In Ukraine, as well as other places around the world, there is an ethnic people group known as the “Roma people.” These people came mostly from Northern India. Oftentimes, they are more commonly referred to as “gypsies.” There are more than 40,000 Roma people in Ukraine, and they are a people group in great need. Most of them live in isolation in their villages. These areas are characterized by poverty, misery and filth. They are often not accepted in the Ukrainian society. For example, Ukrainian parents do not want their children mixed with Roma children at school. The Roma people themselves do not pay enough attention to education, therefore, many young Roma people are illiterate. Sadly, this creates difficulties for their future, especially when it comes to employment. And, consequently, it is widely believed that Gypsies do not work, but only steal. As this is a vicious circle, their children repeat the fate of their parents. In order to break this cycle, there is a need to help the younger generation to get an education, to prepare them for a profession and then teach them to work.
One way that ServeNow is serving the Roma people is by training several of the young girls at our bakery (read more here about the ServeNow Bakery). Another way is through our Christmas gift distribution program each year. Here are two stories from this past Christmas program that served the Roma people in Ukraine:
This is a Roma family with six children who live according to the Roma traditions. They have a simple and poor home, very few belongings and the children are dressed very poorly. These children walk without socks or hats in winter time, their clothes are usually the wrong size. Usually, having clothes in different sizes means that everything is commonly owned and can easily be shared among all the brothers and sisters. The children in this family were so glad to receive Christmas presents! They liked the toys and school supplies especially. These are items that they usually don’t get. Now, the children have pencils, notebooks and coloring books. One of the children, Samir, loved his toy car in particular.
This is a father with one of his four children. The parents are very young, as is customary for Roma families. Frequently, the marriage age is around fifteen and sixteen years old. The women bear children, they don’t have any special education, and sometimes they even don’t know how to read or write. In fact, they feel that they don’t need an education to live the life they lead. They live so lowly, so simply, and they thank God for each passing day. The presents we, as ServeNow, brought were treasured by the children. They found coloring books and pencils inside their Christmas boxes! These are things that nobody will ever buy them. The children immediately put on everything that found in the boxes; hats, scarves, socks, etc. Everyone was so happy and so thankful for these for gifts.
***While you may not be thinking about Christmas yet, we want to invite you to join us January 2-11, 2017, to be a part of serving the Roma people, refugees, orphans, disabled and elderly people in Ukraine through our Christmas program! Check out our Ukraine Christmas Mission Trip on our website, send in an application and we will help you get started in preparing for the trip! Check out this article regarding common concerns: Why Go?