There’s a great distance between Helen’s home in Ukraine and Matthew’s House in Abbotsford, but looking back over her life, she can see how God has been preparing her for the journey here and the journey back.
“I can see how my life experiences are connected and how God lead me here,” she says.
Matthew’s House supports families by providing quality care to children who live with complex care needs. Matthew’s House is operated by Communitas Supportive Care Society.
Helen is serving here for one year through Mennonite Central Committee’s International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP). IVEP participants come from more than 26 countries around the world to volunteer in the U.S. or Canada. They live with a local family and have a chance to serve in a variety of capacities based on their skills and interest.
Before coming to Canada, Helen already had experience working with children and working with those who live with disabilities. In her church in Severodonetsk she served as a leader in the children’s programs, especially helping them with performances for special occasions. Her pastor also got her involved in a summer camp for children with disabilities.
“This changed me,” she says. “I served as an assistant counselor for two years and then in my third year I was given the responsibility of being a lead counselor. I loved it.”
Helen’s passion is to serve children and orphans who live in boarding schools, especially those who have experienced bullying. This desire is borne out of her own experiences.
“I was bullied in school and it got to a point where I didn’t even want to go to school,” she says. “My faith in God got me through that. God showed me my value as a person. It is my passion to help others recognize their value and their gifts.”
She has also had a strong desire to serve overseas. She heard about IVEP when she attended a Christian youth conference and met a former IVEPer who told her about the program, encouraging her to apply. She did and was thrilled when she was selected to come to Canada. She has been serving at Matthew’s House since September 2016 and has learned a lot about herself in that short time.
“I feel that I am more confident and although I can see that I am growing, I still have lots to learn,” she says. “I want to learn to love more like Jesus did. I pray ‘give me your eyes so that I can see people as you see them, give me your mind to understand as you understand.’”
She has come to love her experience at Matthew’s House. At first, she found it a challenge to communicate with the children who are not verbal or children who have behavioural challenges. But she has found that the training she has received has helped her a great deal.
“I love the kind and positive environment here at Matthew’s House,” she says. “And the training modules that I’ve gone through are so helpful. I’m learning about the Spirit of Gentleness and about making emotional connections. I love it that I will be able to use all that I am learning here when I return home.”
In a beautiful piece of serendipity, Helen has learned about a unique connection that Communitas has to Ukraine. Since 2007, Communitas has supported the Florence Centre: a community development program in Zaparozhye committed to education and support of children, adults and families dealing with disabilities, abuse, addiction and mental health issues. The Florence Centre is very near where Helen lives and she is excited for the opportunity to make this connection when she returns home at the end of her year in Canada.
“I can’t believe I had to come here to learn about the Florence Centre ministry in my home country,” Helen says. “I can just see how God has guided me.”
Helen continues to dream big and is also exploring ministry opportunities in Africa – another of her passions. Throughout all of this, Helen says her faith in God has grown.
“I am more and more convinced that when I trust God, he won’t let me down,” she says.
Learn more about Communitas by visiting their website.
To learn about IVEP, visit the MCC Canada website.