“Ukraine has certainly been in the news a lot these days,” said Debbie Whitehill, director of the JF&CS Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms® program. “So, I’m thrilled that we can share some positive stories from Ukraine right now.” In November, Debbie and three Rubin Visiting Moms volunteers (Marlene Bohn, Suzie Cheatham and Yvonne Sacks) visited Dnipro, Ukraine, for four remarkable days. During the trip, the JF&CS contingent met with Dnipro’s Mentor Moms program, which is modeled after our own Rubin Visiting Moms program.

One Jewish Community Helping Another

The trip to Ukraine was organized as part of the Dnipro Kehillah Project (DKP), a partnership between Combined Jewish Philanthropies and the Jewish community of Dnipro. Home to a Jewish population of 30,000-50,000, Dnipro boasts the third-largest Jewish community in Europe and the fifth-largest in the world. The DKP works to revitalize Jewish life in post-Soviet Dnipro through comprehensive assistance, including health care and medical training, economic advancement programs and crisis support.

In 2017, the DKP financed an initiative to replicate the Rubin Visiting Moms program in Dnipro. Like its American counterpart, “Mentor Moms” in Dnipro matches empathetic volunteers with new parents during the first year of their baby’s life. Debbie Whitehill and the JF&CS team have provided ongoing support and encouragement over Skype to the Dnipro Mentor Moms as they grow their program.

“I was so excited when I received the invitation from Debbie to join the trip to Ukraine,” said Suzie Cheatham. “The thought of seeing how successful programs here translated to a former USSR country piqued my interest.”

Meeting the Mentor Moms

Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms leading a training with the Dnipro Mentor Moms
Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms leading a training with the Dnipro Mentor Moms (Courtesy photo)

 

A highlight of the trip was the chance to see the Mentor Moms in person and conduct a Rubin Visiting Moms training at the local JCC and Hillel. Marlene Bohn was struck by the universality of being a parent. “We can live across the world, but the challenges of new motherhood are very similar,” said Marlene.

Yvonne Sacks also found that the mission of the Rubin Visiting Moms/Mentor Moms transcended culture. “Being a part of the Rubin Visiting Moms delegation was special,” said Yvonne. “It was clear, despite our language differences, that our presence and the opportunity to share our experiences were appreciated.”

One of the Mentor Moms graciously invited the Rubin Visiting Moms over for dinner at her home. “It was a dinner party to remember,” said Marlene. “There was traditional Ukrainian food, music played by our friend Yacov and our host’s daughter, dancing and great company.” After the party, the JF&CS contingent was invited to a wedding reception back at the hotel, another testament to the incredible friendliness and hospitality of the Ukrainian people.

For more from the Rubin Visiting Moms’ trip to Dnipro, stay tuned for Part II.

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