Visitors from HEKS recently traveled to Transcarpathia with members of the RCH to attend a consultation in coordination with the Diaconal Coordination Center (DCO) of the Transcarpathian Reformed Church (TRC). The group was in Transcarpathia from October 24-27 to see what the DCO is doing in the area and to show support for the projects done in mutual cooperation with HEKS.
The group from HEKS and the RCH traveled to Transcarpathia and were greeted warmly upon arrival by the Presidium of the Transcarpathian Reformed Church (TRC). Those in attendance at the consultation included Matthias Herren, HEKS Regional Coordinator; Barnabas Balogh, Director of HRCA; Dániel Osgyán, Manager of Emergency and International Development of HRCA; Balázs Ódor, Ecumenical Officer of the RCH; Sandor Zan Fabian, Bishop of the TRC; Béla Nagy, Lay President of the TRC and Director of the DCO. In addition, local DCO coordinators were present as well as visitors from the Evangelical Church in Rheinland, Diacona Austria, Bread for the World Organization, the Evangelical Church in Baden, the Reformed Church in Germany, and the Presbyterian Church USA (PC USA).
Transcarpathia, situated in the West of the Ukraine, is a very poor region, and has become even more depleted since the country became affected by civil war. Additional hyper-inflation and the drop of the currency, the Hryvnia, have led to a complete break-down of the economy. The government is only able to survive financially due to payments from the EU and the IMF. 75% of the population are poor and around 30% are living under the subsistence level. According to estimations, between 50% and 80% of people don’t have any form of employment, and those who do have employment often don’t earn enough to make their living, as the minimal wage is around 45 euro per month. The crises in Ukrain is a combined crisis – effected by the war still happening and the consequential economic hardship that the population faces. One of the most popular destination countries as Ukrainians flee their homeland en route to Western Europe is the Czech Republic.
The TRC is the partner of the HEKS Church Cooperation (CC) in this region, working to provide aid to those in need in order to strengthen disadvantaged people and minority groups and to improve their social inclusion. Since the 90’s, TRS’s Diaconal Coordination Centre coordinates and implements different projects, which are mainly financed through churches and relief organisations from abroad. All projects aim to improve the living conditions of the most deprived people in Beregszász and its surrounding areas. The need of the population in Bergeszász is high and the DCO works hard to make the best use of the funds it receives to make a tangible difference in the lives of the community members.
HEKS has cooperated since 1991 with the TCR and aided in the founding of the Diaconal Coordination Office in Bergszász in order to coordinate the relief and contributions from other churches abroad. Since the 1990’s, the DCO has developed into a large diaconal centre with a social kitchen, a bakery, a rest home for old people, a centre for custom clearance and distribution of goods, a crisis shelter for women and children, and a centre for humanitarian aid. During the last two years, due to the deep poverty caused by the war, the DCO has also coordinated extra emergency aid as well as relief programs with assistance from the Hungarian Reformed Church Aid and the Hungarian government.
During the trip, HEKS representatives were able to see first-hand the full range of programs that the TRC offers in the region through the DCO and beyond. The group made trips to visit a social kitchen, a rest home, and a crisis shelter for women, as well as a day center for children and young people with disabilities.
This valuable opportunity allowed the organizations to see how the DCO operates and discussed the model of funding their work. In this way, each organization supports a different DCO project so that aid money is spread out and each vital project is getting the support it needs.
Through these immersive and hands-on experiences, HEKS visitors were also able to see developments implemented as a result of HEKS support of the TCR since the last round table discussion in 2009. This gathering was the fourth of its kind.
Article by Kearstin Bailey