SASKATOON -- One woman, after witnessing, and learning about the atrocities of human trafficking while touring Ukraine two decades ago, returned home to undertake extensive research on the global crisis. The deeper she got into her research the angrier she became thus the organization known as NASHI was begun in 2004.
Not knowing how and where to start, Sevalia Curniski, began organizing friends and family with the simplest of tasks to start fundraising for their efforts to protect these children and young women from this humanity crisis, selling handmade perogies.
The efforts have blossomed as in 2024, the 20th anniversary of the organization known as NASHI will be celebrated and recognized NASHI is a Ukrainian word for “OUR” , with organizers saying, “That it is our children, and our commitment and our responsibility.”
Preparations for the annual ‘Perogy Paradise’, the organization’s largest annual fundraiser begins in the form of a perogy bee Nov. 25. Carefully pinching the crescent-shaped delicacies somewhat represents what the group is all about, they say the phrase, ‘in a pinch’ means in a difficult situation where no other solution is seen available could aptly describe what this small charitable organization is all about.
Started by Sevelia Curniski, who was part of a tour group in the Ukraine, when she noticed something unusual.
“We were at a truck stop and I noticed young girls being “loaded” into the back of a 16-wheeler while also noticing a young girl coming out of the cab. I had no idea what was going on, I only knew that something wasn’t right.”
When Sevelia asked about the odd occurrence she had just witnessed she was told, “Don’t you know? These girls are being taken into the sex trade and sold to whomever or whatever country.”
Sevelia was shocked and returned home to do extensive research trying to find out more about what was going on with these young girls. The deeper she got into her research the angrier she became. She attended a presentation in Edmonton and was shocked and horrified with the stories that were presented and she knew she had to do her part to do something about this.
NASHI was born on her return trip back to Saskatoon that weekend.
“I then invited some of my friends to my kitchen table and explained what I had seen and heard. They joined me on that journey. We had no idea what we were going to do but knew we were going to do something. “
Since then, the group has made and sold tens of thousands of perogies at various fundraisers, hosted luncheons, raffles and an annual dinner that is a continues to be a sell out. Their fundraisers not only provided the income they need to do the work they do, but help spread awareness and educate people on this worldwide crisis.
Savelia describes the group having no ‘GPS’ so they tried to connect with a group in the Ukraine to fight this travesty, but soon realized they needed to form their own group in Ukraine, and would need their own place. Thus, an old dilapidated kindergarten building was purchased and renovated and it became the Maple Leaf House, (MLH), that houses up to 20 girls.
“We also realized that girls as young as post-secondary five years old were being taken into the sex trade – and so we opened the door to the most vulnerable girls – some from orphanages (who were already being groomed for sale into the sex trade) and those from the poorest families that could have been sold into the human trafficking ring. Our commitment to our girls is that we will be educating them all the way until they are ready for employment. In other words, we will educate even into post secondary schooling. “
Sevalia says they have one girl who is in university and one in technical school, along with five others who will soon enter post-secondary school. The NASHI mission and commitment is to support them, even from five years old to post-secondary education.
Maple Leaf House, located in western Ukraine, had girls moved to Poland where they are still safe. People fleeing from eastern Ukraine, going to either Poland or Germany, or any other country that would open their door to them, were welcome to MLH for a place of rest as they continued on their journey. Refugees were housed and fed and given supplies for the rest of their journey. As eastern Ukraine is not evacuating as much, the house is quieter but thankful there has been no destruction.
Fundraisers organized and hosted by NASHI, are used to completely support their girls as well as hosting awareness seminars in Canada. Many Canadians are unaware of this travesty of our century, and are also not aware of the extent of human trafficking happening in our backyard. The NASHI group reiterates that this is a global problem.
Funds are also used for tutors teaching the girls English as well as supporting the girls in their post-secondary education.
NASHI is present in a website and a Facebook page that help people know more about their organization’s mandate and goals as well as update people on upcoming activities, fundraisers and news.
Sevalia says some of their volunteers have travelled to Ukraine before the war and saw firsthand the benefits of this program as well as seeing how the funds they raised help, including the work of the valuable staff in that country and their dedication to these girls.
One thing people may not know about this organization is that there is no paid staff in Canada and every donated dollar goes to their initiative and goals.
“One big highlight of my involvement in this organization, for me personally, it is the people – be it volunteers and donors that I have met on this journey. We have been invited throughout Canada and even to international events to present our NASHI mission. I have also stressed that we are all NASHI Family – in Canada and in Ukraine as well as some supporters from the United States. “
NASHI is trying to establish a youth sub-committee, especially through social media, to help educate on the issues surrounding human trafficking, as young people are the most vulnerable group. Organization of this group is in hopes for them to do presentations to other teens, as people do not understand the tentacles of human trafficking and the extent it is happening throughout the world, including Canada.
Victor Malarek, a well-known investigative journalist on CTV’s W5 is an amazing supporter of NASHI and has spearheaded two documentaries. The documentaries can be found on YouTube and tells the remarkable tale of how one small group of dedicated Canadians can make a profound difference in the lives of Ukrainian children simply rolling ‘One perogy at a time” (name of documentary)
Curniski says the group makes more than 14,000 perogies for their annual spring fundraiser and many, many more are made for their popular perogy off-sales. This culminates their efforts in helping children, one perogy at a time.
“Awareness is the biggest challenge we have to educate people that we are all part of this travesty that is gripping the world globally. In other words, we are consuming too many products that are being produced by slave labour and also the internet has exploded the exploitation of children in the sex trade.”
In addition to their large, often sold out perogy supper fundraiser on April 13, the organization is holding a gala celebration event of their 20th anniversary, marking all that they have accomplished and all there is to do. The gala will include a director from Maple Leaf House in the Ukraine as well as one of the girls who have been saved by this house, and the NASHI organization. The largest fundraiser for NASHI takes place annual, duly entitled Perogy Paradise and 2024 will be their 17th year. A 20th anniversary gala will be held in October 0f 2024 and the group is bringing in director of the Maple Leaf House, Maria, as well some of the girls from there as guests.
Read all about this organization and their work on their website www.nashi.ca