Tuesday, May 20, 2014

MPC Social Services

Just outside Saint Peter and Paul Lutheran Church is a door.  A turn of the key and a metal lock pops open revealing a flight of crumbling, narrow stairs.  The light flicks on to reveal an underground room supported by crumbling cement arches.  The floor sags as I tentatively step forward with my arms full of clothing donated by you, the U.S. Embassy.  A few tables are overflowing with t-shirts, children's clothes fill boxes, jeans are folded on shelves and a rack is jammed full of dresses and suits.   
Two or three times a week this little room becomes a busy center as people come to rummage through the clothes, looking for the right size or something appropriate for the season.  They arrive empty handed and depart with their needs met.  They pay only with gratitude towards the people who donated items so that in their time of need they would be clothed.
The donation bin we have next to the commissary in the embassy is given to two groups, one being MPC.   Every six to eight weeks the bin is unloaded into a hired AECA van and the items are delivered to MPC who relies on donations from the U.S. Embassy, German Embassy and individuals to fill its center.  Students from AAS routinely volunteer to help sort and fold clothes.
MPC Social Services has several programs meeting the needs of a variety of people here in Moscow.  Refugees from Africa, Afghanistan and Central Asia come to Russia through UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, who then refers them to MPC.  When refugees arrive they are given no assistance by the Russian government.  UNHCR is supposed to help find housing. MPC then takes over providing clothing, household supplies and food.  The refugees are left on their own to find jobs.  MPC may work with a person for five to six years, meeting their most basic needs as they strive to become independent.   Another group of people that MPC helps is African migrants.  There are many scams enticing people in the Congo, Ivory Coast and Cameroon to pay a company to transfer them to Moscow with the promise of a good job and a better life.  Of course when they arrive with a  one month tourist visa and no money, there is no one to help them and no job to be had.   They turn to MPC Social Services as they try to collect money from family to return home or establish a new life here in Moscow.  A typical job they are able to get is passing out ad flyers at metro stations.  We have all met them and brushed away their hand or ignored their offer of a coupon.  It's a little thing to smile and say "spasibo". 
Other services MPC provides are a medical center where a local doctor sees patients two times a week, bi-monthly food distribution, language classes to teach basic Russian, computer classes and a computer lab for participants to use.  
The Russian pension system has holes leaving citizens in need when a medical emergency happens.  MPC Social Services runs a soup kitchen several  times a week to provide a meal for pensioners who have applied to the food program.  I was surprised while volunteering at the high education level of some of the participants.  Hard times have fallen on them and they have found a place for help.  Currently the soup kitchen is not open and bag lunches are distributed instead as they look for a new location.
There are many ways you can help.  We have the donation bin located between the commissary and garage.  All items are needed.  Please take care to wash your items and only donate what is in reasonable condition.  Please put your items in plastic bags and tie the top.  It helps so much when we are transporting things not to have loose clothes and shoes.  Help is also needed with folding, sorting and organizing clothes and packing food bags.  If you are part of a group, it is a great way to spend an afternoon!  To volunteer please contact Daniel Ekat at  pc@mpcss.org  

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