Project ‘A Smile for Ukraine’

ALBA LULIA, ROMANIA — Across all of Romania, many initiatives support the refugees from Ukraine. Volunteers, humanitarian aid organizations and Romanian churches understood that this cause needs everyone to help. They joined forces so they might give a hand to those fleeing from Ukraine. We found such a project in Alba Iulia, that started in the early days of the war in the neighbouring country. We invite you to watch this report from Alfa Omega TV.

‘A Smile for Ukraine’ Project was developed by the ‘Philippi Vision’ Association and ‘Flacăra Închinării’ Church from Alba Iulia a few days after the conflict outbreak. Volunteers had only but a few hours to mobilize due to the unforeseeable incidents in Ukraine along with urgent demands.

Florin Lupean, president, Philippi Vision Association:

On the third day of war, we spoke with the church council and together with the ‘Flacăra Închinării’ Church from Alba Iulia we decided to create this project titled ‘A Smile for Ukraine’. We want to bring a smile, we want to bring hope, we want to bring a glimmer of happiness on the faces of those in hard trial from Ukraine. And the Flacăra Închinării’ Church is a partner and we are working together on this project.

Otniel Daniel Trif, volunteer, Project ‘A Smile for Ukraine’:

We returned home three months ago with our family and this was our prayer, to find ourselves a place where we can help socially. And it was wow! I think we returned ten days before the war began and we moved to Alba Iulia especially because of this project, to be part of to help in this project.

Alexandru Băla, volunteer, Project ‘A Smile for Ukraine’:

Even on the first day of war we were made public, I personally was announced by some friends from Ukraine that they have fled from war’s way, have come towards Romania and if we can do something to help them enter the country. And that is how the project started.

The project is made up of more components: exporting material goods, food and sanitation, and bringing refugees in Romania.

Florin Lupean, president, Philippi Vision Association:

Everybody, absolutely everybody told us that we would not be able to enter Ukraine, that we were not allowed to. We filled up about three minibuses and we said, “You know what, we’re going Ukraine. I don’t know how, but God will help us.” In five minutes we crossed Romania and in two minutes we crossed Ukraine. When they saw us they actually moved to make an aisle, we passed and stopped at the first gas station where our brothers were awaiting us and they needed some things. They came with some cars, we quickly loaded the cars and we returned since it was at the beginning of the war.

Alexandru Băla, volunteer, Project ‘A Smile for Ukraine’:

It was the second day of war. When we arrived at the customs in Siret it was crazy, complete chaos, but we took this step in faith because we wanted to help these people. We entered Ukraine, we went to get them from Ukraine and we brought them to Romania. These three minibuses were filled food supplements and on returning they were full of people, especially women and children. Eighteen women and six children were in the first transport we brought to Romania.

Otniel Daniel Trif, volunteer, Project ‘A Smile for Ukraine’:

Since the beginning of the war we brought to Alba Iulia somewhere around twelve families, we take care of around a total of thirty seven refugees, we offer them accommodation, food, we represent them before authorities and we try to help them integrate into society.

The collaboration between the ‘Philippi Vision Association’ and ‘Flacăra Închinării Church’ is very good.

Florin Lupean, president, Philippi Vision Association:

We managed to make 16 conveyances from Ukraine since the beginning of the war and to bring, I repeat, food, supplements, medicine, clothes, whatever they need.

Alexandru Băla, volunteer, Project ‘A Smile for Ukraine’:

The youth are very, very open, and they give from their time, they come and pack supplements, clothes; they would sort them, whatever needs to be done. They’re quick to jump at opportunities to help when we announce that we need a number of volunteers and they come immediately and help. This is the collaboration between the ‘Flacăra Închinării Church’ Youth (church’s youth ministry) and the Philippi Vision, we do this together for the ‘A Smile for Ukraine’ project.

Volunteers have witnessed the difficult decisions the refugees had to take.

Otniel Daniel Trif, volunteer, Project ‘A Smile for Ukraine’:

What I can say is that what really marked me was the desperation a man has when he doesn’t know God and when you have no more hope and you don’t see a future beyond today.

Alexandru Băla, volunteer, Project ‘A Smile for Ukraine’:

We brought a woman with six children to Romania and this woman’s husband, the children’s father, stayed behind. When I saw this separation, my heart broke. He said he could also leave because he has the right to do so, he has more children, he could have come, but he told us that he wanted to stay there and to help. He is a pastor.

Otniel Daniel Trif, volunteer, Project ‘A Smile for Ukraine’:

When we brought over a family that left their three children to come Romania, with the parents remaining in Ukraine, it made me think about what the children were thinking about when they had to leave, and they were minors, one was a major, when they had to split from their parents and to depart to a different country, and what do the parents feel when you know you are giving away your children not knowing if you will ever see them again?

The majority of Ukrainian refugees that remain in Alba Iulia are Christians and they managed to integrate so that they may attend religious services at the church.

Florin Lupean, president, Philippi Vision Association:

We met up with the ‘Flacăra Închinării Church’, we quickly put together a translation system, we bought the necessary headphones, which are required for the translation system. Therefore, every Sunday morning service they have the whole service translated to them in Ukrainian or in Russian, depending on the translator we have available. Moreover, we have a Ukrainian pastor that is staying in Alba Iulia and this pastor served last Sunday for the first time in the ‘Flacăra Închinării Church’ in Alba Iulia.

After many months from the beginning of the conflict, people have become used to the situation in Ukraine and they are not as sensitive as before to make donations. Florin Lupean is making a call so that the ‘A Smile for Ukraine’ project may continue.

Florin Lupean, president, Philippi Vision Association:

At the beginning of the war, I transported a lot of goods, a lot of NGO sources, the church had sent. Thought they started quite light, and it’s easy to stop these conveyances. But we want to continue. We don’t want to continue so we can have a title, we want to continue because we believe we are called to do this as a nation, and we want to stay in obedience of God. And we are waiting for more people to join this project.


Read more news on Non Profit Organizations, Disaster Relief, the Refugee Crisis, Ukraine, and Russia on Missions Box.


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