Against a backdrop of rising poverty, a leading Catholic charity is providing funds for holiday camps in Crimea that keep children off the streets.
Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Jacek Pyl of Odessa-Simferopol, said that the annexation of the peninsula by Russia, wages and earnings have decreased while the cost of living has soared.
He said: “In comparison to 2013, salaries in the first half of 2017 dropped by 18 percent and pensions by 14 percent.”
With the risk of poverty for families with three or more children at 78 percent, and summer holidays unaffordable, the danger is that children take to the streets as their parents work.
Bishop Pyl said: “The risk of becoming addicted to computers, the internet, drugs or alcohol is particularly high for children and adolescents who spend their holidays on the streets, bored.”
In response to requests from the Diocese of Odessa-Simferopol, ACN has supported two holiday camps titled “Holidays with God” aimed at young people, irrespective of their religion.
Bishop Pyl added: “This is the age at which many young people have a lot of unanswered questions: how should I live, who do I want to be and what should I live for?
“These summer camps are not just about recuperation, but also about the future of the country and the Church, because it is very important to communicate and live Christian values.”
One participant, Bogdan Loginov, told ACN that he enjoyed his summer cap ran by religious Sisters.
He said: “If it hadn’t been for the camp, this summer would have gone by without anything meaningful happening. I am hoping that it will be held again next year.”
Andrej Prospunov, a 15 year-old participant, described to ACN how his faith had been strengthened.
He said: “Thanks to the summer camp, my friends and I understand that you can remain religious even if you are having doubts – and more than that: that belief in God and the experience of community with believers of the same age are wonderful things.
“Thank you to all the organisers and particularly to all the people who made this time possible for us through their financial support.”
Aid to the Church in Need supported summer camps for young people in countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, India, Lebanon, Syria, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Georgia and Russia.