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Updates from Ukraine: an interview with our partner

Updated: Jan 11

Recently, the Servant Life team had an opportunity to spend time with our long-time ministry partners from Radooga as they were visiting from Ukraine. Since the beginning of full-scale war in February 2022, Radooga has conducted and partnered with other ministries to hold 100 children's camps, offering social and psychological help to 5000 children, and providing an opportunity for 12,000 children to continue their school education.

Founders, Oleg and Lena Vasilevsky, shared with us how robotics is being used in bomb shelters all across the country as a way to minister to children, and how using robotics in their trauma-healing clubs led to the trip of a lifetime for two of the girls in their club to travel to Panama for the World Robot Olympiad International Final. 

We look forward to a day soon when we can send Servant Life teams again to minister in Ukraine alongside Radooga. Until then, we invite you first to pray for our ministry partners, and their entire team, as they continue to be dedicated to the work serving the children of Ukraine. Secondly, If you would like to support efforts in Ukraine in a tangible way, we are accepting donations on our website. You can find a link below.

Can you share specifically about what it’s like going from a war-torn Ukraine all the way to Panama and just that experience to even get there?

Oleg: It took us 3 days because there are no airports that are currently operating in Ukraine. We drove for 30 hours, got 2 hours of sleep, and flew to Miami through Germany. Getting to Panama was difficult with 2 twelve-year-old kids.

And so they’re competing with teams from all over the world?

Oleg: Right. So we run trauma healing clubs for children who are internally displaced or disabled in Ukraine and orphans as well. So out of 30,000 (robotic) teams worldwide, only 500 teams have been selected. Through the national competitions, we came in 3rd place and 7th place. We aren’t a “STEM group” we are trauma healing clubs for children who were fleeing from their houses for safety. So for us to go to Panama was so amazing.

Going and winning the competition is always great, but even going is winning. What was so symbolic about these two girls traveling to Panama to compete in the robotics competition?

Oleg: When we share about our trauma healing robotic clubs many people in America would say “Oh yeah my grandkids do that”. And we say, yeah but your kids don’t do that in the bomb shelters, your kids don’t do that in underground garages, your kids don’t do that under heavy bombing. I think what is important to us is it’s not about robots, it’s not about STEM, it’s not about getting big awards. It’s about hope because this war has been going on for almost 2 years. Many people ask us “How do you see this end?’”. We have no idea. So in the midst of this darkness, in the midst of uncertainty, to have such a positive thing as kids winning at something, I think this is the closest we can experience to living normal lives. And then the whole ripple effect. It’s not just the kids who feel that positivity. It’s also their parents that go “my life can be this”. Then of course churches we work with in Ukraine are like “yeah we can use robots for the gospel, robots for Jesus”. Another cool thing about giving hope through this robotic trauma healing club is that not only do kids get saved but also their parents as they travel across the towns to take their kids to our trauma healing clubs. They (the parents) also stay in the churches and people from the churches talk with them. So now people have been baptized, parents have been baptized who are refugees themselves. We feel very overwhelmed with hope.

How can people continue to pray for you and help with the work you guys are doing in Ukraine?

Oleg: We’re getting really tired. People in ministry get really tired. A mission trip is usually a few weeks, and that’s when you experience a lot of empathy and that’s where you give a lot of yourself, but when your mission trip is 600+ days, it’s hard. Just pray for ministries in Ukraine. None of us are going to quit doing our work, this is not an option we have. But that tiredness is there and what we need from it is just to recharge. Support our clubs, we have 1,127 children and things are not getting easier. We’ve asked some parents, “we’re done with the critical moment, do you think we can quit?” They say “no, my kids are struggling, we live in a new place”. One of our kids (who competed in the Robotics competition in Panama) has been away from her home for 600+ days, she cannot go back. Pray that we would have enough funds to continue. There was a lot of support in the early days when the war started, but it all plummeted. Supporting these clubs is a big deal. It’s $157 for us to be working with a child the whole year round at our clubs, which is not a lot of money but definitely a huge impact. It’s not a one-time meeting that will heal your life, it’s trauma. And trauma needs to be dealt with for an extended period of time and that’s what we do.

Donations made to Servant Life through our website will be sent directly to Radooga in Ukraine to assist with relief and other needs during the ongoing crisis. To indicate your giving to Radooga, please select “Ukraine Partner Assistance” for the kind of contribution you would like to make. 

To learn more about this Journey to Victory, you can watch Radooga's video here.

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