South Pacific leader deployed to help Ukraine war victims

ADRA South Pacific director Greg Young (third from left) with Ana Alburqueque, ADRA South Pacific Program technical advisor, Maria Sas, marketing and PR director for ADRA Ukraine, and Artem Dikhtiaruk, vice president for ADRA Ukraine, in Irpin.

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A month-long deployment to help the victims of the war in Ukraine was a confronting experience for ADRA South Pacific director Greg Young.

Mr Young was asked by ADRA International to go to the war-torn country in June-July as the emergency response coordinator based in the ADRA Ukraine office in Mukachevo. He led an emergency response team (ERT) comprising ADRA personnel from around the globe—all there to support the local ADRA workers.

“The ERTs work alongside and in collaboration with the ADRA country office,” he explained.

While Mukachevo is a long way from the war zone, Mr Young also visited areas that have been directly hit, including Kiev, Bucha and Irpin.

“It’s really confronting to see what’s happened,” he said. “In Bucha, for example, there was the smell of death, and it was just terrible. When the Russians came through, the civilians had to shelter where they could and if family members were killed all they could do was dig a hole nearby and bury them in makeshift graves. It wasn’t possible to safely get to a cemetery.”

Apartment buildings have been extensively damaged by Russian rocket fire.

Mr Young said the damage to buildings is extensive. “Even if the rockets didn’t hit, the Russians would come in and they’d use their machine guns and shoot up all the buildings, smashing all the windows and kicking down the doors. So they’ve just made a real mess.”

In the midst of the devastation, ADRA is working tirelessly to support the victims. Most, if not all, of the local ADRA workers have suffered significant losses themselves—family members killed, homes destroyed—but they continue to do all they can to help others.

“One of the key initiatives we are working on is a ‘winterisation’ project,” Mr Young said. “This program assists people to prepare their homes for winter by repairing the windows and the doors that have been destroyed. Winter is coming soon and the people will be too cold unless their homes can be repaired.

“ADRA is also supporting 32 shelters/hubs where hundreds of displaced people are living. People who have been left with nothing. We have been transporting people to the shelters and providing them with food and support.

“In neighbouring countries ADRA teams have been assisting those fleeing Ukraine, providing transportation at the border along with shelter and food to the people who have become refugees.”

Mr Young with ADRA workers in Mukachevo.

Mr Young is an experienced disaster response leader, but this was the first time he has dealt with a war situation and it was full of challenging and emotional experiences.

“When you are talking with people and you see tears in their eyes when they are telling you their story, it brings tears to your eyes too,” he said.

“During the day you are getting on with your job, but in the evenings when you are in your hotel room thinking about the day, it really hits you.”

ADRA has assisted more than three million people in Ukraine through the provision of shelter, food and water, cash assistance, evacuation and transport.

For more information on ADRA’s Ukraine response click here.

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