Rachel Caklos for NP-UN.
Background and Current Projects
The Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) was established in 1926 by Pope Pius XI and is a dedicated organization driven to provide pastoral and humanitarian support for areas within countries that face mass poverty, war, and displacement. The organization currently works in 13 countries, and its offices in North America are in Ottawa, established in 2005, and in New York, which began the organization's focus on Ukraine.
Partners that aid the CNEWA include the Ukrainian Catholic University, Caritas Ukraine and The Patriarchal Curia of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. CNEWA’s numerous projects are driven by the lessons of being a Good Samaritan and recognizing the importance of supporting ‘thy neighbour,’ no matter where they are.
Engaged in its numerous fundraisers, CNEWA can connect donors worldwide who provide generous offerings to the various religious ‘boots on the ground’ groups, including nuns, priests, bishops and the local churches who offer services, aid and support to the local communities that need it most.
Countries including Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, India, Armenia and Ukraine are some of the many countries CNEWA has worked in to provide aid through the churches to vulnerable communities with diverse challenges. Areas of assistance include emergency relief, health care, providing necessities such as food, clothing, and hygiene products and a focus on helping children by engaging in childcare initiatives and providing resources.
Ukraine has been one of the focuses of CNEWA since the 1990s when the country gained independence. With the oppression inflicted by the Soviet Union, CNEWA started to help rebuild underground Church communities and provide basics for their essential functions. When the Russian invasion happened in 2014, CNEWA provided emergency aid. As people were fleeing East Ukraine, various religious sister bodies were able to help individuals, specifically children who were displaced, by providing psychological and social support. The Canadian office of CNEWA has established agents on the ground in Ukraine to work on various smaller projects all over the country and provide aid in various accessible ways. With the full-scale Russian invasion in Ukraine, everyone was affected.
Anna Dombrovska, the Ottawa project officer dedicated to overseeing the Ukrainian program, emphasized that significant projects had to be relocated with the movement of Russian forces pushing into Ukraine. However, CNEWA continues to push resources and aid to communities who need it. With their prior experiences of Russian invasions and challenges posed by COVID-19, CNEWA was ready to provide assistance in emergencies to help serve the affected individuals.
This focus on constant aid continued in 2023 while considering how to help reduce the effects on the future of individuals in Ukraine. Alongside the continuation of fundraising, helping with emergency needs such as aiding the displaced, and providing medical care, living essentials and food, 2024 has also become a year focused on helping the millions of traumatised children within the country to provide protection, safe living conditions and psychological support. As many children have become half or completely orphaned, CNEWA saw this as a real need that must be addressed.
With this focus on children and healing the wounds and impacts of the war on them, a project entitled “Psychological support and integration of the displaced children” has been created to mitigate the adverse effects of the war within local areas, specifically in Dnipro, by providing psychological assistance to displaced children and adolescents who are reintegrating into host communities. The aim is to create child-friendly spaces and provide regular programs for children to engage in daily. This project recognises the loss of everyday living conditions with the war taking place in Ukraine for almost ten years and its effects on the lives of the children and youth. Dnipro has been a focused location as it lies between three different fronts. Eighty-eight thousand two hundred displaced children have been recorded to have moved to the Dnipropetrovsk region since the invasion began.
Caritas Ukraine, a branch of ‘Caritas Internationalis’ organizations, has created the Caritas Ukraine Social Project (Parish Social Ministry), which is connected with CNEWA. It is a long-term project that began in 2022 and aims to provide tools and teach training in social help. Through parishes, this social help materialized to address the immediate needs of individuals who have been displaced and homeless and provides tools and methods on how to self-sustain and organize people to help as many people as possible. These methods were engaged during the peak times of COVID-19 when local organizations and churches could react quickly to local needs.
The Canadian Connection
As Canada is home to the large community of Ukrainians, CNEWA’s Canadian donors understand the need for aid in Ukraine. As many children have been affected, there are intense worries regarding the effects on them and how these events and experiences will negatively affect their lives forever. As many Ukrainian-Canadians have lived through similar experiences in Ukraine, they can understand and connect to the experiences of the current Ukrainian population as history has repeated itself.
In 2022, CNEWA Canada funded nearly 100 projects in Ukraine. With these funds, around 365,000 people were given essential aid and support; nine medical centres were provided with equipment, other crucial supplies, and generators. That year, over $5.7 million was sent to Ukraine, thanks to CNEWA’s donors. With the pressures of the war, CNEWA projects tripled in 2022.
CNEWA takes pride in fulfilling the desires of its donors by directing their donations to specific projects or to help the programs that are most in need. As the organisation is a trusted body with almost 100 years of service to those in need, CNEWA has built a strong reputation within its communities and on the Canadian and international stage. By working through the Church, trusted relations have been deeply rooted in programs on the ground. Dr Adriana Bara, the National Director of CNEWA in Canada, emphasised that the mission of the organisation has always been to help people in need, no matter what their background or religion, and with the help from the kindness of Canadian donors, many projects are made possible, and millions have been assisted.
How to Help
One way of participating in providing aid through CNEWA is their Food boxes in Ukraine, which provide necessities for individuals who experience constant bombing, movement away from conflict, and lack of food and access to resources.
CNEWA continues to do fantastic work in Ukraine and around the world. With their help and the sheer desire to provide as much support to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people through community support and providing essentials, we must keep sight of the individuals on the other side of the world and find new ways to help and fund continuing projects.
To learn more about the many projects that are in motion, please visit the CNEWA’s website and YouTube channel, where they share stories of individuals on the ground providing aid and provide information on all of their international programs.
Ways to Donate
Thank you to Anna Dombrovska and Dr. Adriana Bara for their help and contribution to this article.