Since coming to Vladivostok, our priests have initiated a variety of programs to help those in need. Over time, the programs have changed due to changing circumstances. For example, we once ran a program that provided lunches for street children. But over time, that activity was slowly adopted by local government social service programs.
Read on to see how we continue to help the elderly, children, large families, and those dealing with substance abuse issues.
When Fr. Myron and Fr. Dan first came to Russia, few people even discussed alcoholism as a problem. But, in time, Fr. Myron met Dr. Sergei Yakovlev, who was head of the Vladivostok chapter of the Moscow organization No to Alcoholism and Narcotics. Over time, the two spoke to more than 80 school and university classes about alcoholism, its progression as a disease, and the numerous false treatment methods and “cures” that were becoming available.
The Alcoholics Anonymous program came to Vladivostok from Alaska in 1993, and soon the parish began offering space for meetings. In 2003, AA celebrated 10 years in Vladivostok. The event included an open meeting, followed by a reception in our church’s social hall. Annual celebrations continue to this day, although not at our facility because the events have grown so large. The parish continues to provide private space for meetings as well as for all-day seminars.
Visits to the Elderly
For many years we had volunteers who visited the destitute elderly in a hospice facility. But in 2020, the facility moved their patients out and converted to a temporary residence for medical workers caring for Covid-19 patients.
Now we have volunteers who visit the elderly at home. The volunteers check on their health, run errands for them, and even take them shopping. We cover the volunteers’ expenses and also provide small stipends.
We operate a food program that provides terrific packages of canned meats, condensed milk, pasta, flour, tea, oats, and other items for the elderly poor. None of the items require refrigeration. The City Social Services Department helps us identify needy individuals who would benefit. Packets cost us only $12 each.
From time to time, parishioners are faced with an emergency situation or some other unpleasant surprise. Elderly parishioners learn they need a life-saving surgery. People with diabetes need help paying for insulin. The school year is starting and the parents of a large family cannot pay for school supplies. A parishioner who helps us with maintenance and repairs discovers his tools have been stolen. In such situations, we are careful to verify the need, then do our best to help through one of our emergency funds. On many occasions, recipients have paid us back over time.
After-School Center in Romanovka
The Sisters of Charity of St. Anne operate an after-school center in Romanovka called Tropinka (Pathway). The facility includes a music room, a library, craft room, costume room, a hallway with hopscotch, and a sizeable play room. In addition, there is a large eat-in kitchen with tables and benches where kids can do their homework, eat lunch, and enjoy after-school snacks.
The children can also take piano lessons on Friday or guitar lessons on Saturday. Each spring, they even have the chance to help with the center’s garden.
Many of the children are abused or neglected at home due to the alcoholism of their parents. But at Tropinka, they have a safe place to spend the afternoon while enjoying activities and snacks. Generous donors from the Vladivostok parish and from the Far Eastern Federal University have provided food staples for the center, but other support comes from outside the country. We also help by providing the visas for the foreign sisters working there.
Children’s Program in Lesozavodsk
Lesozavodsk is a city of 45,000 people where many factories have closed and work is hard to find. The city’s Social Services Department tracks families that are in “dangerous” or “critical” situations due to their poverty and other social conditions. Our parish of the Visitation by Mary of Elizabeth has worked with the city since 1999, when we bought a building in an area where 80% of the residents are very poor.
Our parish trustee, Victor Pisarenko, noticed that some local kids were looking for food in garbage bins and many others were begging in the streets. He and Fr. Myron worked to find parish volunteers and sponsors who could help alleviate the situation. In 2003, the parish began to offer once-weekly meals to the children. Now, about 70 kids show up every Saturday. If they need clothing, we provide it for them. (Our Women’s Support Center in Lesozavodsk gathers and distributes good, clean used clothing for people of all ages.) We have also started Bible classes, art classes, and a singing group.
We would love to expand the program, pattern it after the Tropinka program in Romanovka, and also see what the children need in the way of medical and dental care. Ideally, we hope to have a larger facility and operate the program daily. But right now, space and funding are the main limitations.
In addition to our Saturday program, we also run a week-long summertime religious camp. More information on this program is given in the section on Catechesis and Evangelization.
To contribute to our social service programs, click the button below.