The Home of Hope is a cause close to Natalie Tataryn's heart — she feels she could have become one of the teens who live at the Ukraine safe house.
Tataryn, 24, was adopted by a Manitoba couple when she was a month old. Now she's raising money to help vulnerable teens at the Home of Hope, thousands of miles away.
"If I hadn't been adopted, I would have been placed in an orphanage in Ukraine. If things didn't fall into place the way they did for me, I could very easily be one of those girls, if not in a worse situation," she said.
Tataryn has raised over $1,000 selling hats to friends, family and co-workers. A Christmas present of $500 was sent to the home. Another $500 is going towards helping pay for tuition and books for education.
Local order giving orphans a future
Home of Hope is run and owned by Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate, a Ukrainian Catholic order that has a personal care home and a school in Winnipeg, and missions all over the world.
Home of Hope takes in girls who are at risk of falling prey to human traffickers. Girls who grew up in orphanages are forced to leave when they turn 16. Since they have no family and nowhere to go, they often fall prey to traffickers who offer them clothing, money and a place to live.
The Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate rescue the girls from the streets before they fall into the hands of traffickers.
Two Winnipeg fundraisers held by the Ukrainian Catholic Women's League have helped furnish several bedrooms and provide food, counselling and education for the 22 girls who live there.
Tataryn makes friends
Tataryn grew up in a family of Ukrainian heritage and found out about the Home of Hope through the Ukrainian Catholic church and SSMI.
She decided to become pen pals with girls in the safe house and started writing them letters.
"I wrote them all an open letter inviting them to write me back. A few have replied, and I have written back. I want to establish communication with the girls before I go and personally visit them in May," Tataryn explained.
The trip will be emotional for Tataryn, she said. She plans to trace her steps from Manitoba to her birthplace and get to know the girls one-on-one at the safe house.
"I will celebrate my 25th birthday in Ukraine. I have never been back. It is really emotional. I am so excited," she said. "I will be going with my family from here. Going back is something I have wanted to do my whole life — visit the place I was born, in a small town near Lviv, visit the girls and make lasting friendships."
She is selling perogies to help offset the cost of her trip. She has sold more than 150 dozen in the last month, bringing in about $800.
Tataryn will be acknowledged at a fundraising breakfast for Home of Hope on Saturday at Holy Eucharist Parish Center on Munroe Avenue, sponsored by the Ukrainian Catholic Women's League. Two Sisters from the home in Lviv will be guest speakers.
Anyone wanting to attend the breakfast or make a donation to the Home of Hope can do so at Lubov Foundation, 1085 Main St., Winnipeg.