A month-long deployment to help victims of the war in Ukraine was a harrowing experience for Greg Young, ADRA director for the South Pacific.
ADRA International asked Young to travel to the war-torn country in June and July as an emergency response coordinator based at ADRA Ukraine’s office in Mukachevo. He led an Emergency Response Team (ERT) comprising ADRA personnel from around the world, all there to support local ADRA workers.
“ERTs work alongside and in conjunction with the ADRA national office,” Young explained.
While Mukachevo is far from the war zone, Young also visited areas that were directly affected, including Kyiv, Bucha and Irpin.
“It’s really heartbreaking to see what happened,” Young said. “In Bucha, for example, there was the smell of death, and it was just terrible. When the Russians arrived, the civilians had to take shelter where they could, and if any family members were killed, all they could do was dig a hole nearby and bury them in graves of fortune. It was not possible to go safely to a cemetery.
Young said the building damage was extensive. “Even though the rockets didn’t hit, the Russians were coming, and they were using their machine guns and shooting all the buildings, smashing all the windows and kicking down the doors. So they just made a real mess.
Amid the devastation, ADRA is working tirelessly to support the victims. Most, if not all, of the local ADRA workers have themselves suffered significant losses – family members killed, homes destroyed – but they continue to do all they can to help others.
“One of the main initiatives we’re working on is a wintering project,” Young said. “This program helps people prepare their homes for winter by repairing windows and doors that have been destroyed. Winter is coming soon and people will be too cold if their houses cannot be repaired.
“ADRA is also supporting 32 shelters/centres where hundreds of displaced people live, people who have been left with nothing. We transported people to the shelters and provided them with food and support.
“In neighboring countries, ADRA teams assisted those fleeing Ukraine, providing transportation to the border, as well as shelter and food for people who became refugees.
Young is an experienced disaster response leader, but this was his first time facing a war situation, and it was full of difficult and emotional experiences. “When you talk to people and you see tears in their eyes when they tell you their story, that also brings tears to your eyes,” he said. “During the day you go about your work, but in the evening when you’re in your hotel room thinking about the day, it really hits you.”
ADRA has assisted more than 3 million people in Ukraine through the provision of shelter, food and water, cash assistance, evacuation, and transportation.
For more information on ADRA’s response in Ukraine, click here.