When I heard that Joi McRae would be speaking at Women’s Meetings (held in August by Russian Christian Centre God’s Stream in Auckland) about her long-term work with troubled children in Khabarovsk, I immediately made a note of this event in my diary. I’ve heard a lot about this amazing New Zealander who lived in Khabarovsk for 25 years doing charity work, and wanted to get to know her better.

We finally met. When asked about herself and why she had decided to live in Russia, she immediately switched the topic over to disadvantaged children and youth and her mission, which Joi defined as a service to anyone in need under the motto Love and Mercy. I could only “fish out” a few sketchy details about her from her warm and detailed stories about those who she and the like-minded people helped, the fate of those children, the kind of help people could find in the centres and organisations founded by her, and the places where she had worked all those long 25 years. Apart from her charitable work, she also teaches English, being a native speaker. First she taught at the Khabarovsk Pedagogical University and now at the University of Railway Transport.

It is not a secret to anyone that in Russia (and not in Khabarovsk alone) there are a lot of homeless and abandoned children, young single mothers and troubled youth. I feel the deepest gratitude to the individuals and organisations who help those people! And when this work is done by foreigners, I can’t even find words to describe their selfless act!

Someone at the Women’s Meetings said that we had left our country running away from problems, whereas she had gone to Russia to solve those problems…

When asked if she was missing New Zealand and where she felt belonging more, Joi without hesitation replied that she felt more Russian. She loves Russian people and misses Khabarovsk every time she has to travel. And now she feels cold in New Zealand …

In №1 photo: Joi is talking about her work in Khabarovsk

I would also like to mention another New Zealander, Rachel Hughes, who in 1997 went to Vladivostok to work as an English teacher and ended up founding the Living Hope Centre for street children. She returned home in 2008 and now lives in Tauranga. Her Foundation, however, where she remains to be the director, continues to help the homeless young people of Vladivostok. We featured Rachel in previous issues of Our Harbour.

In №2 photo: Rachel in Russia

These are the amazing New Zealanders whose hearts were drawn to Russia and who deserve to be told about. Are there any readers who would like to share their stories?

                                                     Prepared by Rimma Shkrabina,

translated by Elena Naumova