Hampstead children visit poor in Ukraine to prepare for Bar Mitzvah

Children have visited the Ukraine to meet the poor as part of a pre-Bar Mitzvah trip organised by World Jewish Relief.

The 12 and 13-year-old children – many of them from Hampstead, West Hampstead and Kilburn – and their parents spent four days moving from house to house visiting and helping people who live in poverty in the eastern European country.

Many people in the Ukraine cannot afford proper food, clothes or reinforcements for their homes against the harsh winters.

The visit at the end of October opened the children’s eyes to the struggles people face in other countries.

One of the people the group met was Ninel, an 83-year-old from Kivoy Rog. She has not been able to leave her flat for five years due to health and mobility problems.

She is dependent on World Jewish Relief services and a support worker brings her food and medical supplies every two weeks.

Ben Bilefield, a 12-year-old University College School pupil and Hampstead resident, wrote a blog about his experience on the trip.

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He wrote: “Ninel’s sadness made me feel hollow inside, appreciating more what I had in my life, with easily enough food, lots of friends, and so much money compared to her.

“It will make me think twice about complaining about small things because there are other people in the world that live in such bad conditions and just carry on living life with a positive attitude and hope. I will remember her for the rest of my life.”

Emma Segal, head of community partnerships at World Jewish Relief, said: “The young people whose homes we visited were touched that youngsters back in the UK had thought of them and visited them.”

The charity runs programmes throughout eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union to help people out of poverty and encourage Jewish community development through education and training.