A North Okanagan woman has witnessed the fallout of the war in Ukraine firsthand, having travelled to neighbouring Romania to volunteer at a children’s hospital earlier this month.
Within 48 hours of arriving in Brasov, Romania, Jen Kirkland was floored by how many locals could be seen pulling together to help Ukrainians fleeing across the border.
Already she’s been involved with refugees escaping their war-torn country as Russia continues its invasion.
“I’m just an ordinary person. I’m not a doctor or a nurse, a schoolteacher or a firefighter. I’m not someone who can perform miracles, and yet looking into the faces of the four Ukrainian women I met today while we gave them much needed supplies, you’d think I had given them all the treasures of the world,” Kirkland said by email.
She describes the level of gratitude the Ukrainians have for even the smallest measure of support in these times of upheaval.
“All that was asked for was a stroller and car seat, plus whatever we could spare for a newborn girl coming at the end of March to a woman who had this unforgettable look in her eyes as she held the arm of her mother suffering from Alzheimer’s. You could see the pain, the sadness, the whole of life’s burdens she carried on her shoulders, and yet she managed heartfelt gratitude to go with her smile as she thanked us for even just this little bit of good news that we could provide her.”
Brasov is a city of 300,000 about 500 km from the Ukrainian border, and its a popular destination for those fleeing south. Kirkland says she’s seen many Ukrainian licence plates in the city.
Kirkland is volunteering with Firm Foundations Romania (FFR), a small non-profit dedicated to supporting the Roma (Gypsy) community in Romania. Through FFR, Kirkland volunteers as a caretaker for children in hospital, holding and feeding them and providing diapers. Some of the children are orphans, others are away from their parents because they can’t afford to travel to Brasov while their kids heal.
Now on her third trip to Romania to work with FFR, Kirkland plans to stay there for eight months.
“It’s a privilege for me to work alongside this amazing organization and to see the hope and generosity that Romania has for its neighbour to the north,” she said. “While it’s hard to see the hardship on the faces of the few people I’ve met so far, it’s incredibly uplifting to see how the world is coming together in this time of crisis.”
Kirkland says the organization is focused on the Ukrainian situation as well as the hospital side of things. She describes a call for warm clothing for Ukrainian soldiers a few days ago.
“It feels like a movie to even think that our FFR donations would be worn by men and women fighting for their country, and potentially dying in these same clothes,” she said.
The small organization is always looking for more volunteers, and Kirkland says there’s no need to feel like you’re underqualified to lend a hand.
For more information on Firm Foundations Romania, visit firmfoundationsromania.com.