There are few countries as intimidating as Russia. A population of 142 million people from 190 ethnic groups spread across the largest country on the planet, covering 11 time zones. Politically, they’re strong and not afraid to flex their muscles. Economically, they are struggling to survive after crippling sanctions were levied against the country in 2014 due to the annexation of Crimea. Because of these sanctions, humanitarian organizations are struggling to find ways to help. All outside humanitarian aid is stopped and burned, buried, or otherwise destroyed at the borders. Many international humanitarian organizations in the country have been kicked out. In the meantime, the continuing sanctions make life more difficult by the day for the average Russian. WHAT CAN BE DONE? Convoy of Hope Europe believes that since outside humanitarian aid is not allowed, we would support local organizations in reaching out to their communities. Investing in these organizations establishes a reputation for generosity in the community, but also helps the local economy from whom the food and resources are purchased. The first event took place in the beginning of November. 1,300 people were reached over three days of coordinated efforts by teams on the ground. The next event will be held in December, an event targeted towards 1,600 young adults in the very heart of Russia. Additional events in different parts of Russia are scheduled for the Summer of 2016. If you would like to be involved, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Northern Ireland is an area not unfamiliar with conflict. The political debate from those who support an independent Ireland pitted against those still loyal to the British crown tore the country apart over the last century, especially over the last four decades. One of the hotbeds of conflict was the city of Derry/Londonderry. A small city of around 107,000 people gained a big reputation when, in January of 1972, they were catapulted into international headlines because of a clash known as “Bloody Sunday”. Fourteen people were killed, and more were wounded in a confrontation between protesters and British soldiers. The lines were clearly drawn, and an entire generation was raised under this cloud of infamy. Though relations have been thawing slowly in subsequent decades, one church in the city is determined to step in and make a difference. Five years ago, Cornerstone City Church began a summer youth outreach that has since grown into a large, targeted effort to love on their community. They call it IHeartDerry and they are making an impact. Their Pastor, Brian Somerville, calls it a “Kiss and Tell” strategy. If an environment dictates behavior, Cornerstone wants to improve the environment. They want to invest in the latent value and life of the city, and show the people around them how to love where they live. Partnered with Convoy of Hope Europe, the primary objective of iHeartDerry is to show love regardless of political or religious affiliation. Over one hundred volunteers traveled from the U.S. and Europe last year to join with church members in this effort to create unity out of the divided. Three teams went into different schools, hosting a “SuperSchool” for hundreds of elementary students. A team of “Mobile Medics” performed basic checkups for people who might not have the resources to see a doctor on their own. Cornerstone also built a playground for neighborhood kids, and hosted a soccer tournament in which 16 local clubs participated. This year, in 2015, they plan to expand even further to include local businesses, performing minor repairs and assistance where they can. These activities are the “Kiss” part of Pastor Brian's strategy. The “Tell” part follows, because people invariably ask “Why?” Why spend the money, why spend the time? The answer is that Cornerstone and Convoy of Hope Europe are working to bring unity to a community only familiar with conflict. It's part of reaching Europe physically, socially, and spiritually. The goal is to bring unity to the divided, love and advocacy to the forgotten, service and hope to the broken. iHeart Derry 2015 will take place 06-12 July. Convoy of Hope Europe has teams from the United States signed up to help out before, during, and after the event. It promises to be another resounding success, and we are so excited to be a part!
