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Aiming for excellence in the care of the disabled in Ukraine


We have told you part of Olha Sokolova' s story before, but thought you'd like an update on this brave and godly young lady from eastern Ukraine. When we last met her, she had just moved to Bradford and to the home of her host family who were welcoming her as part of the 'Cross Connect Ukraine' scheme. Olha has now moved to Twickenham, to start a master's degree in Charity Managment. She has brought us up to date on these months in England and what they have meant to her.

You may have watched a disturbing documentary on the BBC about care of the disabled in Ukrainian institutions.

The programme highlighted the distress faced by many of those who had been neglected within institutions which still operated on a model that was influenced by Ukraine's Soviet past.

Before she was forced to leave her country on the day war began (subsequently travelling through six nations on the way to a more settled home again), Olha Solokova was already engaged in a huge effort to reform that system. Along with other Christian colleagues, this history teacher became involved in management of an NGO that was helping to re-shape care of those with autism or Down's Syndrome in Ukraine, using her gifts in an organisation that was even offering guidelines to the Ukrainian authorities about how to improve the quality of care of the disabled. All with a desire to honour Christ.

As Olha wondered what her future might hold, for there was such chaos all around her, she heard about the Cross Connect Ukraine scheme, and, once she had passed through all the processes involved, she was invited to stay with a wonderful host family in Bradford, headed up by Richard and Rachel March. Rachel sent us a message a few weeks after this new house guest arrived, confirming that Olha was indeed honouring the Lord in this new stage in her life. She wrote:

We just wanted to update you on your successful matching with the Cross Connect Ukrainian matching scheme. 
Olha has been living with us for about 5/6 weeks now and it is going very well.
She speaks fluent English, and is a Christian and a history teacher so we have a lot in common. She has managed to get through all the bureaucracy and is as settled as can be expected while the war is continuing.   
Olha has been coming to church with us on Sundays, she eats dinner with us each evening and we could not honestly imagine a better fit for our family. We are grateful to God and to you for helping to arrange it all. We already feel very fond of her.

Olha made friends in the fellowship at Christ Church Bradford, whose congregation is pastored by Tim Mills. She told us that she found the church welcoming and warm, and that it reminded her of her home church in Ukraine. Now that she has had to move south, she misses the people there very much.

Olha gave a talk at Bradford Christian School lately, on the subject of 'Freedom'

In our earlier article about Olha, she told us about the nations she had visited on her way to the United Kingdom. One of them was the Czech Republic, where she used her teaching and language skills to set up a curriculum for refugee children who had fled to that country. This summer Olha returned to the camp site owned by the Word of Life organisation in the Czech Republic, to serve as a leader in camps in which children of displaced people from Ukraine were given days of fun, peace and Bible teaching. Many children from non-Christian families were there, and Olha was thrilled to be able to share the gospel with them.

We at EMF hope that Olha will come with us to at least one of our conferences this autumn, to take part in our children's programme, for she loves teaching and talking about her work at the charity she helped run near Kyiv.

Children in the camp in the Czech Republic where many Ukrainian children heard the gospel for the first time. Olha was a leader there in summer 2022

The fact is that Olha wants to return to Ukraine, and is eager to do get back to her beloved disabled students. But in the meantime, ever keen to learn and develop, as well as to extend her skill set, she applied for a Master's course in Charity Development at St Mary's University in Twickenham, was accepted, and is settling in to student life there. She attends a local church and is already finding warm friendship with others.

Although Olha misses her country so much, and longs to be reunited with her mother in Odessa and her brothers in eastern Ukraine (one of whom is serving in the army), she is determined not to waste her time in the UK. We know that her love for the Lord Jesus will be seen in the way she prepares for that day when in the Lord's will she returns to serve him in Ukraine.

Perspectiva 21:3-the charity Olha was helping to run near Kyiv when war broke ou

PS Olha has set up a Gofundme page to help her through university. This has absolutely NO relationship or link to EMF, but if you would like to find out more, here is her page, and you can find her on Facebook

There are more photos and videos of Olha's camp ministry this past summer here

Prayer Points

Please pray ...

  • that Olha will one day be able to return to her homeland to use her skills and gifts there to serve the Saviour she loves.
  • for others helping disabled people in Ukraine (such as EMF's Volodia and Oksana Kostyshyn in Ternopil, western Ukraine.)
  • for Olha to find the resources needed for her to cover her expenses in Twickenham.