Boots on the Ground: CERI in Ukraine

Employees and supporters of Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI) headed to Ukraine for the 2018 Shoe Mission, helping deliver warm boots to children from struggling circumstances as the Shoe Mission has for 19 years across 22 mission trips.

For this year’s Shoe Mission, Ukraine was chosen as the destination of service because of the need CERI witnessed in the country. In 2014, Ukraine’s economy fell to the second lowest GDP per capita in Europe. Such a high poverty rate adds to the risk of separation between parents and children, and increases the likelihood that children will be placed in an orphanage or other institutional facility. Currently there are more than 100,000 children in Ukraine who either lost their parents or were separated from their parents due to war, abuse, or extreme poverty.

Though they cannot spare children completely from the situations they may face, CERI visited the country at the end of December to once again offer relief. The Shoe Mission team spent more than eight days helping children from the cities of Kherson and Odessa in the country of Ukraine. Two organizations – My Home and Heritage – served as partners with CERI to make the distribution process in Ukraine effective. While in the area, 27 CERI volunteers helped deliver 5,000 pairs of warm winter socks and boots to the orphans.

Though it may seem like a small gift from the perspective of more temperate parts of the world, sturdy winter boots give children the freedom of mobility to face the winter season in Ukraine, where at least three months of the year have an average low temperature below the freezing point, and where 40 days of the year are predicted to see snowfall[1]. With torn and tattered shoes, children often suffer frostbite and are unable to attend school due to the harsh temperatures and snow and ice they must trudge through. 

Circumstances like these are complicated and demanding for the children they affect, but the resilience and hope that CERI witnesses in the young people they serve remains evident. Throughout their travels in the orphanages of Ukraine, CERI volunteers were regularly treated to special Christmas shows from the children they visited, sometimes even being offered the chance to participate. Connie Belciug, Executive Director of CERI, shared that although there were some unexpected delays and unavoidable hurdles during the trip, the end result was another successful investment into the lives of children in need.

CERI raised a total of $117,036.72 from more than 100 donors for the 2018 Shoe Mission. Half of those proceeds were used to purchase the boots needed to keep children warm, and half help provide personal case management that ensures more children are given a family to call their own.

Read more about how CERI is helping the lives of children in Eastern Europe, and view photos from Shoe Mission 2018 here.


BBQ With CERI & Friends Offers Reflection


Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI) and a humble group of its partners joined together for a night of sweet celebration and barbecue at the home of Jim and Vera Clark in Kingwood, Texas.

The BBQ with CERI Friends annual event was established as a way to say thank you to CERI’s friends and partners and provide an update on the accomplishments of the year. The party began late in the afternoon in the Clarks’ backyard, decorated appropriately for the occasion. Dearing Garner, Director of Pastoral Care, commenced the evening’s festivities with a blessing.

Once the sun set and things cooled down, the event hit its stride as guests settled around the pool where Connie Belciug, Executive Director of CERI, introduced Eileen Purkeypile as CERI’s new Director of Development and Marketing.

Connie then addressed the crowd with a message of appreciation, compassion, and encouragement. “God has built multiple layers of protection and provision around children, so that they would be truly safe and so that their needs would be met,” said Connie. “He created the family to surround children with love, He wrapped a community around the family to provide support, and He situated the community within a nation to uphold the rights of its children and families.”

At the conclusion of the event, Connie thanked all in attendance, as well as the many contributors worldwide who have supported CERI since its inception in 1999. “These are the best gifts you can give an orphan: a path to family here on earth and a path to family in Christ,” said Connie.

CERI and the BCFS System thank Jim and Vera Clark for opening their home for this event, and for their heartfelt hospitality.


To learn more about Children’s Emergency Relief International, visit

Meenojan: Triumph Over Tragedy

*Featured in BCFS’ annual together magazine

By Anita Ramesh

Photo: Meenojan

Looking sharp in his black suit, it’s hard to tell Meenojan’s successful demeanor masks the tragic experiences he suffered as a child. When he was just four years old, his mother died of cancer. Shortly after, his father abandoned the family. In an instant, his whole life changed.

