interview with Mark Dijkens, regional director – UK
CBN/OP Regional Director, Mark Dijkens, recently traveled to Ukraine to visit our SEED projects. He sat down and shared some incredible reports of what God is doing through the work of Orphan’s Promise in the poorest areas of Ukraine.
for people who don’t know the SEED project, could you tell us what it’s all about?
SEED stands for Something to Eat Every Day.
With the SEED project we reach out to the poorest Roma communities in Ukraine. The project originally started with agriculture, where we taught the Roma communities how to work their land and gave the seeds and tools to start up a small farm. Over the years, it has expanded into other areas like the building of water wells, providing of education and even the start up of micro business. All of this with one goal, impacting these communities for the good, braking the cycle of poverty by equipping these communities to provide for themselves.
you have just come back from Ukraine. is there a moment that stands out to you?
On my trip, I met lots of amazing communities and people and that impacted me deeply. It is hard to pick one, but I remember this one man who was disabled and walking with crutches. He has three sons, two of them were also disabled. Orphan’s Promise identified their need and provided a house for them that was safe to live in. We also provided him and his family with livestock so they could earn an income. It was so amazing to see this man so thankful, happy and safe in his home while receiving support from the community around him. The situation this man would be in without the help of OP would be very different.
what is the biggest difference the SEED project is making?
The most significant result of the SEED project is the impact you see on people’s lives, not only practically through agriculture but even more so the shift that happens in the mentality in these communities. There is a big stigma on the Roma community and they are often said to be lazy and dishonest. But through providing them with an honest way to provide for them and really enjoy the fruits of their labor, that prejudice is slowly disappearing. The effect on the self-esteem of these families is huge. They believe in themselves again and feel like a valuable part of society. That is something incredible.
On top of that, the project really helps to keep families together. Before, fathers and sometimes even both parents would have to leave their families to get work far from the home because there were no local jobs. The older siblings in the families are then left to take care of the children. Now, communities are being transformed, families can earn an income right where they are and families stay together. It’s an amazing transformation in the life of these people!
people might wonder why OP would support an agricultural program. is SEED really helping children?
Absolutely, we believe that if we change a situation at its root, the change lasts forever, and is passed on to the next generation. This project is transforming entire families and communities and children are the first to benefit from this.
Because of SEED, they are living in healthy, thriving families with good and healthy food and clean water. They have access to healthcare and even receive education through our education projects. We are breaking the cycle of poverty and change it into a cycle of good choices. Our mission is to bring children from at risk to thriving and this is what we see happening time and time again.
We started in one community in 2009 and today we are in twenty-four communities! It is amazing what God has made possible! Other communities are looking in, seeing the change and the benefit and they want this for themselves. This project is really snowballing in Ukraine. But it doesn’t stop there! We would love to see this multiplied in other countries, like the Balkans and even into other cultures. We see that God’s hand is on this project and He is multiplying it.
if those reading this are inspired and want to get involved, what can they do to help?
We need constant prayer for the team and the communities! We know that this is all God’s doing. We are also praying for surrounding communities that are looking in, for God to open the doors towards them as well. Secondly, this project is only possible because of our generous partners and donors. We need more finance to continue and help us expand this project to other communities and partners. A very practical way you can help is by partnering with us on a monthly basis or even blessing us with a one-time gift.