Projects

One Week's Sponsored Cycling

 

Dear Friends and Supporters:

We hope all is well with you.  As you know, our philosophy in the Maria Relief Fund is: that others are important to us, in particular when they are disadvantaged and distressed children.  We are motivated to bring the possibility of change into their lives.

I take this opportunity to introduce the project Alison is undertaking.  Two years ago Alison organized a cycling sponsorship with her friend Anne, with whom she cycled the length of Ireland - around 550 miles - in 11 days.  As an academic with over 40 years experience of lecturing and helping thousands of students, she was delighted to hear our main focus: to help the children with their education.  She was also very pleased to be told that we have organized a regular English class for these children and their families on Friday evenings, at our Maria community centre in Chortkive, Ukraine.

Recently Alison informed us that she is following the current situation in Ukraine, and has decided to arrange another Cycling Sponsorship.  When I asked her "why such a challenging plan? You have already been helping Maria Relief Fund for more than 7 years," she replied "I would like to make a small additional difference to the lives of the children particularly at this time of difficulty in Ukraine."

"The cycling will be challenging for me, not only because of the distance, but also because it is a very difficult and hilly route.  I hope I will be able to complete it.  It is a challenge in its own right but I feel that if I could also help the children a little by doing it, this would make it even more worth while."

Alison described her plan: "We are going to cycle the Yorkshire section of the 'Tour de France'.  The actual length of the trip is less in miles than the Ireland one, but it will be more arduous.  We believe that it is also very beautiful and we are looking forward to meeting some local people en route."

We in Maria Relief Fund are delighted to have such a keen long standing supporter, and wish Alison great success with her undertaking.

We are aiming through this project to raise enough funds to help 75 families.  We hope to be able to send £150 to each family. We will be very grateful for any support you feel you may be able to offer.

With my warmest regards,

Hamid

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Cycling the Tour de Dale!

In August, 2014, Anne and I cycled 140 miles along the route of the first leg of the Tour de France. This doesn’t sound much - it is less than half the amount we did when we cycled the length of Ireland, but it felt like twice the length. We did several ‘mountain men’ routes where long stretches of the road were 1 in 4 hills – this was hard going down as well as up as we had to hang on to our brakes and watch out for cars coming either way along the narrow lanes. The roads wound round and round as well, like mountain roads.

At times we really struggled and the hills felt endless. We counted our footsteps – ‘yes, we did walk some of it!’ – in whichever language came to our mind. I practiced my Farsi!

The scenery though made it all worthwhile. It is really spectacular and it changes all the time, from farmland, with cows and hens and even a few crops, to moorland with sheep and grouse. There are, we discovered, different types of sheep in the various dales – the Swaledale sheep have black faces and legs.

We stayed in some decent B and B’s and had some wonderful food – some great Yorkshire breakfasts and some ‘fat rascals’ – like a cross between a scone and a rock cake.

We found the people we met to be really funny and kind. They would egg us on with ‘get on your bike’ or ‘she’s not far ahead love and she’s sweating’ (said to the one of us who was behind on the hills!).

All in all it was worth it and even more so to know that we might have helped a few Ukrainian families at this difficult time for them. If it was difficult for us, how much more difficult is it for them.

Alison Assiter, August 2014.

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Portraits of Refugees

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 December 2014 08:53

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What can a war artist do?
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A photo is quickly taken, sold to a news agency, reacted to in passing by millions, and passed over. A drawing takes far longer in time and space, to contemplate the condition.
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Our children are the same for us the world over.  This woman works hard on the land and in her household.  She holds it all together and carries the weight of water from the well. She gave birth to her babies in pain and crying out and relief;  they are her life, each one.  Her husband may or may not be a strong, caring father. Now their homestead and village is shattered:  they wait homeless on the waterless mountain.  She is vulnerable.  In a war zone you do not know who is friend or rapist - like an earthquake.  Her children are hungry and there is no roof.  There is the tearing pain inside her belly, or anxiety and shock:  the soft smell of her baby:  the bewildered bravery of her daughter as a journalist's lens draws near.  They are rounded up like goats by unknown herders.
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She is my sister.  I can only reach out by drawing her, to touch, that she may feel somehow, somewhere that someone knows.  Send her strength ... even now, wherever she is.
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He's a father, and they lost their mother.  The children want to help him, and don't know how.  On their terrifying journey to survival, it is an artist's way to support and wish them well.  Loaded on a donkey they ride off into uncertain night, the first desolate steps through quicksand, of an astounding courage.
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It is humiliating to have your home torn away and to ride with all you can carry on the donkey to God knows where?
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The newspaper said:  She has a badly needed drink.   While I was drawing her - and it took me nearly all day - I wondered about what blinds a man or boy, to kill or hurt this beautiful child in the name of fundamentalism.
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I singled these children out from a crowd in Gaza - two brothers and a sister.  They watch perhaps the bombing of their street - evacuated.  A rope to hold back the crowd, threads together each child's parentless abyss ... the grownups' broken world.
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refugee children at christmas
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This was our Maria Relief Fund Christmas card some years ago - a refugee camp anywhere and the Star.
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The Children
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The late Valerie Brooks gave 17 years of her life to support children in distress.   See under Projects in this website. A network of friends and supporters helps to support each needy family in Chortkiv village, Ukraine, and to establish an English class and educational opportunities for their children.   It is an extended family.
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Many large charities lose their definition in administrative overheads.  Smaller charities operate in a grass roots way through human contact and serendipity.  The Maria Relief Fund assists children in need, wherever we may reach them in the world. It is as essential to give hope and support to a family struggling with poverty, as it is to relocate families and children displaced by regimes and war.
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This little girl lives in Chortkiv, Ukraine.
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This is Kristina, a talented young girl whom we also sponsor.  Some of her drawings are on this website - scroll down to "Childrens' Art" on the homepage.   She lives with her granny and grandad.
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Kristina and her granny and grandad
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Dancers at a village festival in West Ukraine
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Here are now some children I drew many years ago, at their schools, as part of a project.  They are not refugees nor (I hope) in difficulty, but I wish them health and happiness, wherever they live, and whomever they grew up to be.
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girl from Nigeria
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Sketch of little Japanese girl
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Gautam from Bangladesh
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... and Kelvin from Ghana
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The English Class in Chortkive

