Lifting Up the Lost
by Simone Worthing
THE city rubbish dump outside Novi Poselak in Ukraine is not for people with weak stomachs or faint hearts. There are rotten and decaying food scraps, pieces of wood, metal and iron, boxes, cans and garbage of all shapes, sizes and smells. Diseases, putrid water, rats and flies are everywhere - as are people of all ages, including children, spending their days at the dump foraging for things to eat, sell or sleep on. Some live there.
In 2006 Captain Alexander Onishenko, the officer at Kirovograd Corps (church), saw people at the dump gathering rubbish in freezing weather and wanted to do something to help. He organised a cook and Captain Konstantin Svab, from Novi Poselak, offered to deliver and serve the food with members of his corps. The arrangement between the two corps still continues.
When funds allow, humanitarian aid in the form of clothing, shoes, and medicines for colds is provided. The Salvation Army team also assists with referrals to hospitals, tuberculosis clinics and rehabilitation centres.
To begin with there was a suspicious and even aggressive reaction from people at the dump but now many love and respect The Salvation Army and look forward to the visits. 'They trust us and have become our friends,' says Captain Konstantin.
Some, whose lives have been devastated by alcohol and drug abuse, have accompanied Salvation Army officers to local schools to speak about the dangers and effects of substance abuse, how it ruins lives, and how the young people can avoid getting caught up in it.
Each Sunday afternoon, between 10 and 15 people from the dump go to a worship service held by The Salvation Army at one of the apartment areas near the dump. 'It's like a regular church service, based on friendship and respect,' says the captain. 'We sing together, pray and I tell them about my life and how God has changed me. That unites us.'
Volunteers from Novi Poselak Corps give hot food to men who live on the city dump
Due to budgetary constraints, the feeding programme at the dump can only run at full capacity for six months a year. The two corps have chosen to provide a full and regular service during the winter months and reduce their provisions when the weather is warmer. 'We are praying that soon a complete outreach programme will be possible,' says Captain Konstantin. 'We want to grow and develop our service to help our friends get the documents they need, find a home, get a job. And we will develop it - this is just the beginning!'
The Salvation Army is the first organisation to work with people at the dump. 'Many people were surprised at our work and didn't want to get involved at all,' says Captain Konstantin. 'But we couldn't abandon these people. They have so many medical, emotional and spiritual problems, and they have become our friends.'
Now though, more people are trying to help. 'Some pastors and members of other churches are starting to come and support the work we are doing. People in town ask us what the homeless need and how they can help. We have motivated other people to good works! Two brothers that we got to know at the dump have now stopped drinking and are helping us reach out to others. We would love to see them become leaders in this programme.'
The dump knows no social barriers. Among its clients are former soldiers, doctors, teachers, and people with all kinds of higher and professional education.
'They are considered lost by society,' says the captain. 'Nobody supports them or wants to give them work, and so their cycle of poverty continues. But we have hope for these people. They want to rise up from where they've fallen and help themselves and others. We are committed to being beside them on their way.'
At the time of writing, Simone Worthing - an Australian - worked for The Salvation Army's Eastern Europe Territory. She has now returned to her homeland