When war broke out in Ukraine in February 2022, we saw heartbreaking pictures of displaced Ukrainian refugees, destroyed cities, and scores of the wounded and dying. In the midst of all this, many of us wondered what we could do, if anything. It is often difficult to know which charities to give to so that your donations have the greatest possible impact, and with a country that is so far away, many feel helpless.
Answering the Call
Thankfully, several generous and innovative people have answered the call, including Jared Turner and Josh Adams. Jared is the CEO of Amare Global, a mental wellness company headquartered in California, and Joshua Adams is the chief of police in Orem, Utah. After seeing news of the invasion, they reached out to hospitals in Poland that were taking in Ukrainian refugees to see what they needed most, since they knew that nonprofit organizations such as the Red Cross were already providing some necessary medical support. They also learned that the Polish government and many nonprofit organizations were providing food and transportation, but that the refugees were desperate for cash to help provide other things for their families. Many displaced families also needed ways to find employment in the new countries where they were settling.
Adams outlined the truly-staggering numbers.
“At the peak, around 140,000 people were crossing into Poland every day. The figure has dropped, but there are still many people seeking protection in Poland,” he explained.
Reaching Out in Love
Turner and Adams got to work right away. Adams worked to gather donations from his fellow officers, and Turner did the same within his company.
“Amare, the name of my company, means ‘love’ in Latin,” Turner says. “I think then it’s only appropriate that we reach out to these people in love.”
All in all, they were able to collect $10,000 to help individual families. With the cash and other supplies in hand, they flew to Warsaw, Poland, and rented a van to take them to the border with Ukraine, where most of the refugees were gathering. They had already seen some footage of the situation from the news, but nothing prepared them for the actual sights they encountered.
When they arrived, they entered a hotel and found Ukrainian refugee families sleeping in the lobby with the permission of the hotel owners because all the regular rooms were full to capacity. Turner and Adams went around while the refugees were sleeping and would slide $100 bills under their purses, knowing that this would help get them established in their temporary home.
They gave the money anonymously while they were sleeping because many of them would not accept it otherwise.
“A lot of them didn’t want to accept,” Adams recalls. “But this way, we were able to get them some of the help that they needed. They are exhausted and sad, but the women who have left are resolute and angry at Russia.”
Helping Women and Children
They also spent some time in train stations on the border.
“There were over 500 people with their suitcases,” says Turner. “They were lying on benches, and their kids were running around. All their worldly possessions are in their suitcases, and they are just sitting and waiting. The weather never got warmer than 32 degrees, with constant brooding clouds and snow.”
One of the major problems they observed were women who had fled with their children while their husbands had remained behind to fight. These women were in urgent need of childcare so they could get temporary jobs to support their families. Turner and Adams were able to send some money to a group in Warsaw to rent a large building that they turned into a daycare for refugee moms.
“We’re continuing to work with that group,” Turner says. “And they are going to expand the women’s centers throughout Warsaw and other cities in Poland.”
Though many refugees are currently in Warsaw, they are gradually spreading out to other large Polish cities and even smaller villages with families willing to take them in.
Meeting Mental and Physical Needs
Another aspect of the refugee crisis that Turner and Adams hope to help with is addressing the mental health needs of those affected, especially the children who have experienced such life-changing traumatic events. To this end, they are working with a group in Utah to bring in therapists who are experts in therapy for childhood trauma.
According to Turner, the Polish government and Polish citizens are stepping up in a big way to support the refugees.
“The Polish people deserve the Nobel Prize as a country,” Turner says. “Polish families are adopting Ukrainians into their homes.”
As Ukraine’s neighbor, Poland is the first stop for most Ukrainian refugees fleeing the conflict, but many refugees are also settling in other European countries such as Germany and France.
In a generous move, the Polish government is allowing refugees to work without the usual work permits required for immigrants. Though there are some language difficulties, many refugee women are finding work as shopkeepers, cashiers, and a wide variety of other jobs.
“We are also trying to help create an agency for Ukrainians with certain skill sets to act as virtual assistants for companies in the United States,” Turner says. “Most of them are in a holding pattern. There is nowhere to go back to.”
Since returning to the United States, Turner and Adams have continued planning. They are looking to return later this year, drawing on the additional information and support they gained by networking with others in Poland. They want to come back with more supplies, establish more daycare centers, and find others who can provide mental health support to bring back with them.
According to Turner, the most important message we can send to the refugees is: “America stands with you. We support you. We love you.”
Turner and Adams are looking for others who want to help. In addition to financial donations, Turner says that one of the things most urgently needed are personal child carriers that are worn with straps. Many refugee mothers desperately need these, and they are not easily available now in Europe. Access to these carriers will allow refugees to work while carrying their young children with them.
According to Turner, “The biggest request that refugees have is that we don’t forget about them. Don’t get numb or immune to the news. The Russians are counting on us moving on. Just pay attention. Contact your representatives to help support the Ukrainians.”
If you are interested in helping with their next excursion by donating financially, dropping off a baby carrier, providing mental health support, or helping in some other way, please contact Jared Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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