NASHI – The First Ten Years

"Everyone on this fragile planet has the capacity to reach out and touch the soul of someone less fortunate. If everyone did this, what an amazing world it would be. NASHI, and its devoted coterie of volunteers, have taken on a daunting task with a deep sense of mission and driving spirit. From Saskatoon, all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to Lviv, Ukraine, NASHI makes an incredible difference in the lives of so many abandoned orphans in Ukraine. They are to be commended for their work and their selfless dedication."                                                        

Victor Malarek

In the Beginning – During trips to Ukraine early in the 2000’s, it was common to see men being serviced by young girls at truck stops.  It was shocking and unbelievable to observe.

2004 - Victor Malarek published the book “The Natashas”, a heart wrenching exposition of girls taken into bondage to service men. Savelia and Betti read the book and attended a conference in Edmonton to hear him present the hard truth of human trafficking. Upon returning to Saskatoon, thoughts and ideas were swirling as to “What could we do? How could we make a difference? If we could change one person’s life, we could change their world! Wouldn’t it be great if we could do this?” They knew people who would be interested and so the kitchen table talks began.  Savelia, Betti, Terri, Eugene & Nancy, Stan & Pat all said, “Yes, we can!” and became the founding board members. The second time around the table was a brainstorming session for a name. NASHI was chosen, meaning ‘OUR’ in Ukrainian. This name captured the essence of why the group was forming. We all knew the children needed “OUR” assistance and so it became “OUR” responsibility and “OUR” commitment to do something for them. The logo also illustrates this message as it depicts the loving security of being under the wings of a dove embedded on a rushnyk (embroidered scarf) to symbolize comfort.

Savelia traveled to Ukraine. While there she talked to the director of an orphanage about the NASHI vision. She also sought out children to participate in the production of a fundraising Christmas CD “The Bells of Hope.”  The then Christian Child Care International (CCCI) provided the voices for the CD. With a donation of a sewing machine we saw the beginning of a trade school; soon additional machines were purchased. The need for computers was identified and became the next focus of our efforts.  

October 2004 - The first money-raising event for the trade school in Ukraine took place in at the Odeon Event Centre where we released “The Bells of Hope” CD.   The first newsletter was created for the event to tell the story; invite encouragement and support; and, most importantly, to inform people of the atrocities of human trafficking.  It was then we realized our purpose was two fold: 1) to change the realities of these young people and 2) to provide education to a broad range of people about the horrors of human slavery.   Was this attainable?  Those at the table thought it was. We would have two yearly events – a fundraiser event and an educational event.  

2005 – At our partnered trade school, youth were acquiring new skills.  In Ukraine, a video was produced which captured the reality of human trafficking, girls at a truck stop, as well as our solution of learning skills at the trade school. The first major event was held and called the “Lenten Project” where breads and soup were served.  Tickets prices varied and represented items to be purchased for the children.  The Director of the Ukrainian Orphanage was in attendance-she was overwhelmed especially by everyone’s generosity. Alongside this, SHAW TV produced a 30-minute program about what NASHI was about and what was being done. This interview was aired for 3-4 years and provided media attention drawing people to our events.  We developed our own web site.  In September 2005, we presented an educational movie entitled “Lilya 4 Ever” at the Broadway theatre.  This marked the first year of our two undertakings.  Brochures and pamphlets were developed.   The ugly truth was being told.                            

2006 – Savelia and Betti received the Governor General’s People of Courage medal from the then Governor General Michaëlle Jean, recognizing their founding work for NASHI.  This was momentous, as it gave acknowledgement and creditability to the work that was being done. Committed volunteers, who purchased their own tickets, traveled to Ukraine to see the trade school. While there awareness workshops were conducted; volunteers also went to a truck stop to see the reality of human trafficking first hand.  Commitment was the operative word, our resolve deepened and we all agreed we MUST do more to make a difference in their lives! This Volunteer Tour groups’ commitment ultimately led to the development of a stand alone NASHI trade school/safe house which would be known as the Maple Leaf Centre.  This indeed was a big year in our development.  The first Perogy Paradise was held and the first NASHI DVD, NASHI: In Action was created. The constitution and by-laws were passed at the Annual General Meeting.  Victor Malarek had been kept informed of our activities and now actively supported all of our undertakings by giving us his full endorsement. 

2007 - The first conference, “Bells of Hope - Reality of Human Trafficking” took place with Victor Malarek as keynote speaker. This was a well-attended two-day gathering with numerous guest speakers.  Community awareness campaigns began at the Doukhobor Dugout and Ukrainian Day in the Park (which still continues today) and the UCPB (Ukrainian Canadian Professional Business) golf tournament.  All were major fund raising efforts to facilitate our “Raising the Roof” campaign for the construction of an additional floor and all other modifications required to make this a live-in, educational facility.   The year ended by having Rev. Bohdan Bilas come from Ukraine to speak at a fundraiser held at the Ukrainian Museum of Canada.  He was our connection to the project, which was named The Maple Leaf Centre Project – “Klenovi Lyst”.

