Goodness can smell like vanilla and cinnamon, it can melt on your tongue and be pleasant to the eye. Goodness can be a grateful smile and hands holding a bag of sweet treats. And it also turns out that doing good things is actually simple and easy for each of us, we just have to start!
It has been five years now that Ms. Oksana cooks pancakes or other tasty things, packs them in her bag, and goes to feed the homeless and destitute people of Troyeshchyna, one of Kyiv’s neighborhoods, at the appointed time. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like or what the circumstances are, she does it twice a week. The volunteers distribute hot meals and sandwiches to feed all those who come to the charity lunch in a small park, just near the street.
What's on the menu?
Most people do not notice destitute people, but there are those who not only share food but also the warmth of their souls with them. Our heroine, Ms. Oksana, is one of those kind people.
“I had the idea of helping people for a long time,” the woman says. “And when I got to know the volunteers of the St. Egidius Community in Kyiv, who provide food for the homeless and destitute people in different areas of the city, I was eager to join them. Volunteering has always been urgent, but helping Ukrainians during the war now is especially needed.”
“My cooking volunteering has been going on for more than five years. Twice a week, we meet at a designated place at the appointed time. Community volunteers bring hot lunches and sandwiches, and I bring dessert! I often bake pancakes with a sweet filling. I call it my signature dish and it always goes with a bang, everyone likes them, praises them, thanks me, and asks for more. It is not about any secret ingredient, the most important thing is to put your soul into this business. After all, food prepared with love tastes special. I try to treat the elderly with my pancakes first. They find it difficult to chew solid food, but they love sweets so much and admit that they have no other way but to treat themselves with them. Plenty of people — up to a hundred, come to us for food, especially now, when the war hurts the most vulnerable, and people get very upset when there is not enough pancakes for everyone… They all are so happy when everyone gets their sweets! I don’t live close enough to the food distribution location, so I have to take a minibus and carry heavy bags to the meeting point, but the way these people greet me makes up for all the difficulties!”
“I feed people on my own dime, and I have neither a vehicle nor sponsors. I am an artist. I draw portraits. I once posted portraits of Hollywood celebrities on my Instagram page and was very pleasantly surprised when one of them, Liev Schreiber, liked my portrait and wrote to me about it. Before the war, I participated in exhibitions in the Karas Gallery in Kyiv. But now, unfortunately, painting is on hiatus because of the war and blackouts…”
“There were times when I was in a difficult financial situation, yet I baked apples for old ladies coming to us because I still wanted to help at least somehow. That is why I was so glad to see a post about microgrants from Goodacity, as it meant that I would have the chance to treat everyone coming with a free lunch with sweets. These people’s lives are very difficult, and I want to help them, giving a bit of home warmth and tasty food. Recently, when there was no light at home all day long because of the blackout, and I wasn’t able to cook anything, so I bought them croissants in bulk. The box was so large that I had to bring it to my eighth floor without an elevator in two parts, and at home I packed every croissant into a separate bag.”
This is where hope lives
“Who comes to get a free lunch? There are various kinds of people who show up,” Ms. Oksana says. “We have hunched-over old women with battered bags in their hands, people who live on the street because of different life circumstances, modestly dressed old men, and we also have people who have moved here escaping the war with the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion. All these people have been living on the edge or even beyond the poverty line, so they can’t even buy food for themselves. There are two displaced women among the volunteers of the St. Egidius Community. They have quite humble conditions of life, but they still come to help us distribute free meals. It is so inspiring and touching!
Such moments make me happy, and it’s so nice that people immediately start helping others! Helping Ukrainians during the war concerns us all!”
“All kinds of destitute people come to us: the homeless, the retired, people whose lives were ruined, people who have lost their way.Even old people who barely make ends meet, as they only have enough money to pay for utilities and buy some medicine at best, but there is no money for food left. So they look for groceries on the street or come to the free meals distribution. The fact that they have a place to come and have a warm meal twice a week makes it possible for them to keep their heads above the water.”
“A lot of our wards come to these meetings not only to have a hot meal, but also to hear some kind words. For lonely retired people it is a chance to communicate, exchange news, be part of a group, in a community…
Occasionally, they come half an hour earlier, just to chat. Even a simple conversation helps and consoles them and the people who have to live on the street! They need to feel that someone is waiting for them somewhere. So, we intentionally stay with them for a while to chat after all the food is distributed.”
“Feeding a person is the start of the conversation. You ask for their name, find out their story, and somehow try to help them. That is why some pancakes, or a bowl of warm soup, are only just the beginning. It is important for them to be heard, to have someone to talk to them, to be treated humanely.”
“We all feel anxiety, fear, uncertainty now. However, when I realize that today I have shared a bit of warmth with others and have helped them, my life gets warmer and lighter. I feel more complete sharing with those people who are struggling.”
“My granddaughter goes to the distribution with me. She is such a great girl,helping me a lot because there is no such thing as too much help at the distributions. It is cold now, and it is difficult to stay outside for long periods of time when the frost makes it difficult to feed people in such conditions. It’s hard work, both physically and emotionally, but it’s wonderful that there are people who are willing to do it! I feel incredible joy because of it, particularly because I don’t live in vain.”