Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Blog #2 - Signs of Concern and Signs of Optimism

rusted items recovered from a well

Signs of concern and signs of optimism
One of the few disadvantages of being here in summer is the heat. Fortunately it isn’t that bad this year with temperatures hovering in the low-to mid-30s. I recall a previous year where Molochansk was sweltering with temperatures in the mid-40s and few people had air conditioning.  Air conditioners, balancing in windows and dripping condensation outside, are common now in the shops, but are still seen as a luxury in homes. One of the long-standing myths in this culture is that moving air will give you a cold. Our staff at the Mennonite Centre obviously believed the myth, because they were opposed to introducing even simple fans, much less air conditioners. Eventually we insisted that the kitchen needed an air conditioner.  After it was installed, the cook bowed before Linda with clasped hands, and said thank you!
The real weather problem in this area continues to be lack of rain. According to the locals, the Kuruschan river, which is north of the village of Tiege (now Orlovo) is dry for the first time in memory.  In fact someone dug a meter into the dry river bed and found absolutely  no sign of water. Recently a farmer cleaned out his old Mennonite well and found old artifacts such as medicine bottles and rusted tools.  This year selling hay seems to be one of the few ways of making money. People say the rains have gone east.
When travelling through the villages of Schoenau (Dolina), Fischau(Rybalovka), Lindenau (Lyubimovka) on the road from Molochansk to Melitopol, you see more abandoned buildings, less gardens, more weeds and the occasional roadside stand  with a bucket of small apples. The regional centres such as Tokmak and Melitopol seem to be doing quite well. Villages closer to the regional centres Lakekopp (which is absorbed into Tokmak), Petershagen (Kutusovka), and Halbstadt (Molochansk) are benefitting from the growth in Tokmak and from the closing of schools and services in other smaller villages. Lichtenau (Svetlodolinskoye) has residents who work in Melitopol. Car and truck traffic continues to increase on roads that were originally built to move farm equipment and light traffic. 

View of Tiege through window of  Maria School for the Deaf
I even discovered that someone in Molochansk is dealing directly with a factory in China making computer tablet covers with a keyboard. He has distributors in the Zaporozhye area. At times one feels that Ukraine is looking east, not to Russia, but beyond to China, Korea and Japan and south to the Middle East. The neighbouring kindergarten school just got a major makeover with new windows apparently funded with greenhouse gas emission allowances from Japan.  Koreans and Middle Eastern countries are investing in long term leases of land in the area.
The real challenge in Ukraine is ensuring that growth and development benefits seniors, the unemployed, youth and children. In the meantime we continue to make a difference in people’s everyday lives.

Restored Kindergarten School

Contribute to the work of the Mennonite Centre in Ukraine by donating to “Friends of the Mennonite Centre in Ukraine".  All cheques should be mailed to George Dyck, Treasurer, 3675 North Service Rd, Beamsville, Ontario, Canada - L0R 1B1.
If you wish to donate online go to the website www.canadahelps.org, key in “Mennonite Centre Ukraine” and click on the search button. Then click on “View Profile” and then “Donate Now”.
Thank You!

Ben Stobbe

Monday, August 19, 2013

A New Start

Drying sheets at Seniors Home

Waves of stifling, sticky heat greeted me as I arrived at the Dnepropetrovsk airport on Wednesday afternoon, the 14th of August.  The thermometer said it was 37 degrees – one of the hotter days this summer!  I was expecting our directors, Dema and Olga, to be there to greet me, but they were nowhere to be seen.  Anxious thoughts crept into my mind.  “Did I give them the wrong information”or“what if they were in an accident”?  Now what should I do?  Thankfully, it didn’t take long before our recently acquired dark brown VW Van dieseled its way into the parking lot.  Gone were my concerns about wrong information and fender-benders!  They simply had been caught in heavy traffic. 

Our conversation during the trip to Molochansk was filled with business: new proposals, update on projects, scheduling arrangements, and, of course, the obligatory trip to McDonalds to get a quick “keep awake” snack. Olga, our Director from Zaporozhye, is a highly organized, list-oriented person who presented us with four points for our information.  Dema used his story-telling gift to report on the stories behind current various projects.   By the time I got into our apartment and fell into my first sleep, I thought I had a pretty good idea of the tasks that lay ahead. 

Every year when I come to Molochansk, it seems that I fall into the same old trap.  I know what’s on my list of tasks for the day, but somehow the day never quite turns out as I had planned.  On my first day at the Center, the Seniors Home in Molochansk had a list of requests for us to consider, the “young families” group from the church invited me to attend a camping retreat, Probation Officers asked me to speak at a meeting, and a lady came in, requesting funds for surgery but couldn’t get the hospital to release the medical documentation.

In all my interactions with people here in Molochansk, I sense they want to express their condolences at Linda’s passing, but they don’t know how to bring up the topic.  I’ve discovered that if I begin to talk about her life and my memories of her, they become free to express their own sadness and grief. Their moistened eyes, bitten lips and outstretched arms go beyond language. Then in a hug I hear, “welcome home” and I know why I came back.


Lino request for Seniors Home