are shut down.
The Kyiv Post is a good source of COVID-19 news in Ukraine.
Health and Safety First
Our first concern is health, so we’ve canceled our monthly Stop the Cycle meetings and closed our Day Center. Shelter residents are only going out for fresh air. Young orphan students often have little understanding of hygiene; they are a higher risk to themselves and to others. We’re educating them about hand-washing, social distancing, and valid news sources.
Meeting Emotional Needs
Orphanage graduates have already experienced trauma and neglect. Now, the adults they trust are unavailable. They face the same social isolation as everyone else, but many lack the mental and emotional tools to handle it.
Usually, each staff member has an active caseload of five orphanage graduates. But dozens of students attend youth meetings and events, and now we aren’t seeing them. So we’re making a special effort to let these youth know they are loved and part of our community.
We’re still meeting with some youth one-to-one, and extensively online and by phone. We’re actively reaching out to orphanage graduates of all ages, individuals and families, and responding to emotional needs and crises.
Meeting Physical Needs
Many orphanage grads work entry-level jobs in cafes, shops, and other places where hours may be cut. We’re ready to help with groceries, even rent if needed. Most Ukrainians use public transportation, so with buses limited, we’ll use our two vehicles to help orphanage grads with transportation, if, for example, the closest grocery store is closed. We’re working to source hand sanitizer for our youth. We’ll keep flexing to meet new needs as they arise.
Using the Time Wisely
Right now, our small Restoration Project crew has the supplies to keep working. One project is crew member Tolik’s home. But they’re also helping renovate the Day Center while students are away, including the installation of new tiles in the living room, thanks to funds from a supporting church.
How You Can Help
Please pray for health for our staff, youth, and families, including the small children at the Shelter, where illnesses get passed around. Pray especially for sick staff members (no COVID-19 yet), and one recovering from minor surgery. We need our whole team! Pray that income and housing will be stable for orphanage grads. Pray also for mental health and spiritual growth, even when no one can attend youth meetings or church.
Pray for former orphan and part-time staffer Anya Hrobust. Zhytomyr’s hospital is sectioning off a ward for patients with cold, flu, and COVID-19 symptoms. Anya will be the receiving doctor starting in late March.
This is a great time to write a note of encouragement or prayer for orphanage graduates or staff. Children could draw pictures or write letters for our Stop the Cycle kids who are similarly stuck at home. Teens and young adults could write to orphan students. Email notes or photos of drawings/letters to Emily and she will pass them along. Be creative!
Orphanage graduates are vulnerable during a crisis. Some will lose income. Many have pre-existing health conditions. We’ll help with groceries, utilities, housing security, transportation, and other needs. In medical emergencies, our staff are on the front lines, advocating and paying for medical care. If your income isn’t affected by the pandemic, would you consider a gift to meet these extra needs?
As of mid-March, two volunteer trips, an English camp, and a series of Dad camps have been canceled. We’re still making decisions about July and August camps, but making contingency plans as well; these are an important part of onboarding orphanage graduates and we will need to develop relationships with them in the absence of camps.
Keep checking this space for updates related to the COVID-19 outbreak and our work with orphanage graduates. Thank you!