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Charity initiative Christmas Candle became international, involving benefactors from Canada

Nadiya Chorna, Public Relations Manager, Caritas Ukraine

Recently, Caritas Ukraine earned support and cooperation of civic activists from British Columbia (Canada). They contributed to the cross-ocean implementation of Christmas Candle, initiative by raising funds through distribution of Christmas candles to render assistance for socially vulnerable children in Ukraine.

For the last ten years this initiative has been operating in Ukraine. There are similar projects in Europe (the most popular ─ 1 Million Star, 1 Million Sterne, 10 Millions d’etoiles, Un million de stele. With blessings of Ken Nowakowski, Eminent Archbishop of the Eparchy of New Westminster UGCC, this year Bohdana Koren-Lupynis, Co-Director of Holy Eucharist Ukrainian Heritage School in Vancouver, initiated charity initiative implementation in Canada. Fr. Yuriy Vyshnevskyy, Co-Director and Tutor of Holy Eucharist Ukrainian Heritage School, helped her with this.

For more than 12 years Caritas Ukraine has been carrying out multifacet work on providing assistance for children and youth in need. Great variety of activities are implemented, notably, outreach work with disadvantaged children and youth; social and psychological aid to labor migrants children; rehabilitation and socialization of disabled youth; targeted social assistance for children that turned out to be in complicated life circumstances; operating orphanage, and also additional funding of medical treatment for oncology patients. Assistance is provided for thousands of children and youth each year.

Nadiya Chorna, Public Relations Manager in Caritas Ukraine, interviewed Bohdana Koren-Lupynis on her motivation for Christmas Candle implementation, on outcomes of the initiative in Vancouver and plans for further cooperation.

– Why have you decided to work with Caritas Ukraine? What are the aspects of your motivation?

Vancouver is a large metropolitan and multicultural city on the west coast of Canada. Though there are a large number of Ukrainians living in the city, our Ukrainian Community is small, but very active. One of its vital activities is weekly Holy Eucharist Ukrainian Heritage School. The school is run by volunteers and provides children with instruction in Ukrainian Language, Ukrainian Culture and Ukrainian Catholic Catechism for children age 3 – 13 and activities for youth.

One day our children told us about a ‘Christmas Charity appeal’ that was conducted by their school. My husband and I discussed how important it is to teach our children to help others, especially those less fortunate than themselves. First of all, we thought of the many orphanages and disadvantaged children in Ukraine; and began to find ways to help them. I was born in Ivano-Frankivsk, and immigrated to Canada at a young age. I have always had a place in my heart for charities involving children in Ukraine.

Caritas is well-known and respectable organization which is implementing incredibly important activities. With help of communication with our Archbishop Ken Nowakowski who headed Caritas in Ukraine for nearly ten years and personal research, together with Fr. Yuriy we came to the conclusion that Christmas Candle is that charity initiative we are willing to implement.

Bohdana Koren-Lupynis with daughters – Nataliya and Emiliya

– How Christmas Candle initiative was prepared and implemented in Canada?

Taking in consideration that this was our first year and we started to prepare for initiative implementation in late November, we didn’t know what to expect (note ─ in Ukraine, as a rule, this initiative is carried out from November 28 till January 7). However, right from the start there was a great deal of support from all involved with the school. But what made us very excited that several children took a lead role and together we dedicated a lot of time and effort to make this project successful. It was truly wonderful to see children wanting to help children! Support of our Churches and various cultural groups was also very significant, because they allowed us to distribute the candles.

– Mrs. Dana, what are your expectations about Christmas Candle initiative for the next year?

Good news on our campaign was spread throughout the Ukrainian community in British Columbia, Canada and into Washington State, USA. That’s why we hope and feel that future campaigns will only grow and we will be able to continue our support of Caritas and the children in Ukraine.

During our fundraising journey, we have received support from many individuals and local Ukrainian organizations, all of whom have expressed their continued support for this worthwhile project. In my opinion, next year this campaign will expand to an Eparchial project spanning the province of British Columbia and maybe into the West Coast of the United States.

– What do you know about Caritas work in Ukraine and in the world?

Some time ago I got interested in Caritas work and was excited by information I had found. I discovered about good reputation of Caritas organizations in Ukraine and in Europe. Great amount of work, done by Caritas in Ukraine, is targeted at support of programs for children and adults who found themselves in crisis life circumstances. I highly appreciate that regardless all political and economical conditions, Caritas finds dozens opportunities to support and develop civil society in Ukraine.

Though our Bishop, Ken Nowakowski, was instrumental in the founding of Caritas and sat as president until 2001, here, in British Columbia, Caritas is still not well known organization. Despite the authority and eminence of bishop. I believe that with help of Caritas we will change the situation and contribute to significant cooperation on providing assistance to Ukrainians in need!

– Personally for you, why is it important to contribute your time and efforts to cooperation with Caritas?

Firstly, I place a high value on Ukrainian origin and heritage. For this reason helping children in Ukraine, one of the most vulnerable groups in Ukrainian society, was motivation for me to commence this project. Over the years, I have been a part of many non-profit organizations supporting children, and I will continue to help for as long as I can.

Secondly, I am convinced that philanthropy develops and transforms the society, here and in Ukraine, and also big social groups and each individual in particular. It is my hope that my two daughters will see the importance of helping the underprivileged and will take it as a good habit for the future. As a mother I feel all children should know they are loved and cared for.

Photo: Bohdana Koren–Lupynis with daughters – Nataliya and Emiliya.

Video about the Christmas Candle action:

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