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"Action by Churches Together" mission:  Winter Aid Program

Program purposes

The present economic crisis has put millions of Russians on the verge of survival. In this situation, many have not been able to gain help even from such customary "breadgivers" as vegetable gardens and dachas which in recent years have served as a means of survival. The reasons for this are natural disasters which have resulted in the considerable or full loss of crops in a number of regions. As soon as the crisis broke out, it became clear that in winter the Russians would need relief from abroad. While the present economic crisis in Russia does not conform to the internationally accepted standards of "emergency", the critical situation facing many Russians after August 1998 is quite comparable with situations of military conflict or natural disaster.

Fully aware of the burden of the situation in which a considerable number of her compatriots found themselves, the Russian Orthodox Church appealed to the international Christian community to render aid to the needy. Among those who responded to this appeal was Action by Churches Together. The support of this international organization enabled the Russian Orthodox Church in cooperation with the Hungarian Interchurch Aid to begin in February 1999 a program of aid to the least socially protected people in Russia. The experience of cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Hungarian Interchurch Aid, gained in implementing joint emergency programs for many years, made it possible to organize at a short notice a food aid program for children from low-income families and children neglected by their parents. The program is carried out in five parish centers in Moscow, Novosibirsk, Klin and Zheleznovodsk, each of which has an experience of organizing soup kitchens. Each of these five centers feeds from 100 to 300 children five times a week, making it in total 1050 children a day. The purpose of the program is to offer children high-calorie diet food. A special attention, therefore, is given to the quality of food. As a rule, a lunch for one child consists of a fresh vegetable salad, a soup, a meat or fish main dish, fresh fruits such as orange, mandarine, banana, etc., a roll and stewed fruit or tea. Many families are unable to give their children food of this quality. For some children it has been their first mandarine or banana; for some beneficiaries this is the only meal during the day. Such children are not particular about food. They leave their plates clean and wrap up the leftover roll or apple neatly to take it away for their brothers and sisters.

Parishes together with local social welfare committees have drafted the lists of children receiving food. The strict system of registration and accountability makes it possible to control the work of every soup kitchen. Because the project resources are limited, the visitors rotate to allow for reaching for a greater number of the needy. The free food aid program for children will last for four months. It is an example of concrete support that the international Christian community has given to the people in need in Russia.

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