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 December 2014 12:12

A Letter from Nastya ...

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Dear Hamid,

I have just spent the lesson with them.  I had so much fun with our children.  They are great, and I am so glad that I can teach them.  They learnt new words, sang songs, played games and did puzzles.  They are the students of the 4th and 5th forms.  We need more paper, pens and pencils, markers, books for kids and DVD (cartoons or stories).  We would be grateful for anything you could send us.

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Now a few words about myself and my family.

My full name is Anastasia Dubyna (Nastya for short).  I am 35 years old.  My family is not very large.  I have two children.  My daughter's name is Victoria, she is 14.  My son's name is Oleksandr; he is 9/  My husband's name is Anatoliy;  he is 43 and he is a shop assistant.  I'm a happy person because I have a friendly family, and many good students.

With thanks, Yours sincerely,

Nastya

 

Read more: The English Class in Chortkive

 

for Paypal

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 December 2014 08:46

 

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Our aim is to find and help distressed children whose voice is not heard!

Hundreds of thousands of charities and humanitarian organizations help distressed children all over the world. Yet, hundreds of millions of children suffer on a daily basis, unheard.

Most of us who want to help children are aware of what is happening in Africa, India and the Middle East. However, there are children in other parts of the world such as Ukraine, whom the publicity doesn’t reach: their need is urgent.

We invite you to help us for the following reasons:

We try to support distressed children who have no voice in the world, and to give them fresh hope.

The Maria Relief Fund is managed by volunteers, in a self-sustaining and efficient way. Most of the money we raise goes directly to the children and their families. The personal connection we developed with our supporters inspired some of them to make the commitment to run the work of the charity.

Our administrative overheads are kept to a minimum so they do not stand between donor and beneficiary. We nurture the trusting relationship between our volunteers, beneficiaries and the charity.

Many large charity organizations, for all the good work they do, have to be run on big business lines. Donations tend to support the administration first, resulting in some loss of the vital connection and desire to assist those in distress.

Our charitable aim is to support distressed children who are victims of war, natural disaster or poverty. Since 2007, the Maria Relief Fund has been looking after children in four villages in west Ukraine. We don’t want these children to end up in orphanages; we want them to be able to stay with their relatives.


Our involvement developed through a personal contact; the project is now flourishing. We encourage local authorities and churches to engage in our work. The growing number of volunteers within the four villages, show how the community is becoming self sustaining.

We focus on the childrens’ education, to empower them, and to develop the community’s self-sufficiency. During our visits to Ukraine, we observed positive changes in the attitude of the carers and children to education. The children enjoy their studies, and are eager to learn English so as to communicate with us.



Our network of Friends and Supporters provides the financial resources for our work. We keep you informed through the website, of the ongoing work of the Trust, and of how your gift is being utilized. Getting to know our Friends more closely over the years, created a healthy environment and relationship, which guarantees the future of our work.

It is important to confirm that we refer to the advice contained in the Charity Commission’s general guidance on public benefit when reviewing the Trust’s aims and objectives, and in planning future activities and setting the grant making policy for the year.


We are a “small extended family” of volunteers with a big vision!

We welcome your generosity among us, and your gift. Small is beautiful, large is the heart and open hand.

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Valerie Project

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Valerie Brookes with children Valerie Brookes (26.6.31 – 24.6.2007) devoted the last 17 years of her life to supporting children in distress, becoming a very active member of our charity. Sadly, Valerie spent her final months in hospital, during which time representatives of the Maria Relief Fund arranged for her flat to be cleaned. The excellent cleaner employed for that purpose turned out to be a fully-qualified doctor from the Ukraine. This is how we discovered the major problems facing that country. Our cleaning lady earned roughly twice as much for a day's cleaning work in the UK as she could for a month's work as a hospital doctor in her own area of the Ukraine.

Read more: Valerie Project

 

Why the fish?

You may have wondered why our organisation's logo features the symbol of a fish.

This sign is perhaps most often associated with Christianity; ichthys, the ancient Greek word for fish, is spelled from the first letters of the phrase, "Jesus Christ, God's Son, the Saviour." It may be understood to represent abundance and faith, reminding us of the Gospel account of how Jesus miraculously fed the multitude with five loaves and two fish.

In early Christianity, the fish was also used as a secret symbol to mark the meetings places and safe havens, distinguishing friend from foe at a time when Christianity was being persecuted by the Roman Empire.

Read more: Why the fish?

 

Maria Relief Fund
20 Morris Road, Lewes
East Sussex BN7 2AT

Registered Charity No.
1113029

Email:
info@mariarelieffund.org.uk

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