I wish to share with everyone that being successful does not depend on your background,” Meenojan says. “From the bottom of my heart, I want to say thank you to CERI who helped me overcome challenges in my life. I extend my deepest gratitude and appreciation to CERI. At the same time, I will never forget my roots and where I came from.

At 13, he entered the foster care program operated by Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI) – the overseas arm of BCFS – in Sri Lanka, a small island nation off the southern coast of India. CERI’s foster care program serves children and youth like Meenojan in need of family placement, providing case management and a stable home environment, as well as support for food, clothing and education.

Photo: Meenojan

Meenojan’s CERI case worker tried to help him pursue higher education, but Meenojan was unsuccessful in qualifying for school. Desperate to earn some money, he searched for any opportunity to work odd jobs and became a laborer in a local temple.

In his spare time, Meenojan continued his attempts to get into school or a vocational training program. Three months later, with help from CERI, Meenojan was admitted to a vocational school to learn hotel management, where he was recognized as an outstanding student for his hard work and dedication to his studies.

Today, Meenojan is an 18-year-old young man working in one of Sri Lanka’s premier hotels, making a good living to support himself.

CERI is the international arm of the BCFS system of health and human service non-profit organizations

Healing from the inside out

Healing From The Inside Out

By Ecaterina Babin

*Featured in BCFS’ annual together magazine

Cristina was born in Moldova, the youngest sibling of four older brothers. Her mother was addicted to alcohol and became increasingly violent and abusive as her drinking worsened. She brutally beat Cristina, while her father did nothing to protect her. Her father neglected Cristina and her brothers, staying away from home as much as possible to avoid the harsh reality that his family was suffering.
Cristina’s mother died of a cerebral stroke in 2009. Even though Cristina has traumatic memories of her mother, she still misses her.
When she was 12, Cristina started having health problems. She had surgery on her appendix and later began experiencing epileptic seizures. She developed a spine tumor – all the while, her father showed no interest in helping her get critical medical treatment. Cristina was put on medical disability and spent most of her time at the hospital. Despite that, she managed to finish middle school with good grades.
After undergoing another surgery in 2011, Cristina found herself with no money or permanent place to live. A woman who worked at the hospital told Cristina about Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI), the overseas division of BCFS. Cristina wanted to start a new life and get an education, but her dreams felt hopelessly out of reach. In the fall of 2012, she asked CERI for help.
Cristina spent the next three years in CERI’s Transitional Care program, which provides case management, access to education and vocational training, financial literacy and life skills training, and guidance on how to avoid human traffickers that run rampant in the region. CERI helped place Cristina in a Christian center where she started going to church, and ultimately professed her faith in Christ. Soon after, she was accepted into the Christian University to study social work.
Things were looking up for Cristina! She enjoyed her college classes, and had a new church “family” to encourage her – but she was still very ill. She was hospitalized several more times that year, and ultimately underwent radiation therapy.
Today, she has a clean bill of health, she feels much better and believes that God has healed her. Cristina is in her third year of college and going to class in the evenings. She is a member of New Testament Church in Chisinau, Moldova, where she serves in their Sunday school program.


CERI Names Constanta Belciug Executive Director

Dr. Dearing Garner named CERI Ambassador Emeritus

Photo: Connie BelciugSAN ANTONIO – Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI) has named Constanta “Connie” Belciug as Executive Director. Headquartered in San Antonio, CERI is a Christian health and human services organization focused on bolstering indigenous foster care – equipping countries to take care of their own – as well as teaching teens aging out of orphanages the life skills they need to live independently and avoid falling victim to human traffickers. The organization is supported through child sponsorships, and spans beyond basic humanitarian assistance with the goal of instilling a lifestyle of resiliency, determination, and hope for the future in each child it serves.

Belciug has been a part of CERI for nearly 10 years. As National Director of the organization’s office in Moldova, she was part of the leadership team that designed and implemented CERI’s operations throughout Eastern Europe; touching the lives of thousands along the way – including many U.S.-based supporters who travelled abroad for CERI mission trips.

