Congregation, Denomination Help Build a Bridge of Hope

Congregation, Denomination Help Build a Bridge of Hope

When Springstein resident Mandy Kwasnica and her husband adopted two children from Ukraine in 2021, they had no idea they were beginning to build a bridge that would provide hope for Ukrainian refugees in Winnipeg. When members of Springstein Mennonite Church joined this bridge-building effort in late 2022, they had no idea how many Ukrainian newcomers would cross this bridge.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, resumed in February 2022 after Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014, has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and thousands of homes destroyed, with more than 12 million Ukrainians displaced. Half of those have left the country as refugees. As of July 2023, more than 24,000 of these have come to Winnipeg.

Mandy’s connections to Ukraine prompted her to help. Through the Rotary Club of Winnipeg (Charleswood), and with the support of as many as 30 volunteers from Springstein Mennonite, Mandy has developed Bridge of Hope Ukraine.

“The government of Canada helps them get to Canada, but they have no furniture or household items supplied for them,” she says. “Bridge of Hope Ukraine provides these families with what they need to set up a home.”

Initially, newcomer families chose items off the trailers hauled by Springstein Mennonite Church members, but they soon realized this was not ideal. Church member Dave Wiebe reached out to Mennonite Church Manitoba and Mennonite Church Canada, which share offices on the campus of Canadian Mennonite University, to see if there was any space available to store the large number of items that were being donated. There was, and soon every other Saturday saw Ukrainian families “shopping” for free furniture in the basement of the denominational offices.

“Having this space available to us was life-changing,” Mandy says. “It gave us a place to operate out of, it allowed us to expand the project, and it gave us a test-space to work out the logistics.” Reflecting on the support of Springstein Mennonite, she says, “We couldn’t have done this without them!”

Over 160 families have been provided with furniture and other household items so far, and the need is still great. This fall Bridge of Hope Ukraine moved to a more accessible location on Portage Avenue.

You can learn more about Bridge of Hope Ukraine here; see also this article in the Winnipeg Free Press by Brenda Suderman (Home Street). Let’s pray for these Ukrainian newcomers to Canada, along with all those coming to Canada from places of violent conflict. May they find the safety, security, peace, and hope they long for.