Church initiatives care for children displaced by war in Ukraine

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The war in Ukraine has displaced over 14 million people and almost half of them have not left the country. The millions of those who remain—including many children—survive with help from humanitarian aid organizations. 

The International Catholic Migration Commission is one of the many Church organizations that supports refugees. Its Secretary General, Monsignor Robert Vitillo, recalls how shocked he was to see the effects of war on children.

Secretary General of the International Catholic Migration Commission
I visited many of the centers that the Church has put on their disposition and heard from the children about many of their fears—about waking up at night because they could hear bombs; about the loss some of them had witnessed of people being killed right before their eyes during the bombings; about how they felt so bad that they had to leave their homes and wanted to go back to them and yet some of them even knew that their homes had already been destroyed through the bombings.

The International Catholic Migration Commission collaborates with other humanitarian organizations such as the Houses of Mercy that take in displaced people. One of its homes is in Chortkiv, Ukraine. It is run by Sister Josephata, who cares for a group of children abandoned during the war. In the house, she tries to recreate a family environment where they can grow up. 

Secretary General of the International Catholic Migration Commission

I think that it's really important that if Ukraine returns to peace that it not recreate these big institutions but that it have small models of family care. And also that it provides the kind of social support to the biological parents. Some of them have left their children in institutions only because they couldn't afford to feed their children.

Another House of Mercy is run by Tetiana Dubyna and is dedicated to serving children with special needs. Because of the war, the house has also received other displaced people. Given the large amount of people who are welcomed in the house, Monsignor Vitillo was surprised by Tetiana's personal relationship with each of them.

Secretary General of the International Catholic Migration Commission
She knew intimately every single child, elderly person and adult who needed care there. There were a number of young women who have been victims of sexual and gender-based violence, had been raped, sometimes children were born as a result of that violence. She was caring for them to heal their psychological and physical wounds as well as trying to help them develop a relationship with the children.

Monsignor Vitillo assures the groundwork of the many humanitarian organizations in Ukraine have made an incredible impact, especially in the lives of children.


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