As a young girl of 11 or 12, Marichka had to leave home. Her parents were alcoholics. Forced to survive on the streets she was eventually taken in and looked after by the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate.
Other young girls are not so fortunate. Orphaned and alone in Ukraine, they become prime targets for human trafficking, a problem in many countries throughout the world.
Organizers of a recent breakfast fundraiser held in Winnipeg to combat this problem believe there are over 150,000 homeless children in Ukraine.
Sister Janice Soluk of SSMI was the guest speaker at the fundraiser held in late January. She believes the figures are actually higher.
"The disease of human trafficking is rampant in our world... when I was there, there may have been as many as 250,000 children on the street."
While there are some orphanages available to children under the age of 16, there are no supports for those who turn 16. They are expected to be independent but literally have no place to go and lack necessary life skills.
Over 400 people attended the breakfast, which was organized by the Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League Winnipeg Archeparchy to raise money to support a Home of Hope, a safe house in Ukraine, for girls aged 16 and older.
A charity called the Bridge of Hope, was founded by Luba Kowalchuk of Edmonton, said Soluk. who was in Rome for 12 years as Superior General of SSMI.
The Home of Hope is meant to be a home where the young girls will be safe, "can learn how to budget, take care of their health, hygiene, work and uncover their talents."
Soluk explained how an elderly gentleman who lived in Ukraine left a bequest of $400,000 to be used for the children in Ukraine. In 2008, an old , 1,450 square-foot house in Lviv was purchased.
It was later discovered that, by sheer coincidence, the house belonged to the uncle of the elderly man who had donated the money.
"Plans were made to extend it — to about five times its original size," Soluk said. Much of the renovation work has been done, increasing the living space to about 8,000 square feet.
This latest fundraiser was to raise money for furnishings so that the first group of young girls can move in, in early February.
Project partners for the Home of Hope are the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton and the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, a congregation in the Ukrainian Catholic Church with branches throughout the world.
For more info visit the website at www.ourbridgeofhope.com. Those wishing to donate can call Vicky Adams at 204-453-7514.
Cheryl Girard is a community correspondent for West Kildonan. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org