2008 - A building and property were purchased in Ukraine for our standalone safe house and trade school.  Charitable status was registered in Ukraine under Klenovi Lyst (aka Maple Leaf Centre Project).  NASHI was listed in the Saskatoon phone book, board roles were defined, and lifetime memberships were introduced. NASHI was invited to make presentations at the Human Trafficking Seminar in Edmonton and to HART (Humanitarian Aid Response Team) in Calgary.  In addition, within the RCMP a new branch was formed to deal with human trafficking issues. Hearing of the work undertaken by NASHI, they reached out for assistance. Cst. Elsen Sutherland, Immigration & Passport Section - Human Trafficking Division, was our contact within the RCMP.  He accepted our invitation to be our guest speaker at the Fall Harvest Brunch. It was at this time when we decided to focus our efforts on prevention versus treatment as a result of being trafficked.  NASHI made it to YouTube with its DVD “Raising the Roof”.

2009 - Due to successful fund-raising activities, ground breaking occurred at the Maple Leaf Centre Project.  The second Volunteer Tour witnessed this event and actively participated in demolition activities as well as the planting of a Maple tree during the dedication service. Victor Malarek was speaker at the fall conference in Saskatoon.   

2010 – The Malarek’s, Victor with daughter Larissa, were successful when OMNI, an International television production company, agreed to the production of a full-length documentary about NASHI. The documentary required travel to Ukraine; the film crew also attended Perogy Paradise interviewing volunteers and attendees. “One Perogy at a Time” is still being viewed worldwide including Mexico & India on the OMNI television station and has been released to other television networks as well.  It can be viewed on YouTube. Additional fundraising events were held and requests for speaking engagements increased.

2011 - We became part of a national awareness campaign on Human Trafficking by being the Saskatchewan host for Freedom Relay Canada.  NASHI continues to host this event as a way of providing education on human trafficking.  The “Raise the Roof” campaign ended; donors names are embedded on wooden maple leaves displayed within the Maple Leaf Centre. The Volunteer Tour witnessed this dedication at the Maple Leaf Centre. A second fundraising campaign is launched –“We are Family.” 

2012 – Hosted “Youth Unchained”.  This forum on human trafficking, with guest speaker Craig Kielburger founder of Free the Children, saw an amazingly 1100 students from across the province attend this two day event. This sparked the attention of the young people in attendance. Victor Malarek was back in November as guest speaker at “Hot Chilli, Hot Topic”.  It was also the year we started promoting ‘Fair Trade’ purchasing. Victims of human trafficking, who are primarily children, are used in the production of items that we use in our day-to-day purchases.

2013 - Denise Heppner, resident of Waldheim SK, took part in Freedom Climb 2013 to Mt. Everest base camp. Denise took the NASHI flag that she proudly displayed on her arrival at the base camp.  NASHI is invited by FBI-NAA Foundation to participate in an international law enforcement summit, “Together Let’s Stop Traffick”. The objective is to develop a framework and implementation of a borderless resource centre for the benefit of all nations. At an October Saskatchewan Roughrider game Savelia was recognized for demonstrating leadership with NASHI making it to the final stage of the Scotiabank ‘Game Changers’ competition.  At the Maple Leaf Centre, inside renovations were completed, landscaping was done and the garage and power house were built.  It is done—ready to make a difference in the lives of unfortunate girls.  

2014 - Hosted the Ugly Truth Forum bringing together like-minded individuals to hear key-note speaker Timea Nagy, founder of Walk With Me, speak about what it was like to survive being trafficked. Continued involvement with the FBI-NAA (National Academy Associates) Foundation, where we shared our knowledge with them.  With the bricks & mortar phase completed, the girls arrive!  For many, this is their first experience of a family environment where they are nourished emotionally and physically.  Perogy Paradise will act as our main fund raising event, however sustainability via ‘We are Family’ campaign and our monthly giving initiatives need your involvement. NASHI celebrated its’ 10th Anniversary with a Gala celebration acknowledging all the work to make the Maple Leaf Centre a reality. This undertaking started as a dream and the dream continues; by saving lives, we change their world and ours..  

Future – Awareness, awareness, and more awareness of the atrocity of human trafficking.  Inform yourself of this reality.  We will continue our mandate of hosting conferences and forums creating much needed awareness.  There are two choices:  


NASHI's Volunteers

NASHI thanks the over 100 volunteers who help with events, fundraising and spreading the word about Human Trafficking!

Reasons to Become a Member:

Membership in NASHI indicates your support in our fight against human trafficking.
We value you as a member by:

  • Keeping you informed via regular newsletters and publications
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  • Advance notice of tickets sales
  • Having voting privileges

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