Bwok, bwok, bwok. Fluffy young chicks cluck inside cardboard boxes. More than a thousand of the scrabbling fowl inhabit trucks near a boarded-up building in Donetsk, Ukraine. The birds are live food donations headed to families struggling due to armed conflict.
The conflict has been roiling since 2014. That’s when Russian troops invaded the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine. Shortly after, many Crimeans voted to join the Russian Federation. The vote was widely questioned. Russia annexed the peninsula. Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed he was protecting Russian citizens and Russian speakers in Crimea and Ukraine.
Some 13,000 people have been killed since the conflict began. Bombings, shootings, and skirmishes occur regularly in the area. Both Ukraine and global leaders report the buildup of Russian troops, military equipment, and gunfire in the area known as the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Trudovskiy is a small village in Donetsk, less than a mile from the frontline between Ukraine and Russian-militants. There’s been no shelling in the area lately, residents say. But local Oksana Grigoryeva’s house has still not been fully repaired after it was bombed in 2014.
Still, the impact of the fighting makes farming and getting food difficult for villagers. The International Committee of the Red Cross began distributing chickens there in 2017. The fowl giveaway seeks to lessen citizens’ dependence on outside aid, says Red Cross representative Andras Derzsi-Horvath. It also increases the possibility of sustainable, small-scale food production in the village.
You may have heard it said, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” That’s the idea behind the project.
To meet immediate needs, the Red Cross is handing out nine broiler chickens to each of 170 Donetsk families. The group also supplies chicken feed and grinders. Later, residents will receive egg-laying chickens and roosters. With those, families can become micro-farmers. They can raise their own chickens and sell surplus meat and eggs.
“This is for my family and for my mom,” Elina Konoplyeva says of the boxed chickens she picks up. “It will be a good asset.”
Grigoryeva agrees, saying, “Chickens mean meat, eggs. Sometimes all grocery stores are closed, so there is nowhere for us to go.”
Derzsi-Horvath says the poultry plan aims “to increase their dignity in that [the people] can provide for themselves.”
It’s also a good reminder of 1 John 3:17: “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” In Donetsk, love looks a lot like chickens.