Ukrainian delegation visits Rochester to learn about providing services to children and families

Ukrainian delegation in Rochester to meet with social-service providers

Ukrainian delegation in Rochester to meet with social-service providers

A delegation of Ukrainians who are serving people in crisis have spent the week in Rochester learning how our social service agencies help those in need.  The group is meeting with American counterparts to talk about programs, funding sources and best practices in an effort to bring some new techniques back to its war-torn country.    

The Congressional Office for International Leadership, an agency of the U.S. Congress, is sponsoring the delegation of Social Services professionals from Ukraine. 

While in Rochester, the delegates are collaborating with a number of local non-profit agencies, including Hillside Family of Agencies, The Center for Youth, and Catholic Charities. They’re also meeting with staff of Congressman Joe Morelle and local leaders in the Town of Irondequoit, City of Rochester, and Monroe County. 

News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke sat in on one of the group’s meetings at Hillside on Tuesday.

“There is a lot of trauma that some of the teens we serve have experienced … community violence, unfortunately, domestic violence … so, we do work with a lot of children that have experienced trauma and it is different trauma than war trauma but it impacts them, every day of their lives just the same,” says Marjorie Montag, the Director of Integration Services for Hillside Family of Agencies.

The Ukrainians work for schools and non-profits that are desperately trying to meet the needs of children and families in their communities both financially and emotionally.

“It’s the only thing I can do — I could leave Ukraine but I decided to stay, I decided to help people,” says Lina Liashenko, the Sr. Global Relationship Manager at the non-profit, Peaceful Heaven of Kharkiv and a member of the delegation. 

Liashenko’s organization provides food, mental health services and schooling to families who’ve been forced to flee. “We work on the front line in five regions,” she explains.  Most often, the children who they serve are fearful and traumatized by constant shelling, the loss of loved ones or just the sheer devastation of what they see. “Nobody knows what’s going to be next and children have no idea how to live, adults have no idea how to live” Liashenko says. 

One of the issues the delegation highlighted is a lack of educational, financial and emotional support for families when parents go off to fight and an even bigger hole in the safety net for those children when their parents never return. “A lot of people leave these areas but we have to have somebody who can provide this assistance,” Liashenko says, “if we all leave Ukraine, we can die as a nation/”

A number of leaders at Hillside shared their thoughts and ideas on programs and services that may be able to be implemented with limited resources and limited staff by the delegation.

“I haven’t lived through a war, so I don’t know how to implement any of this but any information that we can share with them that would be helpful would be what I hope,” Montag says. 

The delegation will head home to Ukraine over the weekend.  They’re also planning to attend meetings at Nazareth University, Monroe Community College, and University of Rochester and tour the George Eastman and Susan B. Anthony museums.  The delegation is staying in the homes of local residents who serve as hospitality hosts.