Our 25th Anniversary video features profiles the ways that people like you have made a difference through IOCC over the past 25 years.
A Former Beneficiary Turned Supporter: Meet Natasa
I was just 12 years old in 1992 when the civil war in former Yugoslavia spilled over into my hometown of Mostar. I remember the sounds of bombs and guns day and night. For days at a time, it was too dangerous to leave the house to go to school or buy food. I remember being so scared, and wishing we could leave. I remember IOCC was there, in spite of the danger, helping my family and many others with distributions of food, water and household items we needed but couldn’t get because of the war.
My family did leave eventually, and we came to Chicago as refugees. Now I support IOCC as a volunteer, helping host fundraisers so they can continue to help other families like mine who suffer because of war or poverty. IOCC made a difference in my family’s life when we needed it most. They gave us hope.
Join with Natasa to ensure that the same care she received will be available to families when they need it the most
Meet Steve Kreta: A Metropolitan Chair Since 1993
I’ve supported IOCC from its earliest days, chairing fundraisers in San Francisco since 1993.
Helping others in need is something I have always believed we should do as a pan-Orthodox community. During my visit to the Balkans ten years ago to see IOCC’s impact, I saw firsthand how a gift from a donor can open up a world of opportunity for families in need.
For one week, I traveled with other IOCC supporters to Serbia and Bosnia to meet families helped by our support. I didn’t know what to expect. War ruins were still visible everywhere, but IOCC was helping families move forward with a microcredit program. Entrepreneurs were able to borrow small loans needed to produce goods and services for the local market. One Bosnian farmer we met used a $1,000 loan to grow vegetables. He started with nothing and grew the business to create jobs and fresh produce for the community.
It was remarkable to see how the microcredit program changed the lives of this farmer’s family and so many others we met along the way. Over and over, families told us that their lives would have been so difficult without IOCC’s help.
Join with Steve to ensure that care for those in need will be available to families when they need it the most.
Providing Relief for Syria: Meet Grace
I have such good memories of Syria.
Ever since I can remember, my parents and I spent our summers visiting family there. I was born in the US 15 years ago, but my mother and both sets of grandparents are from Syria—Damascus and Homs.
The trips to Syria stopped when war broke out in 2011. It was the worst feeling in the world watching the people in Syria suffer. I wanted to help them and the refugees living so far from home.
My school gave me permission to put collection jars in every classroom. We only have 250 students, but over four months, my classmates helped me raise $2,000. My dad generously matched it and we sent a check for $4,000 to IOCC to help the Syrian people.
Helping big or small is a good feeling. Through IOCC, I was able to show people in need that they weren’t forgotten. That they’re not alone and that there is hope.
Join with Grace to ensure the same care will be available to families when they need it the most.
Providing Education for Uganda: Meet Father Evan Armatas
In 2002, an idea was born in an Orthodox seminary dorm room that has blossomed into something far bigger than I ever could have imagined. My idea was to support the educational dreams of needy children in Africa. The Saint Nektarios Education Fund was created to reach out to any child because knowledge develops the human character in a way few things can.
After years of successfully providing scholarships, it was time to do more.
Decades of hardship from civil war, a bad economy and an AIDS pandemic left 2.7 million of Uganda’s children orphaned and millions more with no education. The chance to pursue a secondary education was virtually out of reach for many of the country’s older children.
Since 2010, we have partnered with IOCC to build four schools in Uganda and open the doors to education and opportunity for thousands of children.
The schools are located in Lwemiyaga, Gulu and Butembe. For the children of Butembe especially, it was like 10,000 Christmas mornings to be given this kind of opportunity and school. The elders in the remote mountain village were desperate to welcome a secondary school. They saw the potential in their youth, but lacked the resources to nurture that potential into a better future for their children.
We couldn’t have found a more willing, professional, and efficient partner to take our vision, understand it, and make it happen. We couldn’t have done it without IOCC.
Join Father Evan to ensure we can continue to fulfill educational dreams.
Meet Father Barnabas Powell - An IOCC Frontliner
By the time Hurricane Ike hit Texas in 2008, more than 100 people had died and thousands more were without shelter.
As IOCC Frontliners, I and my fellow seminarian, Jim Kyritsis, were sent in as early responders to help survivors deal with the emotional and spiritual trauma and to help them get back on their feet. Little did I know that when I trained with IOCC for Frontliner deployment only a few short months earlier that I would need to put that training to work so soon.
We started at a Red Cross tent in Galveston sheltering 100 or so people displaced by Hurricane Ike. A little girl of 7 or 8, blond headed and dirty, looked at her mom when we walked into the and said “Mommy, there’s the Church!” and then she looked back at us and yelled “Hey Church!” as she waved at us with all her might.
When this precious little girl ran up to me and hugged my leg, it struck me harder than at any time since I landed in Texas just why I was over a thousand miles away from my seminary home and my own little girl and wife back in Boston. We were there to be “Church” to hurting people.
IOCC was there very early after the hurricane hit, becoming a hero to many by providing things like refrigerators for shelters so that insulin could be kept nearby for victims of the storm. IOCC helped with supplies and assistance to our own Orthodox faithful in Galveston who had lost everything. And IOCC was there to provide spiritual and emotional support for victims and rescuers alike.
We were not the only representatives of religious groups but we were the only ones wearing the clothes of an Orthodox seminarian. It was amazing the effect this symbol of church had.
As we silently walked through the tents, people came up and asked for prayer, or told us their story, or asked us questions about the Orthodox faith. One elderly gentleman approached Jim and said, “Thank you for being here. When we see you here in this difficult place, your presence reminds us that God has not forgotten about us.”
Our service as IOCC Frontliners for those nine days will be something I will remember for the rest of my life, but it won’t be what I did those nine days. It will be what I gained from people who were hurting, scared and needy. It will be what I gained by being there with incredible volunteers giving of themselves and then needing somebody to talk to as well.
I will remember the honor of simply being present to precious persons and the honor of standing there and observing Christ bring comfort to them through the presence of the Church.
Join with us to ensure IOCC continues to provide emotional and spiritual care to individuals when they need it the most.