Lyana, 11, lives with her parents and older half-sister in one room of an ancient, run-down house in Ukraine. While other girls her age play with tablets and smart phones, Lyana must still use an outhouse to go to the bathroom, as her home does not even have running water, only a small pump in the yard.
Every time she wants to shower, Lyana must walk over to her grandfather’s apartment, and even there she must compete with dozens of other people as her grandfather rents one room in a communal flat and shares the shower with many other families.
Lyana’s own house is so old it was built before the time of gas lines and running water. The only source of heat is a wooden stove, which is currently broken, and a tiny space heater. The family has no money to fix the stove, and the house is bitterly cold in the winter. Half of it is condemned as it slowly collapses on itself.
At school, things are no better. Lyana is subject to anti-Semitic teasing so severe that she is looking to find a different school for next year.
Lyana’s only refuge is the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ)-supported Hesed, where she attends art therapy. At first, Lyana’s mother refused to accept any help from IFCJ. Her father-in-law (Lyana’s grandfather) was already a client and she didn’t want the family to be viewed as a burden. When IFCJ explained that Lyana was also eligible for assistance, her mother finally relented, and today The Fellowship is a lifeline for the young girl.
Lyana’s father is unemployed and her mother makes a miniscule income working at a school for children with hearing disabilities. In the winter, the family’s electricity bill runs upwards of $100 due to the inefficient space heater and the old, inefficient electric oven. Although the family has a backyard where they would like to grow food (to reduce their grocery bills), their landlord forbids them from planting a garden.
Given the difficult conditions in which she lives, Lyana is in poor health. She recently contracted mononucleosis and IFCJ helped cover the cost of her medicine. IFCJ also helps pay for her school supplies – allowing her to rise to the top of her class this year – and provides Lyana with humanitarian assistance and basic household supplies.
In the winter, IFCJ helps the family cover their bills so that they can turn on the heater when temperatures drop towards freezing. This lifesaving help warms them body and soul, as they are so grateful to know others care about their wellbeing.