As a Caritas member agency for England and Wales, CAFOD has been working to fund various strands of the humanitarian response in Poland, Romania, Moldova and within Ukraine itself through its Caritas partners.
One of those projects run by Caritas partner, Depaul Ukraine, is helping the housebound in Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine. This city lies only 25 miles from the Russian border and so has been subject to siege and intense shelling.
One of the Caritas volunteers in Kharkiv is Viktoria, who uses a bike for the distributions.
“I work in IT and could easily get a job abroad,” writes the 35-year-old Viktoria, “but I have many relatives here in Kharkiv who need attention and care. I would not be able to take them all out of Ukraine, and I also do not want to leave them without support.”
Before the conflict, Viktoria would regularly attend cycling races around Europe. Now she cycles across Kharkiv delivering food to older people and those with disabilities who cannot leave their homes.
“Doing this kind of work in a team is a great relief for me. I spent the first two weeks of the war sitting in my bathroom while the city was bombed. Being alone during that time with my two cats was almost unbearable. Over time, I started to gain the courage to leave my home by bicycle to go to the grocery store or pharmacy.”
Viktoria is part of a team of volunteer cyclists whose support is a lifeline for housebound people in Kharkiv. Depaul Ukraine works tirelessly to ensure food baskets reach 700 people on a regular basis.
“One day,” says Viktoria, “I saw an Instagram post with a call for bicycle volunteers and was very happy, because it opened up an opportunity to finally feel useful and needed. This is my city and my country. I just want to be here, that is all.”
Alongside the Kharkhiv project, CAFOD has provided aid in the form of food, drinking water, sanitary supplies like nappies and hand sanitiser, blankets and warm clothes, shelter and safety for families displaced internally and beyond Ukraine’s borders. It has also recently started providing a funding mechanism for pharmacists in the UK to be able to distribute much needed medicines and equipment to doctors, pharmacies and hospitals in Ukraine.
Pictured above is Viktoria, a cycle volunteer, delivering food to Larysa, an older resident of Kharkiv.