WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — Since February, Nancy Hathaway and her Heart for Orphans staff have traveled countless hours and thousands of miles trying to get the children in their care to safety.
For 15 years, the association has supported orphans with its halfway houses – first in Ukraine, then in Belarus and Kenya.
Naturally, the greatest concentration of late has been in the country fighting the invading Russian forces. Hathaway says when the fighting broke out her families had to leave quickly, in some cases with just the clothes on their backs, and cross the war-torn country.
“We just saw the goodness of God in so many things,” Hathaway said of the kindness families supported by Heart for Orphans received in the weeks and months that followed.
She saw it herself during a visit to the Ukraine-Romania border in March (she plans to return in June), but even then some families in the organization were stuck on the other side. Then last week, news broke that the last halfway house group still stuck in Ukraine, Mel’s House, had finally crossed the border into Romania.
Paperwork issues, Hathaway says, delayed the process.
“We were so excited. I said when you cross that line I want a picture. I want a picture so we can see this actually happened because it seemed like such an uphill battle for so a long time, but, yeah, they’re doing great,” she told News 3.
It’s bittersweet, though. Hathaway says a handful of young men of fighting age in the Ukrainian army had to stay behind, but she was able to keep in touch with them, while working to get her families – now scattered across Europe – s settle into their new locations.
On top of that, the facility of the teenage organization in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region, the Friends Club, was damaged by shelling, News 3 reported.
In the meantime, Heart for Orphans still maintains its untouched facilities left across the country as shelters for Ukrainian refugees seeking safety.
“A lot of people were living in skyscrapers, they were bombed out, they don’t know where to go, so they came to us. We still cover the cost of houses, utilities, etc. and provide food for refugees,” Hathaway said.
All of these efforts cost money, Hathaway says, helped by a record amount of donations at a recent fundraiser. But, she says, the need is permanent.
Heart for Orphans maintains an emergency fund for Ukraine to support its mission; now more crucial than ever.