Launched a year ago in response to the despair of those fleeing the war with Russia, WWO HOPE Groups provide evidence-based parenting tips and trauma-informed care to small groups of Ukrainian women and men for ten weeks, empowering them to better care for themselves and their loved ones.
"Originally, we started HOPE Groups because we wanted to do something to help Ukrainian women who were living in Polish refugee shelters," said Susan Hillis, Global Coordinator for Strategy and Senior Technical Advisor, WWO Global Executive Team. "These women were experiencing trauma and survivor's guilt. We began using the tools we had to address that and to bring them hope.
We are excited to see how God is using the Hope Groups to bless these women and moms who have been and are struggling. We receive testimonies of how God is using the groups to build hope that extends beyond circumstances."
The initial success of the HOPE Groups soon fueled their expansion to include other countries with Ukrainian refugees. The groups also began helping more and more men who needed hope and healing as well. They were then launched throughout Ukraine to help Ukrainians who were internally displaced due to the war.
Currently, HOPE Groups are working in partnership with Ukraine Without Orphans and Children's Mission, to provide support to families in the hot zones in Ukraine. They are helping those who have returned home or who have never left. Future plans for the HOPE Groups include growth of the groups into the liberated areas of Ukraine.
Nicole Baldonado, WWO lead coordinator for the HOPE Groups, says leaders in over 10 countries and in cities throughout all Ukraine, are taking initiative and meeting each group's unique needs.
"Hope Group leaders are finding the groups are providing much more than important parenting and trauma-informed care," she said. "They have become a place of community and friendship. It's in community with others that we find the strength to heal and start to live again."
HOPE groups are becoming even more vital as the war drags on into another year. Ukrainians displaced outside their country face constant challenges of separation from loved ones, language and cultural barriers, difficulty finding work and independent housing, and children's schooling in a new place.
Many feel financial stress because they are supporting family members in two countries, as husbands, fathers, and older sons of draft age remain at home. Those who live inside Ukraine face constant threat of bombing, regular air raids, and electricity outages. And all Ukrainians, regardless of location, are enduring the long-term traumas of destruction and devastation, with constant worry for loved ones and hometowns.
"We appreciate the prayers, help, and financial support that allow us to expand the number of Hope Groups and help more people," said Baldonado. "When we all work together to help those impacted by the war, we are all spreading God's love and healing."