Feature Stories

Bringing Holiday Sweetness to a Special Needs Boy in Zaporozhye

“I am really touched and surprised that in such hard times there are people who are still ready to help,” says Vadim’s mother, Nataliya, who relies on JDC’s monthly food allowance to feed her family.
“I am really touched and surprised that in such hard times there are people who are still ready to help,” says Vadim’s mother, Nataliya, who relies on JDC’s monthly food allowance to feed her family.

Five-year-old Vadim received a delicious surprise this Rosh Hashanah. His family, who normally subsists on whatever staples they can cover using their monthly JDC food allowance, got a special holiday package last month that included challah, honey, pomegranate juice, and sweets—likely the only ones Vadim will taste all year.

Single-mom Nataliya, 31, supports Vadim and his two-year-old brother Matvey on approximately $200 a month, which in Zaporozhye, Ukraine is barely enough to keep a roof over their heads. The family shares a room in an apartment that has no working bathroom or kitchen. Nataliya’s older brother and his family live in the main room, and her younger brother sleeps where the kitchen used to be.

As much as Nataliya would like to improve the family’s situation, every effort she makes is hampered by Vadim, who was born with congenital cerebral palsy. He is unable to walk or function independently, and fully relies on Nataliya, just like his toddler brother. Desperate for help, Nataliya turns to the Jewish community and depends on JDC—the only source of support in a country with few social safety nets for even its most helpless people.

Since Nataliya only gets occasional work as a sales clerk, the family mostly survives on what they receive from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ)-JDC Partnership for Children in the Former Soviet Union through the local Jewish Family Services (JFS). Vadim is one of the 30,000 children whose families depend on critical assistance such as a monthly food package, medication, clothing, and toys that the boys share.

At the same time, JDC provides special care for Vadim’s physical needs, supplying him with rehabilitation equipment to strengthen his limbs through the Tikva program for children with disabilities, supported by World Jewish Relief.

But Vadim’s cerebral palsy requires more targeted intervention to improve his mobility. Nataliya has been trying hopelessly to save up enough money to get him special massage treatment. Much to her surprise, the JFS, Tikva professionals, and some local volunteers organized an ongoing fundraiser to accompany each big event at their Jewish Community Center in order to raise money for Vadim’s massage course. When Natalia heard about the success of the first fundraiser, she was overjoyed.

“I am really touched and surprised that in such hard times there are people who are still ready to help.”

Tags for this story: Children, Disabilities, Families, Jewish Holiday Celebrations

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