The discovery of three frightened boys sleeping rough in an abandoned car was an answer to prayer for Grace Baptist Church, Odessa. The church had been seeking guidance regarding a social ministry and the Lord answered by showing the great needs of street children and orphans. There are over 100,000 children in state run orphanages in Ukraine. A small proportion are genuine orphans, but most are abandoned.
The church had been given land and buildings and one of these buildings was renovated to make a children’s shelter. This was opened in June 2000 with 21 children. Grace Shelter was organised like a family home and Peter and Lidia Dobvya became foster parents. Today around 60 children are loved and cared for within family groups and attend Grace Church. This model of care was unique in Ukraine and it became a pattern for others to follow.
It is a legal requirement that when orphans reach the age of 18 they must leave their orphanages. However, it became apparent to the church that these young adults could not simply be released to fend for themselves. With no families to turn to for support, they needed careful preparation for adult life. In 2018 Transition House was opened. Here up to 60 young adults can live semi- independently under the supervision of Andrew and Yulia Bandura. In this safe space they learn the basic life skills needed for independent living. This includes being connected to a local church for spiritual support.
Olesya Krohinov oversees all the children’s ministry, both in The Shelter and those who care for children in their homes. SGA has supported this ministry from its commencement and has provided substantial funds for the construction of Transition House.