The Mennonite Benevolent Society

The Mennonite Benevolent Society was formed in 1945 with a range of goals, one of which is to establish facilities and programs to address the needs of families during sickness and infirmity.

The Mennonite Family Centre is located within three apartments on the main floor of this large apartment complex.

As a result, Bethania Mennonite Personal Care Homes was formed, and Concordia Hospital came under the umbrella of the new Society.

The Mennonite Family Centre – Ukraine
In the late 90s, Mennonite tourists travelling to Ukraine came back with stories of the hardships faced by the many vulnerable people of Ukraine, particularly seniors.

As a response, a feasibility study was conducted, and in
2002, the Mennonite Family Centre was formed in Zaporizhzhya and registered as a local charity in the Oblast of Zaporizhzhya. The purpose was to develop a model of senior care within the Ukrainian culture that could be locally sustainable, locally run, and could be replicated in other areas. This has become a major ministry of the Mennonite Benevolent Society.

Ukraine Update - May 3, 2022

AS of this writing, Ukraine remains in a serious conflict with Russia.  Although the Ukraine Military was able to defend against a military takeover in Kyiv and Kharkiv and many other cities, there has been a lot of destruction, pain and suffering.  About 5.5 million people, mostly women and children have left Ukraine for Poland, Romania, Chechia, Belarus and other locations with that many more simply travelling further west but within Ukraine, for safety.  That means about 25% of the people of Ukraine have left their homes, many never to return. Many hope to return when it is safe to do so, but there may not be anything to go back to.  We will not go into the many details of war here, since this is available on the National News every day.

War leaves many victims and many scars, besides the loss of buildings and property.  Tensions are high, and the feelings of anger and the trauma of the many experiences will not go away easily.  It may take several generations, no matter how this is eventually resolved.  We hope and pray this will happen soon, but realistically, this situation may last for many months.

Zaporizhzhya has been turned into a fortress, with many checkpoints and barricades, and anti-tank contraptions.  However, Zaporizhzhya also has a fairly good defence system.  Many rockets directed at targets within Zaporizhzhya have been intercepted.  There has been damage, but it has been comparatively light, even though, on many days, there is the constant sound of war in the distance, mixed with the birdsong of spring.  People are going about daily life, alternating time in planting gardens and preparing for the summer season, and spending time in air raid shelters when the warning sirens go.  It is far from a normal spring, even in Zaporizhzhya.  Refugees from the eastern and southern cities continue to arrive in Zaporizhzhya, and are met at the refugee Centre in Churches and Schools, given shelter and the basic needs and often assisted in making their way to the rail station to continue the journey further west and safety.

The programs of the Mennonite Family Centre continue as much as possible.  There have been breaks in the program when curfews and added restrictions prevented the programs from continuing, but at the time of this update, all programs are being run fully.  We try to address the trauma and anxieties of our clients by being there and supporting them in their daily lives.  

To date, food is still available in the markets, although inflation is making everything even more expensive.  Medical supplies are not always available, but this might mean, people must take more time to search as to where they may be available.  Gasoline is being rationed and allows only 20 litres purchased at one time.   A general curfew applies to everyone from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m., and extended curfews sometimes lasting for two or three days are imposed when specific dangers are anticipated.   During this time, you must be off the streets.  At all times all windows are blacked out for the night.   That is life in Zaporizhzhya in wartime.

We are grateful for protection for staff and clients, and generally for the people of Zaporizhzhya, while we mourn the atrocities in so many other regions.  It is hard to understand God’s plan, but we are confident He is in control.

Updated March 2, 2022

To all Supporters and persons interested in the Ukraine Ministry of the Mennonite Benevolent Society of Winnipeg.

Conditions in Ukraine have deteriorated rapidly.  For this reason, we are issuing an urgent appeal for support.  Many people are living in terror and many people are losing their lives.  Today, we are sending the following letter to all supporters of the Mennonite Family Centre.

The current war in Ukraine is devastating, affecting every aspect of life in Ukraine.  At the time of this writing, the whole country is living in conflict with Russia.  However, the will and determination of the people are amazing, and they cling to the hope, that they will prevail, and retain the freedoms they have enjoyed since they gained independence and democracy in 1991.  

Although there are few ethnic Mennonites currently living in Ukraine, there are many footprints of the days gone by, evidenced by the many homes in the villages built by Mennonites, still in use. This house is located in the village of Nikoliapol, (which once was the village of Nikapole and the neighbouring village of Franzfeld.

Because of this total disruption to all aspects of life in Ukraine, with many casualties, we are having to change how things are done, and also define new priorities.  In the best case, we will be able to resume the programs for seniors and children soon, but we know there will be new needs and challenges.  We cannot make firm plans to meet needs we cannot yet define.  We anticipate that all the current needs will continue but there will be many more requests for food and basic needs for daily life.  There will be needs we cannot or don’t even want to imagine right now.

For this reason, amidst the many uncertainties, we are sending this special appeal for support.  We will then report to you the details of how we have responded to the needs created through this war, and how the funds have been used.  This may include working with other charities active in Ukraine where it is more effective to work together rather than doing it alone.  We can assure you, that the funds will be used as effectively as we possibly can.

We know there are many other very worthy appeals.  They all do great work, and some have a much greater reach than we do, but our programs are very specific to a region in Zaporizhzhya, and we would like to meet the needs of the seniors in the city of Zaporizhzhya directly and as efficient as possible.

Please consider this request worthy of your support. We appreciate your prayers for the Mennonite Family Centre and the people of Ukraine.

Please send your donations to:    

Ukraine Ministry

Mennonite Benevolent Society 1045 Concordia Ave. Winnipeg, Manitoba, R2K 3S7          

Or, go to the donations page, and make your donation online.

Louie Sawatzky       

Project Director