Wee Box Appeal goes the extra mile
Staff at a Glasgow-based humanitarian charity heard first-hand how their organisation is providing a lifeline in war-torn Ukraine, seven months into the conflict.
Tetiana Stawnychy, President of Caritas Ukraine, visited the offices of Sciaf, the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, and gave a moving update on the situation in her homeland.
The aid group works as part of the Caritas Internationalis network, the second largest humanitarian network in the world with member organisations in over 160 countries, meaning it’s able to get support to people who need it much more quickly and effectively.
This year’s its Wee Box appeal was unique, coinciding with the outbreak of war in Ukraine late February. But despite this, Scots continued to dig deep - for both causes – resulting in the amazing sum of £2.5 million being raised.
The annual Sciaf Wee Box appeal itself raised over £820,000, while there was overwhelming support for Ukraine - with over £1.7 million raised to date. This included £500,000 from the Scottish Government.
Tetiana said: “Nobody really believed the invasion would happen, but we planned ahead, plugging into our local networks. This meant that when war did start, we didn’t miss a beat.
“We’ve been working with people who have lost everything. And they immediately felt the embrace of Caritas. People who have been through such trauma don’t just need food and shelter, they need kindness; they need a kind hand. And that’s where we come in.”
Tetiana was also able to give an idea of the scale of the Caritas Ukraine operation. It has expanded from 20 to 37 centres, but also has the reach of 448 parish hubs, in both urban and rural locations.
“In the first seven months of the conflict, we have helped around 1.8 million people, with the support of our 1,400 people on the ground,” added Tetiana.
“One woman we helped told us she was heartbroken; she had lost everything. Since finding Caritas though, she has become a case manager, dealing with individuals complex needs, many having fled with no documentation. She told us simply – with every person she now helps, part of her heart heals.”
As winter approaches, the priority now for Caritas Ukraine is shelter and helping people to repair their homes. She told how, by attacking power stations, the invading forces were ‘weaponising the cold’ against her people.
Tetiana also touched on how, as a team, they keep going.
She said: “I can’t begin to explain what it felt like. It was like an assault on a huge scale. We were in shock. But we are being saved by being in Caritas. I want to thank our friends in Scotland who have been so generous through Sciaf.
“We are holding the front line of love! That is how we will win.”
One Sciaf staff member was very moved by the presentation and found Tetiana’s perspective fascinating.
Lorraine Currie said: “In a 20 minute talk Tetiana embodied the meaning of Caritas and our main purpose - she did not bombard us with statistics, budgets, number of services delivered and moral codes but talked about serving with love and respect and strengthening families, communities and solidarity among people and the need for spiritual healing and prayer.
“Her talk embodied the essence of Caritas i.e. all Caritas agencies including Sciaf as Sciaf is the Caritas member in Scotland. Caritas means Charity (Love).It’s the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity.
“I loved the example Tetiana gave of the lady who had been displaced several times and lost everything but that was now working in one of Caritas’ centres. Helping newly displaced people is helping her to heal, to feel part of a community and giving her a sense of purpose and belonging. It’s giving her hope for the future.
“She reminded me of the purpose of why I work for Sciaf. She re-ignited my passion for our core mission which is to love, respect and learn from the communities we serve.”