In a small town, just a few miles from the border of Ukraine, there is a network of warehouses and volunteers at the ready to send humanitarian aid into the most dangerous places in Ukraine. In mid-April, Tom was able to go over to Poland and bring his skills to help Kidsave’s mission in Ukraine.
Kidsave has been in Ukraine since 2016, to find families for children living in institutional care and provide mentoring and support for older kids and teens from living in care to independent living. Since the beginning of the war, they have shifted their efforts to delivering humanitarian aid in Ukraine and evacuating civilians out of combat zones and into safety. As of October, Kidsave has rescued 28,000 Ukrainians from war.
When Tom, a retired lawyer with military experience, found Kidsave, he knew it was the organization he wanted to volunteer with. “Their mission was clear, their team was good, they have a solid background and history [in the region].” In mid-April when he arrived, the Ukrainian relief missions were already established with a team from Kidsave taking vans full of food and medical supplies into eastern Ukraine and returning with refugees from the front lines. But the Kidsave team needed support - logistical support to coordinate the humanitarian supplies campaign in from Poland and warehouse management to oversee the delivery into Ukraine.
Tom, alongside another Kidsave volunteer, Chris, stepped into these roles. They found and managed the warehouse and vehicles for transportation then spent many long days, doing aid runs across the border. Tom and Chris quickly learned how to use a forklift, calculate loads, pick up diesel cans, sort out border-crossing formalities, and coordinate with the Ukrainian team to gather and deliver supplies as efficiently as possible. Relying on military background for logistics support came in useful. As Tom recognized, “If there is no one who can take stuff across the border then it doesn’t matter what is going on elsewhere.” Tom and Chris became that connecting link in the chain of humanitarian aid. The work could be exhausting and required waking up anytime of night to load trucks, organizing shipments of supplies, repairing broken trucks, and waiting in the border lines with no weekends or days off.
As a retired lawyer, with Russian language skills, driving a forklift was a new task, but Tom said, it was reminiscent of skills he used as in the military and was “pretty fun.” Noting that war is unpredictable and humanitarian work can require a multitude of new tasks daily he adds, “So, if you go over there, be ready to sort of get out of your comfort zone…”
In fact, Tom went over to Poland expecting to stay four weeks and ended up extending his trip two more weeks. His Russian language skills came in handy as well, allowing him to communicate more easily with the Ukrainian volunteers who were receiving goods or driving the van loads of supplies in and refugees out of the country. He lauds Kidsave’s professionalism and the safety with which they are able to do the very dangerous work they have been doing since the beginning of the war. Kidsave is a well-established organization, with great connections within Ukraine and a steady source of funding from the US.
Tom recognizes that his experience and skills and newfound abundance of time and flexibility after a recent retirement has allowed him to jump on a plane and go help during the war. “Not everyone can take off to 2, 4, or 6 weeks to go to Poland, but definitely, find a good organization, if you can’t go over there, please contribute in other ways, there are a lot of good donating opportunities, including Kidsave, people can help on that front as well…”