In Estonia, our first ever Women’s Empowerment project has been running strong through a fantastic partnership with Focus Church in Tallinn! Eleven women that were recommended by local women’s shelters have faithfully attended the weekly classes for education and life skills to better provide for their families in the short and long term. Through the duration of the course, women are trained on topics such as basic business and finance principles for the job market or starting their own small business. They are also trained on family issues such as family finance, grocery shopping on a budget, and emotional health. AGWM Missionaries Nick and Olivia Puccini lead Focus Church, and had a heavy burden on their hearts for the fact that one in every five women in Estonia is a single mother. Convoy of Hope has worked Women’s Empowerment programs on the continents of Africa and South America, but was interested in seeing what could be done for the women struggling in Europe. Considering the different dynamics and challenges for European women versus those in third world countries, this project in Estonia has been a beta program for implementing new avenues of assistance for a group of people that has been marginalized in Europe. The course instructors included university professors, professional counselors, and other successful business women in the community. Throughout the course, women from Focus Church have been building relationships with each of these women which will continue past graduation day on the first of June. This support system is integral to the success of the program, and we are excited to see how it continues to develop over the next few months and into the future!
While police authorities are restricting the refugee camp in Calais, in northern France, a new camp has formed over the past few months 20 kilometers away in the town of Dunkirk. Living conditions in Dunkirk are equally as rough as Calais, and with the new year, Convoy of Hope Europe has pledged to adopt this new area as well. New partnerships have made this additional effort a possibility, and a plan to implement many of the same services as are offered in Calais is already underway. With the frigid temperatures, stoves are going to be a priority for refugee families like Mahmoud’s, which recently arrived from Syria and is not accustomed to cold weather. Mahmoud is a violinist, who decided to flee with his wife and children after his brother was one of many brutally massacred in their city. Now, he plays Christian music on his violin and ministers to others at the camp until their application for asylum is reviewed. There are more families like Mahmoud’s arriving daily. The Syrian Refugee Crisis is the largest humanitarian crisis of our era, larger than from Hurricane Katrina, the Indonesian tsunami, and the Haiti earthquake combined. Over 12 million people have been displaced, injured, or otherwise in need of direct humanitarian assistance, and there is no end to the fighting in sight. As the number of refugees grows, our response will need to grow as well. To support this work with refugees across Europe and the Middle East, donate here! DONATE
A new year begins for Convoy of Hope Europe with continuing work with in the Jungle refugee camp of Calais, France. New police restrictions on the land that the refugees and migrants are allowed to occupy meant a large portion of the Christian community started in the camp needed to be moved. People in the newly restricted sections were given three days to move. With previous construction teams, basic wooden structures had been built to offer families some additional protection against the mud and the elements. Now, there was three days to move them before they would be destroyed. Another team from England mobilized quickly to help, and were able to get all of the residential huts moved. Through some discussion with the authorities, not everything had to be moved. Our team was given permission for the community center and kitchen to remain where they are. We are unsure of the future of the camp, but we are committed to assisting the people within for as long as it stands. With winter settled over the area, there remains a significant risk of freezing for those without blankets and warm clothing. Many families huddle together to maintain a sense of warmth, and Convoy of Hope Europe has been working to supply gas heaters and extra gas canisters to additional families that are still arriving daily.
Christmas came early to a number of families in the Jungle refugee camp outside of Calais, France! Volunteers from all over the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium brought Christmas shoe boxes, music, food, and celebration to those who are struggling through the damp cold, mud, and rough living conditions. Many of these families have been in the camp for months as they wait for either the French or British government to make a decision on their refugee status, and welcomed the distraction from their troubles. 170 shoe boxes were distributed to children in the camp, and over 1,000 people were fed over the course of the afternoon in the church area as multiple singing groups performed in the Arabic, English, and Ethiopian languages. This celebration is a continuation of Convoy of Hope Europe’s commitment to bringing Hope to the refugees. Over the last few months, our construction teams have built shelters from the weather, distributed 100 butane stoves for cooking, thousands of rain ponchos, and provided laundry services to the community in the Jungle. As long as the Refugee Crisis continues, Convoy of Hope Europe will be taking steps to bring physical, social, and spiritual help to affected families.
While a working ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine continues to elude the government and separatist forces, winter has officially arrived for the civilians trapped in the crossfire. Many have fled, but many cannot. For those left behind, the bitter cold is an unrelenting foe against which there is little hope. Because of the fighting, most cities and villages are without power and access to natural gas for heat. While the militia fight, people are freezing to death in their homes. Last winter, Convoy of Hope Europe reached out and provided 300 wood stoves for families caught in this desperate situation. These stoves serve a dual purpose. Not only do they heat homes, but they also provide a flat surface for cooking. [su_button url="http://wp.me/P1uiOf-XJ" target="blank" style="flat" background="#ed364b" size="8" wide="yes" center="yes" radius="0" icon="icon: heart-o" class="coheu"]DONATE A STOVE TODAY[/su_button] Surviving in a war zone is difficult in many ways outside of the direct threat of violence. Food supplies are interrupted and businesses close or flee. Jobs are lost, and those left behind are now unemployed with no way to support themselves. Food is scarce even for those who can afford to buy it. Over the last year, Convoy of Hope Europe made a commitment to helping those stranded in the war zone. We provided seeds and gardening tools for families to grow their own food. Many were able to can and store enough to last through much of this coming winter. In addition, we funded a new school for Ukrainians who commit to moving to the towns and villages in the war zone and act as point person for humanitarian aid distribution. These volunteers are trained in supply distribution, reporting, and counseling victims of trauma. Three classes have graduated, and those graduates are now serving in twelve cities and villages along the front lines of the conflict! Now that winter is once again upon us, we want to continue to provide Hope to those who have lost everything. Last winter we purchased and distributed 300 stoves. This year, with your help, we can do more!