As Executive Director, she will strengthen existing programs and lead the organization to branch into new regions of the world where children and families face injustice, poverty, and a deplorable lack of resources.

She is taking the place of Dr. Dearing Garner, who is beginning his second retirement, though continuing to carry the role of CERI Director of Missions & Ministry/Ambassador Emeritus.

“Connie brings to the table not just a mastery of international affairs and child welfare, but also an unmatched passion and zeal for our work,” said Asennet Segura, Executive Vice President/COO of Community, International & Residential Operations. “Without question, she is the right leader for our organization today, leading efforts to fulfill our critical mission of caring for children in need throughout the world, in addition to strategically elevating and growing our organization so that we can reach farther and make a more profound impact in the world.”

Belciug earned a bachelor’s degree in Foreign Languages from Moldova State University, and a master’s degree in Social Work (MSW), with an emphasis on Studies of Childhood and Children’s Rights. She earned a second MSW from the College of Theology and Education in collaboration with Baylor School of Social Work.

In 2013, Belciug moved from Moldova to Texas to pursue her doctoral degree from the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin. For the past several years, she has devoted herself to expanding her skills and knowledge about fighting poverty in developing nations; intervention methods that best serve marginalized populations; and program development that brings positive social and economic opportunities to children and families in need.

For more information about CERI, visit

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Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI) is a Christian health and human services organization that brings hope to children living in extreme poverty through one-on-one sponsorships and mission trips. The international division of BCFS, a global system of non-profit organizations with expertise in health and human services, CERI employs a one-of-a-kind approach to child sponsorships with an emphasis on social services. Spanning beyond basic humanitarian assistance, the goal for each child is a lifestyle of resiliency, determination, and hope for the future. CERI teaches youth aging out of orphanages how to make it on their own and avoid becoming victims of human trafficking, and helps orphaned children find safe, loving homes.

BCFS Names Ashley Krimmel Vice President – Philanthropy

SAN ANTONIO – BCFS, a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations, has named Ashley Krimmel Vice President – Philanthropy. In this role, Krimmel will be the driver of several donor-based initiatives to support key philanthropic efforts throughout the agency. She’ll give special focus on connecting U.S.-based sponsors to children living in dire circumstances in Eastern Europe and Moldova through the system’s overseas entity, Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI).

Established in 1999, CERI has a mission of connecting children who are orphaned or separated from their families with safe, loving foster families. The agency believes in investing in indigenous foster care systems that care for children in their home communities and countries, offering care that spans beyond basic humanitarian assistance, with the goal of instilling resiliency, determination, and hope for the future in each child.

Support for intensive case management, medical care, counseling, foster family connections, job and life skills trainings and other CERI programs are supported entirely by sponsorships and philanthropic contributions. CERI is an ever-growing, global organization committed to meeting the needs of children and families in poverty around the world.

Joining BCFS more than 11 years ago, Krimmel most recently served as Assistant Vice President of Program Development and was the Director of Annual Fund Development and Marketing, expanding the system’s reach to those in need through government and private foundation grants and contracts.

“With her passion for our mission, zest for innovative new ways to communicate our story, and incredible institutional knowledge of our entire system, I know Ashley is going to bring more people from around the country to the table, ready to make a real difference in the lives of children and families in need,”  stated Krista Piferrer, EVP – External Affairs.

For more information about BCFS, visit

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BCFS is a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations with locations and programs throughout the United States as well as Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. The organization is a national leader in medical sheltering and emergency management and response, providing critical emergency support services to federal, state and local governments. BCFS also provides residential services and emergency shelters for children who are abused or neglected; assisted living services and vocational training for adults with intellectual disabilities; mental health services for children and families, foster care and adoption services; medical services; early education; transitional living services for youth who are at-risk and those in the juvenile justice system; residential camping and retreats for children and families; and international humanitarian aid for children living in impoverished conditions in developing countries.