When I hear the words âcharity ballâ, I canât help but think of Vivien Leigh as Scarlett OâHara from âGone with the windâ, waltzing in her black dress with Rhett Battler at the dance held to support the Confederate States at the beginning of the American Civil War. Good causes change and vary, and charity balls remain a favourite fund raiser tradition around the world. You, dear reader, might easily be one of those who attended the 6th annual Harvest Ball at the Ritz Carlton Hotel Tverskaya held by MPC Social services November 2013 (or one of those that took place in the previous years). If thatâs the case â thank you. Youâve helped a good cause.
The first charity ball was held by MPC Social Services in the fall of 2008 at Lotte Hotel, starting a tradition which has continued for six years, having become a favourite with the community and every time yielding a considerable âharvestâ which helps pay so many costs of MPC Social Services programs.
The Good Cause
The Rev Matthew Laferty from the state of Ohio was appointed Chaplain of Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy and Director of MPC Social Services almost three years ago, thus taking over a church that has existed since 1962 and a charity organization started by the congregation of that church in 1991.
He seems quite pleased with the results of the charity work that has been done, as he sums up and looks forward to the new projects within the framework of MPC Social Servicesâ activity.
âBack in 1962, Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy was started to meet the spiritual needs of the employees of the American Embassy. An important part of the Christian faith traditions represented in MPC is to help those less fortunate than ourselves through social service. During the times of the Soviet Union, due to restrictions on the churchâs activity, it was not possible to engage in that. The doors opened only in 1991. The congregation noticed that Moscow pensioners had very little savings, and sometimes they didnât receive pensions for several months. The church decided to help them by opening up soup kitchens. By the mid-nineties there were soup kitchens in different parts of the city, serving up to 2500 meals every dayâ, he told me.
As a Russian citizen who was growing up in the 1990s, I can testify: those were indeed very hard times. But today, they are history. Do programs like soup kitchens make any sense today?
âWe believe they do. Most of the pensioners live by themselves. For them, itâs also about community and friendship.â
This is very true. The people who come for their lunches to one of the MGU canteens, where MPC social services rent the kitchen and the dining hall, have formed a circle of friends, where everybody looks out for each other.
However, thereâs also a material point to continuing the soup kitchens â both for those helping and for those being helped.
âMany pensioners with serious health issues are using a large part of their pension to pay for medication and medical services. It squeezes out a lot of their incomeâ, â the Rev Laferty says as he goes on with his story. Of course, today the number of meals is smaller â only about 150 a day. âThe soup kitchen is an expensive program to run â we have to rent space and hire cooks. We also have a food bank program and the Childrenâs Hunger Assistance program to help Russian families, political refugees, and the biracial families living in poverty.â
MPC Social Services have also become an answer to many needs of immigrants, students and refugees from Africa and Asia.
As they make this brave move of coming to a country so unlike their own, the most crucial things are staying healthy, being safe and warm, and making friends.
âWe have a medical advice program for the immigrants providing free access to Russian doctors. Thereâs also a place for them to come during the day, with tea, internet and language instruction available. Thereâs also âRacial Task Force,â started in 2001, against racially motivated violence and harassment. Every six months we provide a report of all the cases we come across. Every summer, we do a party for refugee children with arts and crafts, games, and clowns.â
None of the good work would be possible if not for the input of the employees and volunteers. Who are they? They are, as a famous Michael Jackson song goes, âThe Worldâ â Russian, American, African, European. âThey are highly educated, motivated people, willing to take risks,â â the Rev Laferty sums up as he gives an overall characteristic of the people giving their time and energy to activities that make a difference in the worlds of the elderly, the children and the foreigners who come to seek shelter, encouragement and support to MPC Social Services in their times of need and hardship.