We have had a couple posts (available here and here) from our good friend Mike Demas. Mike just came back from a deployment with Americares. This is a email he sent to us with links to some of the great work he has been a part of. He just returned from the Polish border with Ukraine where he documented medical supplies being brought into the country. Here’s the video he worked on, Angels Never Sleep – Volunteers Deliver Aid and Hope in Ukraine.

We are always glad to hear from him. He really is getting out there and making a difference. Thanks, Mike – Jam Jam!!

Musa friend Mike Demas on the border in Poland with Americares

I think the last time we spoke, I was working with All Hands and Hearts. I traveled and volunteered with them in Nepal, Peru, Texas, and Mexico. Afterward, a good friend of mine let me know about Americares, and how there was an open position in their marketing team. They have a good mission: to provide medicine and medical supplies to people affected by disaster or poverty. They like to operate through existing partner health clinics in the community and provide funding and resources to any clinic that asks for them.

I’ve been working for them for about two years. When I first joined prior to the pandemic, we had a chance to document some of the mental health work that goes on in the Philippines.

Recently, due to the war in Ukraine, Americares has decided to raise $20M to assist the growing Ukrainian refugee population, both inside the country and in surrounding countries. So far, Americares has sent 20 tons of medicine and medical supplies into Ukraine, with more on the way. Additionally, it has also provided grants to several organizations in Ukraine, Poland, and Romania that provide a whole host of services for Ukrainian refugees, like mental health services, temporary accommodation, access to medicine, and other programs.

“Took a quick break from work today to celebrate Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, alongside the school children and staff. So lucky to be volunteering with All Hands, and to witness the rich culture of our community!” – @itsmikedemas on Instagram

While I was in Krakow, Poland, I was tasked with documenting a few of these different stories. Overall it was a successful trip in that we photographed and filmed a lot of relevant programs, subjects, and activities. We interviewed a local organization, the Jewish Community Center of Krakow, and heard from them about some of the assistance they are providing the Ukrainian refuge community in terms of clothing donation, daycare services, information sessions on local employment, temporary accommodation and the operation of a Ukrainian hotline, designed to help anyone with urgent questions about what their next steps should look like.

Here’s a brief video on some of what they do.

We spoke with a variety of people who were receiving temporary accommodations in hotels. An elderly couple from outside of Chernobyl, a man and his disabled wife from Bucha, a woman and her baby son from southern Ukraine… it was so sad to hear their stories. Each of them has their own life, their own struggles, and circumstance.

The older couple had only evacuated Chernobyl once before, due to the nuclear event.

The husband with his disabled wife has to stay by her side 24/7 in case of a severe epileptic episode, as they travel to safety in a new and foreign country.

The mother of an infant son, she called on her in-laws to meet her in Poland, because a friend of hers disappeared on her own journey, most likely trafficked.

It was emotionally challenging to discuss some of the topics we asked them about, but one thing that stood out with each person was a sense of resilience and defiance. I saw many refugees, but none of the people I spoke to had a broken spirit. All of them were busy putting one step in front of the other, hurt by the war, absolutely, but hopeful for better days.

One of the biggest highlights for me was talking with Volodomyr at the border of Poland and Ukraine as we shipped aid across the border. His refrain, “Angels never sleep,” was entirely moving. Here’s a guy who operates a team of volunteers and distributes aid to hot spots in Ukraine, and when he’s weary from the work- when his team is tired when they’ve worked day into night and into day again, he repeats the motto, “Angels never sleep,” and the work continues. It was moving to hear his testimony.

I also had the opportunity to work with a woman from Ukraine who had joined our local team, Nataliia. She is absolutely lovely, and so is her husband Dylan, an American Navy vet, and former Russian interpreter. I got a chance to work with them and hear from them on a personal level. One of the most moving moments was being with them at the train station, as Nataliia reunited with her mother, who had been traveling from Kyiv, and had been there for a few weeks during the fighting. It was an absolutely sweet, wonderful, human moment to see them embrace. What’s more is that her mother was eager to be with Nataliia’s baby son, who-I swear, could recognize his grandma despite his early age. It was one of those moments that reminds you why we’re alive.

Overall, it was a very vivid deployment. I got a chance to see some of the beautiful generosity the human spirit has to offer. I also saw derision, exploitation, and opportunism from bad actors. As the conflict enters its second month, I hope that things come to an end, but the news suggests that more intense fighting will break out in the east once more. We never seem to learn… all I can do is help in my own small way despite the cosmic churn of our human history.