Salvation Army partnership by a UK-based church group going strong in Ukraine after 24 years
In 1994, a member of the Salvation Army in Winton (some 180 km southwest of London) took musical instruments to colleagues in Ukraine. This action sparked the start of a relationship, which continues to go from strength-to-strength.
The Salvation Army’s Winton Corps has sent volunteers to Ukraine every two years on a project called Ukraine: Vision of Hope after David Ramsay went on his first mission of mercy back in 1994.
This year, Salvation Army members helped at an older people’s home where they renovated a kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms and ran a children’s camp at an orphanage in Lviv.
They also provided healthcare clinics for the village of Uhniv and surrounding villages and visited Roma families in the Carpathian mountain region where they ran day camps for children.
Over the last 24 years, Mr Ramsay, who is a retired police officer, and his colleagues at The Salvation Army in Winton Corps have had to overcome corruption, bureaucracy and war to support their colleagues in Ukraine.
“Having heard of The Salvation Army opening up its work again in Ukraine we decided to fund and run the Camp Victory music school on the outskirts of Kyiv,” Mr Ramsay said.
“I had spent the previous 12 months travelling throughout the UK and so I was able to take 120 brass instruments to the camp which had been donated by both Salvation Army bands and other brass bands I’d met at competitions.
“This camp, in June 1994 was attended by approximately 170 children for two weeks. The vast majority had never sung or played a brass instrument before.”
The project has faced many challenges over the years. Mr Ramsay said trying to send aid has proved particularly difficult.
Each member who goes on the mission has to raise £700 for the trip.
The mission in 2014 was put in doubt by the dispute between Russia and Ukraine, however after a lone visit in May, the trip went ahead and proved to be one of the most successful to date.
This year, 41 members were split into three teams to work on separate projects over the 12-day trip.
Mr Ramsay added: “It was also one of our most challenging missions. I would say that one of the highlights was the introduction of a medical team who worked with the nursing staff at the Uhniv home for the elderly.”
The members also held daily surgeries in the town and surrounding villages, which had queues out of the door as people waited for the clinic. Over the initiative’s 24 years Mr Ramsay said living standards have gradually improved, however, since the conflict broke out in 2014 there had been a “noticeable decline”.