Malnutrition is surprisingly prevalent in Russia. Many elders are living on tiny pensions and can barely afford food. Children with weak bone formation caused by insufficient Vitamin D are everywhere. Mothers ignore their own medical problems in order to pay for their families’ groceries. To make a dent in the problem, we have developed several programs that involve free meals or nutrition supplements.
For years, we operated a soup kitchen downtown, which allowed elderly residents on tight incomes to gather during the week for companionship and a decent mid-day meal. However, bus fare became a difficulty for many of our attendees, so in 2016, we discontinued the soup kitchen and began distributing food packets. Now, the elderly poor can receive terrific packages of canned meats, condensed milk, pasta, flour, tea, oats, and other foods. None of the items require refrigeration. The City Social Services Department helps us identify needy individuals who would benefit. Packets cost us only $12 apiece and are distributed monthly.
Lesozavodsk Children’s Center
Lesozavodsk is about 250 miles northeast of Vladivostok, is home to more than 45,000 people, and has an astronomical unemployment rate due to the closure of many industries. We have been active in this city since 1999, when our parishioners began gathering for Mass in the facilities of the Society for the Blind. We also work with the city’s Social Services Department to locate and assist families that are in the most desperate need.
After seeing children raiding dumpsters and begging for food in the streets, Fr. Myron and parish trustee Victor Pisarenko set about finding sponsors and volunteers to alleviate the situation. Since 2003, the parish has been providing once weekly meals to poor, abused, and neglected children. The program truly needs to expand, but funding is not available.
Food assistance for individual families is often provided through our Guardian Angel program. Through monthly sponsorships, mission supporters can serve as “guardian angels” to children whose families need help buying food, medicine, school books, clothing, heating oil, or other necessities.
Finally, our Women’s Support Centers remain in touch with new moms who need material assistance after the birth of their babies. Often, they need formula or baby food, as well as information on their infants’ nutritional needs. Fortunately, we are able to save money by buying formula and baby food in bulk, so we always have the needed items on hand.
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