Donations meet pressing needs amidst war
It has been four weeks since war erupted in Ukraine, and L’Arche communities have swiftly adapted to meet the needs of people fleeing violence – especially those caring for loved ones living with disabilities.
“Imagine what it is like to leave everything behind and to try to provide care for someone with a disability as you flee,” Vice International Delegate Manca Kastelic said. Katelic oversees L’Arche communities in Europe and the Middle East, which have banded together to offer support.
As fighting escalated, L’Arche Ukraine communities in Lviv and Ternopil opened their doors to those fleeing war in the east. L’Arche homes in Poland and Lithuania, too opened their doors for those who made it beyond the border and need shelter.
What has evolved is an improvised chain of support helping people with and without disabilities. Assistants, Board members, friends, and others from L’Arche Poland work together to offer shelter, meals, donated goods and meeting other needs.
A L’Arche Poland van traverses the nearly three-hour drive from the closest L’Arche community to the Ukraine border with donated supplies for refugees. A similar L’Arche community van brings people living with disabilities from the Lviv L’Arche community in Ukraine who continue on to safety in the van from Poland as it returns home.
“Our homes in Poland are filled with people who need shelter and care,” Kastelic said. “We are in need of mattresses, bedding, food, transportation and more.”
“People came without anything, so we take care of everything: clothes, food, medical care,” L’Arche Lithuania community leader Ruta Domarkaitė – Černiauskė said from Vilnius. “Friends of the community contribute with financial donations, emotional support, donations of things, toys. We would still be open to accepting people in the workshop premises, turning the office rooms into bedrooms.”
The U.N. reports around 20,000 Ukrainians have fled to Lithuania and more than 2 million refugees have sought shelter in Poland, where L’Arche communities have shifted and shared resources to accommodate a growing number of people. Bedding is a concern in Ukraine too: Poland sent along 50 sleeping bags to the Lviv community, which have all been used.
The Polish and other governments will be providing financial and other assistance to individuals and groups like L’Arche that are providing help but, so relief has yet to come.
The Larche Emergency Fund is intentionally unrestricted so that it can be most flexible in times of crisis, in Ukraine, Poland and other places where disaster and harm pose significant risks.
“The Emergency Fund is helping us make a difference in the lives of families fleeing war, and especially those caring for people with disabilities,” Kastelic said. “People with disabilities and their particular gifts are at the heart of what we try to live together in L’Arche. Today, in this dark hour for humanity, we reach out together with them and welcome those in need.”