Today is International Women’s Day, a holiday celebrated all over the world, and a chance to recognize the contributions of women in society, be they housewives or head of state. Unfortunately there is a group of women that are not celebrated in society. Here in Europe, sex trafficking is the second biggest illegal industry as thousands of women every year are stolen or sold from their homes, and coerced, beaten, and tortured into submission by people who view them as mere commodities. Since their inception over thirty years ago in India, Project Rescue (www.projectrescue.com) has worked diligently to rescue tens of thousands of women from the industry. When Madrid was identified as a major hub for traffickers bringing women into Europe, Fiona Bellshaw, a Scottish woman residing in the city opened Project Rescue’s first regional office. She works with the national government to identify victims of trafficking, bring them to a safe house for rehabilitation, and provide them with legal papers and training to give them a new start. The mission of Project Rescue is to locate women who have been sex trafficked. They work with women on the streets as well as women found in the government detention centers. Those in the detention centers were arrested for not having legal entry papers and were thrown in jail for up to 60 days. Project Rescue works with the government to change their immigration status from that of an illegal immigrant to a victim of trafficking. They offer protection through a safe house from the pimps and mafia pursuing them as they attempt to regain control of their lives. Project Rescue provides legal assistance, as well as career counseling. Fiona’s heart for this project stems from her first interaction with a victim of trafficking fourteen years ago. When she began researching the sex trade, it became apparent that women on the streets were just the tip of the iceberg. Most trafficked women are found in apartments, clubs, and massage parlors over the city. Though initially intimidated by the size of the task before her, she came to realize that “Inadequacy is a selfish feeling, is a selfish issue. It’s not about you.” She opened the Madrid office three years ago, and two years ago she was able to acquire the safe house. Fiona’s work brought her to the attention of the national government, and Project Rescue is now an official organization in the Spanish social services system. With the influx of referrals, the safe house is no longer big enough to meet the need. Over the next week, Project Rescue will be putting in an offer for a new property. If accepted, this new safe house will triple their current capacity with fourteen bedrooms and five kitchens. Convoy of Hope Europe has been proud to partner with Project Rescue over the past three years. On this International Women’s Day, we want to thank Fiona and the entire organization for what they have done for the rights of women, and what they will continue to do!
From May 12th – 18th, 2014, COHEU partnered with Life Church of Germantown, WI in the village of Peresecina, Moldova, situated about 30km/18mi from the capital city of Chisinau. Moldova is currently the poorest country in Europe. For this reason, COHEU has partnered with churches and organizations to bring hope to the people of Moldova through community work. A key aspect of this has been our Adopt-A-Community program. We have completed two projects in the towns of Leova and Glinjeni, and are currently adopting the village of Biesti, as well as supporting other communities around the country. With the help of Life Church Missions, we spent the week showing compassion to the people of Peresecina. Throughout the week, the team worked chiefly on the assembly and construction of a playground for the local kindergarten. Painting and priming the wood, and laying the foundation was no easy task amidst the rainy weather. However, the team left the community with a souvenir of love in the form of a structure that will bring joy the town’s children for years to come. We also had a chance to spend time with many of the local families and visit an institute for the blind, handing out bags of groceries to our new friends as we went. Thank you to our Moldovan partners and the members of Life Church Missions for helping us spread a little hope to the faces of Peresecina, both young and old!
For the fourth year in a row, Convoy of Hope Europe has partnered with Cornerstone City Church in (London)Derry, Northern Ireland for their annual “iHeartDerry” city outreach from July 1st-7th, 2013. This year we joined 80+ youths and university students from across America, along with volunteers from the local church. The week opened up with a high energy “volunteer rally” which set the atmosphere for the week to come. Volunteers were then broken up into teams and sent out to four locations; Donemana Primary School, Lisnagelvin Primary School, The Gasyard Centre, and New Pin Centre. Every morning teams held energetic, children-friendly programs which included games, songs and dance, sports, and storytelling. While this was going on, the team at New Pin Centre painted the facilities inside and out, replaced water gutters, restored the garden and installed a playground. In the afternoon, teams participated in street clean-up throughout the city. There was also a mobile medical station for blood pressure and blood sugar check-ups, and coffee/tea stations were set up as well. On July 6th, the playground at the New Pin Centre was officially opened by the Chairwoman for Development of Derry City Council. At the three locations that hosted the children's programs, an average of 243 children participated in the iHeartDerry program. We are excited to have had the privilege of seeing this project develop over the years and look forward to seeing how this year’s events continue to encourage this fantastic community!