A 6-year-old boy lives on the streets with his mother. She dies. The boy is then sent to live with his father, who wants nothing to do with his son. The father passes the boy off to his grandmother. After traveling 16 hours alone, he arrives at his drunken, abusive grandmother’s home.
That is the reality for Artyum, a Ukrainian child supported by Jeremiah’s Hope through a program called the Sasha Project.
The Sasha Project provides Ukrainian children with groceries, school supplies and other necessities. According to their website, Jeremiah’s Hope is now serving over 60 children through this program.
Jeremiah’s Hope also serves the children through village outreach, summer camps, orphanage outreach and a transitional home for children leaving the orphanage.
Andrew Kelly, ACU alumnus, founded Jeremiah’s Hope in 2004.
“We have kids who lived in a home who have been thrown out of second-story windows into dumpsters below on the ground floor, alive,” Kelly said. “They know that that’s their background and they want to know, ‘What purpose do I have,’ so that allows us to really share who Jesus is and that your mother may have thrown you out of a window, but God is never going to throw you out.”
Multigenerational poverty runs rampant in the villages in which Jeremiah’s Hope team works. Some villages don’t have roads, running water, electricity or gas. Many families are self-sustaining, growing what they need to survive.
“There’s a whole attitude of hopelessness. They just feel absolutely hopeless. So we’re able to share with them that God gives us hope. Yes, you may never escape the village, but you can find happiness and peace in a relationship with Jesus,” Kelly said.
Bonnie Kellum, senior psychology major from Allen, was an intern at Jeremiah’s Hope last summer through WorldWide Witness.
“I was there for the summer and so I met all of these kids and spent a lot of time in the village just talking to the kids. Once I came home it was like I couldn’t just do nothing. You meet these kids and you hear these stories and something changes in you and it’s placed on your heart to make a difference,” Kellum said.
Kellum, also president of GATA, came back to ACU and proposed to the club that they do something to give back.
Kellum knew she was going to go back to Ukraine. She told GATA members she was going during winter break and that they could make gift bags for her to take back to the children.
“Everyone was really excited,” Kellum said.
Marcus Womble, junior psychology major from Allen, was an intern with Kellum and two other ACU social club members at Jeremiah’s Hope.
“We saw how we had all these social clubs there and we were like, we should do something that gets them all together, brings awareness and gets clubs working together for something,” Womble said.
Last semester’s all-club grub, Giving Thanks for a Cause, joined ACU’s social clubs together for an event where the admission price for the evening was simply bringing a small item for the gift bags that Womble and Kellum would take back to Ukraine during the winter break.
“We were thinking, wouldn’t it be so awesome if this could be something we did every year where your ticket in the door to come and hang out with all of your friends is something that goes for a good cause. We’re definitely trying to make kind of a legacy for people to follow and to keep giving,” Kellum said.
Frater Sodalis sponsors Artyum each month by passing around a hat and asking each member to donate about a dollar. It costs $15 a month to sponsor a child through the Sasha Project, and Womble said Frater Sodalis usually raises twice what it needs, enabling Jeremiah’s Hope to provide groceries and other provisions for Artyum’s entire family.
“Once you experience something like this, you’re never the same. I think it’s so important for us as Americans – us as Christians – to give back, because you never realize how materialistic and selfish and just how worldly you are until you see someone who’s without anything. It is very humbling and I think if more people did stuff like this, it would be a much better place to be,” Kellum said.
Womble said he wants to see the ACU campus become more aware of situations like those in Ukraine.
“I’d love for different social clubs to take their own personal proactive steps toward assisting in any way that they can,” Womble said. “Just something creative that shows the children of Ukraine the love that they need.”