Flowers help to send hugs to Ukraine

Irma Wray left Ukraine as a baby in her mother’s arms and is giving back to her country of birth

  • Mar. 8, 2017 1:30 a.m.

Morning Star Staff

With her hands, Irma Wray creates beauty that she hopes will transform the lives of children living in Ukrainian orphanages.

The Vernon resident is having a sale of silk flower arrangements March 18 and is donating all of the proceeds to Crossroads Relief and Development for their project, Hugs for Orphans. After learning about the non-profit group’s work with 988 children at seven state-run orphanages in Lviv, Ukraine, Wray vowed to help in any way she could.

“I have again realized how blessed I am to live in Canada and appreciate the simple things of food and shelter, choices and opportunities, safety to worship,” said Wray, who was born in Halbstadt, Ukraine in 1943 and came to Canada when she was 10 years old. “When I saw this program about Crossroads on 100 Huntley Street, it touched me as I realized that I too could have been an orphan in Ukraine. I was born in a Ukrainian village that was destroyed during the war and the hospital was being bombed at the time. Doctors and medical staff were shot and only a couple of nurses were still alive in hiding. It’s a miracle I survived, thanks to the grace of God and my mom’s love for me that she fled with me in her arms and we were running for our lives. My mother had nothing, not even food to feed herself.

“Many have survived wars and more, but how bleak and dark those days can be without hope and help.”

Crossroads is a faith-based humanitarian relief and development organization, responding to humanitarian crisis with both short-term emergency response and long-term development projects. Since 1982, Crossroads has partnered with more than 60 on-site, local NGOs to provide more than $36 million in aid and emergency relief around the globe.

Crossroads is “inspired by God to love and serve all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender.” According to the organization, close to 100,000 children are living in orphanages in Ukraine, without the care and support of family. Up to 80 per cent of the children are considered “social” orphans, abandoned by their parents due to substance abuse, poverty or mental illness. Studies have revealed the negative impact on children when they don’t receive love, affirmation or a sense of belonging. As a result, statistics have shown that when the children “age out,” 70 per cent of the boys will lead a life of crime, 60 per cent of girls end up in the sex trade and 10 per cent will commit suicide.

Since 2007, Crossroads has been working in Ukraine, with students from L’viv Theological Seminary providing care, hope and spiritual guidance to the children.

“Since they started, they have met their original goal of $50,000 to run the program for another year,” said Wray. “There are many things they are looking at and are making priority lists.”

A few of the items on the list include: clean mattresses; repairing a bathroom that is not in working condition; equipment for trades training, such as sewing machines and woodworking tools, so the children have a trade when they age out at 18 and venture into adulthood; fixing, painting and making the buildings safer and more comfortable.

“These precious children are living in derelict, state-run orphanages where things are even worse since the Russians have been at war with them the last three years,” said Wray, adding that the orphanages are home to children ages five to 17. “Let’s give them hope, help and skills for a trade — choices that we often take for granted.

“I believe any one of us could have had different circumstances, without choices, like these orphans have had. Without the opportunities we have been given, our life might have looked quite different. Most of us are immigrants from somewhere, in some part of our family tree — I know my family is. We are so grateful to be in this wonderful country of Canada where we had a chance to make a new life, safe and free, to give back to our community and share the many blessings God has given us.”

Wray’s husband passed away a little more than two years ago and in 2015 she broke her hip and wrist. But she wants to give back to those in need, and making floral arrangements has been a way of building up her strength.

“I have been doing silk arrangements for many years, initially as I have allergies to fresh flowers indoors — this I did with my husband Gord, whom I miss terribly. The lack of sun in the winter can be hard for me and this hobby has helped me look forward to spring, new growth, new things and of course gardening.

“Like many other seniors, bills build up, and debt is always on our minds, especially when a spouse has needed extra health care, but I gladly give all I can make on the sale of these bouquets to these precious children.”

Wray’s sale of silk floral arrangements takes place March 18 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 4112 Cascade Dr., Vernon. She will have 150 arrangements for sale, in a variety of colours, styles and prices, with all proceeds going to Crossroads; please note that all sales are cash only. If you can’t make it to the sale, please email walkingbyfaith@shaw.ca to make an appointment.

For more information about Crossroads, or to make a tax-deductible donation, please see www.crossroads.ca or call 1-800-265-3100.

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