In Crimea, faith-based summer camps bring ray of hope

MANY FAMILIES in Crimea cannot afford to go on summer holidays. As soon as school closes for the summer, many children have to spend their time on the streets while their parents earn a living. To offer children and adolescents meaningful activities and prospects in regions where Christians are living under difficult conditions, Aid to the Church in Need

The difficult economic situation in Crimea is getting worse and worse: since the Ukrainian peninsula in the Black Sea was annexed by Russia in March 2014, wages and earnings have decreased while prices, particularly those of food, have soared. A situation that most negatively impacts the poorer part of the population.

In comparison to 2013, salaries in the first half of 2017 dropped by 18 percent and pensions by 14 percent,” reported Roman Catholic Bishop Jacek Pyl, OMI, of Odessa-Simferopol. He continued: “The average pension in Crimea is only about 8500 roubles, or $120 a month. Every third person is at risk of sliding into poverty in the near future.” Plus, while earnings have decreased, the cost of living has skyrocketed due to the import ban on foods such as meat, fish, milk products, vegetables, fruit and nuts that Russia imposed in response to sanctions: “The prices of these and other products have doubled within the country since 2014 and the prices of many everyday items have even tripled in Crimea,” the bishop said.

According to Bishop Pyl, the increase in the number of families in Crimea that are living below the poverty line has been particularly steep. The risk of poverty for families with up to two children is 66 percent, for families with three or more children it is even up to 78 per cent. Many families cannot afford to go on holiday. “However, the risk of becoming addicted to computers, the internet, drugs or alcohol is particularly high for children and adolescents who spend their holidays on the streets, bored,” explained the bishop, who thanked ACN for its support of two holiday camps held in Crimea with the theme “Holidays with God.” These ACN projects are offered to young people irrespective of their religious background.

Bishop Pyl

One of the participants, Bogdan Loginov, described the time he spent at the holiday camp, which was run by religious sisters: “In addition to the many nice activities, we learned a lot of new things in catechesis during the holiday camp. It was never boring and I made a lot of new friends. If it hadn’t been for the camp, this summer would have gone by without anything meaningful happening. I am hoping that it will be held again next year.”

“This is the age at which many young people have a lot of unanswered questions: how should I live, who do I want to be and what should I live for? These summer camps are not just about recuperation, but also about the future of the country and the Church, because it is very important to communicate and live Christian values,” Bishop Pyl said.

ACN donated more than $360,000 this year to support 30 summer camp projects for children and adolescents in various countries around the world.

—Matthias Böhnke