A worsening slide into poverty
For many families in Crimea, their financial situation makes going on summer holidays together just a pipe dream. As soon as school closes for the holidays, many children have to spend their time on the streets while their parents earn a living. To offer children and adolescents meaningful activities and prospects in regions where Christians are living under difficult conditions, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) donates funds for holiday camps each summer. An offer that is received with great enthusiasm and gratitude.
The difficult economic situation in Crimea is worsening. Since the peninsula in the Black Sea was annexed by Russia, wages and earnings have decreased while prices, particularly those of food, have soared. A situation that most negatively impacts the poorer part of the population.
“In comparison to 2013, salaries in the first half of 2017 dropped by 18 per cent and pensions by 14 per cent,” reported the Roman Catholic bishop of Odessa-Simferopol, Mons. Jacek Pyl, OMI. “The average pension in Crimea is only about 8,500 roubles, or 165 dollars. Every third person is at risk of sliding into poverty in the near future.” However, although earnings have decreased, the cost of living has skyrocketed due to the import ban on foods such as meat, fish, milk products, vegetables, fruit and nuts that Russia imposed in response to sanctions: “The prices of these and other products have doubled within the country since 2014 and the prices of many everyday items have even tripled in Crimea,” the Bishop deplored.
Respite: Holidays with God
According to Bishop Pyl, the increase in the number of families in Crimea that are living below the poverty line has been particularly steep. The risk of poverty for families with up to two children is 66 per cent, for families with three or more children it is even up to 78 per cent. Many families cannot afford to go on holiday. “However, the risk of becoming addicted to computers, the Internet, drugs or alcohol is particularly high for children and adolescents who spend their holidays on the streets, bored,” explained the Bishop, who is grateful that ACN supported two holiday camps held in Crimea with the theme Holidays with God. These ACN projects are offered to young people irrespective of their religion and gives them something meaningful to do during the holidays.
One of the participants, Bogdan Loginov, described the time he spent at the holiday camp, which was run by religious Sisters: “In addition to the many nice activities, we learned a lot of new things in catechesis during the holiday camp. It was never boring and I met a lot of new friends. If it hadn’t been for the camp, this summer would have gone by without anything meaningful happening. I am hoping that it will be held again next year.”
“This is the age at which many young people have a lot of unanswered questions: how should I live, who do I want to be and what should I live for? These summer camps are not just about recuperation, but also about the future of the country and the Church, because it is very important to communicate and live Christian values,” Bishop Pyl said.
This perfectly describes what 15-year-old Andrej Prospunov experienced: “You have a lot of questions during your teenage years. You perceive the world differently and more intensely. However, when you begin to challenge things, this is not always good for your own religious beliefs. But thanks to the summer camp, my friends and I understand that you can remain religious even if you are having doubts – and more than that: that belief in God and the experience of community with believers of the same age are wonderful things. The participants came from different religious communities. But in spite of this, we noticed that we are all one through our faith. Thank you to all the organisers and particularly to all the people who made this time possible for us through their financial support!”
Thanks to the philanthropy of our benefactors all over the world, the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) was able to donate more than 495,000 this year to support 30 summer camp projects for children and adolescents – a reflection of the great generosity of 330,000 benefactors around the world.