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Dear Dutch friends,
I am very sorry for the long silence. As you know, the horrible bloodshed in our country continues and people continue to die and suffer every single day. It has been extremely hard both physically and emotionally to operate under so much pressure, to deal with the daily stress, to witness so many human tragedies.... But my colleagues and I have have been doing our best to provide all possible assistance to orphanage graduates.

The winter has been extremely hard for all Ukrainians, both on government controlled territories and regions controlled by Russia. After every missile or drone attack electricity and heating were disrupted for days, in some regions - for weeks. We did everything in our power to help our young people survive - we provided thermal underwear, warm clothes and blankets, thermoses, instant foods, camping gas stoves, power banks, etc. All public schools (including Special School 12) (het voormalige kinderweeshuis) were closed from December 20th till the end of January and were turned into warming centers for local residents where people could come charge their phones, have some hot tea and wait until heating and electricity is restored in their homes. We tried to keep in touch with all of our young people. To do so we had to provide everyone with a powerbank and sim-cards of 3 different phone service providers. Since mobile connection was often disrupted by blackouts, people learned to switch from one operator to another to be able to at least send a text message. 
Together with Sasha (our graduate and Red Cross volunteer) we helped set up a 600-square-meter tent in the North of Kiev to help people stay warm. Sasha's church is now feeding people in this tent on a daily basis, too.

Ever since the war started we have been helping young people flee the country or relocate to safer territories. We still continue to do so. It has been a difficult task in all aspects - physically, emotionally, financially...
Moving from occupied territories has been especially difficult. Right now, for example, we are trying to help a 19-year-old single mom named Alyona and her 18-months-old daughter Ksenia, run from a small village near Mariupol (controlled by Russia at the moment). 
Alyona grew up in an orphanage for children with special needs near Donetsk (she has speech and hearing impairments). 
In order to reach government-controlled territories she will need to spend several days in a Russian 'filtration camp' (where Russian military interrogate Ukrainians who are crossing over to Russia), then travel to Moscow, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and finally Western Ukraine. Alyona would like to then go to Kriviy Rig (South Eastern Ukraine) where many young people from her orphanage are now living. Because of her special needs she is afraid to stay in EU but we will be discussing different options with her so she may change her mind. Unfortunately, staying in Ukraine is just too dangerous no matter where you go. In any case, a 400-km trip from Mariupol to Kriviy Rig which took 5 hours and cost 10-15 euro per person before the war, has now turned into a 4000+ km exhausting journey through 4 different countries that takes 4-5 days and costs 400 euro per person (including small children!). 
We are trying make those trips less expensive and a less exhausting by organizing free overnight stays in Moscow, Warsaw and other cities through our network of volunteers (most of whom are orphanage graduates or orphanage workers already living in those cities). 
We keep in touch with all the young people whom we have helped to flee the country since the war started. We want to make sure they are safe, support them emotionally while they are away from home, and in return they help us as volunteers consulting new orphans coming to their country.

Orphanage graduates from the war zones (Donetsk, Kherson, Kharkiv regions) have mostly settled in Kiev, Odessa, Krivyi Rig and Dnipro - large cities in Central Ukraine. A few young people in Krivyi Rig were lucky to get free beds in a college dorm but most of our clients have to rent their own housing. This has been a major challenge since hundreds of thousands of people fled the war zones. 
We have been helping our young people pay for hostels and apartments in Kiev, Odessa, Dnipro and Krivyi Rig. Finding a job has been extremely difficult (sometimes next to impossible). 
Businesses that had already suffered immense losses because of the COVID epidemic and the first phase of the war, have been badly affected by the blackouts. Stores, shopping centers, markets, post offices had to close not only when electricity went out, but during air raid sirens. 
As a result some businesses had only 2-3 hours of operations a day. The situation with electricity has improved significantly during the last month, so in most regions electricity is no longer a problem. But that can change at any moment since drone and missile attacks on our energy system continue regularly.
Just like before the war, we use our network of orphanage graduates to search for vacancies and help our young people with jobs. For the most part, it is now part-time or one-time jobs but it is still better than nothing.

In short this is how the Support Center has been helping orphanage graduates during the last several months:
• helping with housing (placed grads from East and South Ukraine with orphanage graduates living in Kiev, paid for hostels and apartments in different cities where no other options were possible);
• helping flee the country (getting international passports, helping with train/bus tickets to Europe, putting them in touch with volunteers in Europe etc);
• helping those who lost their documents renew them;
• helping orphanage graduates with food, medicines, warm clothes, blankets;
• helping survive blackouts (powerbanks, flash lights and batteries, candles, camping stoves, portable charging stations etc);
• helping orphanage graduates with heating (firewood, gas heaters etc);
• helping with employment opportunities;
• helping with medical emergencies;
• providing emotional support in person and via phone calls;
• helping orphanage graduates who are in the army (covered medical expenses, provided a place to stay in Kiev during rotations, sent instant warmers and survival blankets, etc);
• helping orphanage workers in the war zones (shipping food, medicines and other supplies where possible).
In short, our assistance was focused on just one thing - survival... We want nothing else but help our young people survive this terrible time.
The war has brought physical and emotional suffering to millions of people. One of the most vulnerable groups that has been badly affected are people with psychiatric problems and intellectual disabilities. Many of the young people we support belong to that category. In many regions mental hospitals have been destroyed, many mental health professionals have left the country, or have been drafted into the army or have been working with soldiers traumatized by the war. Even in Kiev finding a psychiatrist has been a challenge. We do our best to support such young people and help them survive this terrible war.

I would like to thank everyone who has been helping us during this tragic time. Your support means a world to us right now.
With much gratitude,

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