People across the nation watch in horror as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to intensify. Homes, cities, public buildings, and lives are being destroyed. While the United States and most of the other western powers have joined together to implement immense sanctions on Russia in order to help alleviate the pressures, many wonder what other relief efforts can be done to assist the war-torn country.
Acts of compassion and generosity, as crippling as this humanitarian crisis is, are two simple ways that can make a dramatic difference in rebuilding life in Ukraine. Organizations active in Ukraine’s bordering nations, alongside those who are working directly on the ground, stand on these two principles to lead the charge of assistance.
Children who were evacuated from a children's home and have taken temporary shelter with Remember the Children.
Remember the Children
Remember the Children, since its inception 26 years ago, has focused on orphan care, church planting, and leadership development in Romania and Tanzania. Now, since the current Russian invasion began, RTC has become a safe passage for families escaping the war as well.
“We’ve already got 600 refugees housed and we’re feeding 400 to 500 people as they cross the border daily,” Andy Baker, Founder and CEO, said. “Most people are moving through Romania and going west. A lot of them are heading to Italy and Germany.”
Andy’s phone has been ringing nonstop since the attacks on Ukraine started. Partnering organizations have been seeking assistance from Remember the Children and Andy’s team has worked round the clock, both here in the states and on the ground in Romania, to ensure Ukrainians get the help that they need.
“I also have three families in Suceava, Romania that we got to Bucharest. We’re working to get them to the embassy and, hopefully, get them to Idaho in the coming weeks where families have agreed to take them in as refugees,” Andy said while responding to a text message from a colleague in Ukraine. “And I just sent some funding to another gentleman in Western Ukraine to buy medicine and medical supplies. We find ourselves uniquely positioned to help in this crisis with our long-term service in Romania and with a network of colleagues and friends that encompasses most of the country.”
People being fed by Remember the Children as they enter into Romania from Ukraine
“We find ourselves uniquely positioned to help in this crisis with our long-term service in Romania and with a network of colleagues and friends that encompasses most of the country.”—Andy Baker
Mulberry International Resources
While Remember the Children actively works to provide safety for those coming from Ukraine, Natasha Reimer and Mulberry International Resources are working closely with individuals and families that are in the direct path of the fighting.
“We were strategically placed. We were placed in the city of Mariupol—which is outside of the frontlines,” Natasha said. “We were already working with that population since 2015, dealing with displaced refugees and helping out planting churches in the buffer zone. We’ve been doing it. In a way, when this whole thing blew over, we didn’t have to set anything up. We were already set up.”
Mulberry exists to promote eternal transformation by bringing hope and healing to at-risk children and families in Ukraine. Natasha, currently the Executive Director, sees the organization’s mission being lived out every single day as Ukrainians seek safety and help.
Ukrainian Refugees Receiving Help
Andy and Natasha met at the CDF Capital Foundation Mentoring Program back in 2020. They both learned valuable lessons of strategic planning in their cohort. Natasha and Andy were both highly motivated by the CDF Capital team to get back to their respective organizations to implement new strategies and take their humanitarian work to the next level.
Little did they know, the two would find themselves working together years later in such a devastating capacity.
“A couple of days ago, Andy reached out to me and told me they’re receiving people,” Natasha said, recalling their conversation just days after the invasion broke out. “We evacuated a Christian children’s home out of Mariupol—30 plus children, staff, and families. They are, right now, at the border with Romania.”
Children from Ukrainian Orphanage Bussed to the Romanian Border
Safe in Romania
Natasha secured housing for her people to rest in a church on the Ukrainian side of the border. When they crossed, Remember the Children had a bus ready to take them west to the safety of an RTC ministry location in northwest Romania.
“Mulberry and RTC connected at the border,” Andy reported. “There are 33 children, 13 women, and 3 men who are safe with us in Romania.”
Natasha also secured a long-term arrangement with a ministry in Germany that the children’s home will eventually make its way toward once the team is ready to receive them.
“Natasha and I have been talking every day. And that’s just one example of how we’ve worked together,” Andy said. “I don’t know how to explain it to you. I’m on the verge of tears just every minute. When I talk with some people out there, they say, ‘We’re doing what we can do, Andy, because it’s what God calls us to do. We live in every moment, wondering if we’re next.’”
“Residents have no access to life-supporting supplies. Almost the entire city has been burned, destroyed, and shelled,” Natasha added, describing the dire straits Ukrainians face right now. “There is no food left. People burn wood to cook or to get warm. They boil snow or collect rainwater to drink. Every day the humanitarian corridor is being shelled, and evacuation efforts have been unsuccessful.”
Bombed buildings and cars in Mariupol
Natasha, in addition to her work with Mulberry International, also has intimate ties to the country. Though immigrating to the United States in the late 90s, Natasha is originally from Crimea and still has close friends and relatives back home.
“My heart is broken for my people and my country, and for the countless victims who have been killed, wounded and displaced,” Natasha lamented. “Now, I grieve for my friend and co-worker in Christ, Nikolai, who was killed today with four other Christian men while delivering food to others in shelters and homes. He leaves behind his wife and three children, who still remain in Mariupol.”
Natasha Reimer's friend and co-worker in Christ, Nikolai, was killed while delivering food to others trapped in Mariupol.
A Stateside Perspective: Tatiana's Story
Another individual who still has ties in Ukraine is Tatiana Castner. Tatiana also immigrated to the United States in 1997 from Rivne, a small city in Western Ukraine located about two hours north of Lviv. She married an American missionary who was doing work in Ukraine, but had to come back to the states due to a health problem. Tatiana has since settled in Harrisburg, PA.
When asked about what she’s heard from family members and friends currently in Ukraine, Tatiana said they are spread out in different areas both impacted and not reached yet by the Russian military. The reality of war has hit them hard, but their spirits are still grounded in their faith in God.
“Everyone recognizes that things are scary and it’s real and with each day it’s getting worse. From the perspective of spirits, they are all patriots and believing that they are fighting for the right reason,” Tatiana said. “And for a lot of my friends and family who are believers, they’re relying on God. They’re holding on for their dear lives, based on their faith and knowing God has them.
“For a lot of my friends and family who are believers, they're relying on God. They're holding on for their dear lives, based on their faith and knowing God has them.”
“Ukrainians are survivors by nature. I know the nation to be very hard workers,” Tatiana continued. “My people are not looking for anything that’s not ours, but we’re not willing to give ours away. We believe this is our land, rightfully ours, always has been, and this is our home. This is our country and this is our nation and we're not willing to just roll over when someone says do so.”
Tatiana, in addition to the fighting spirit of Ukrainians, is equally proud of American support for her country.
“I’m grateful for the people of the United States,” she said with joyous trembling in her voice. “I get messages from my connections through the years—friends, industry colleagues, churches—who want to help. I just want to encourage people in the generosity and the goodness they are wiling to share with Ukrainians right now.”
Donations Stretched for Maximum Impact
Despite the the grim circumstances in Ukraine, however, both Andy and Natasha have been encouraged by the outpouring of inquiries by friends, family members, and partnering organizations seeking ways they can help. Since the borders and ports have been blockaded and seized by the Russian military, it is next to impossible to ship in-kind gifts into the country. Sending financial donations is the easiest way to assist during this phase of the war. With leadership teams set up on the ground, withdrawing funds at an ATM or wiring money is fast and efficient, allowing both Mulberry International and Remember the Children to quickly purchase needed goods locally.
“A food packet—like basic grains, oil, pasta—for a family of four or five, about $15 would be enough for them to survive a week,” Natasha said, describing how far donations can stretch. “And $100 would provide one family basic needs for a month.”
“Something as little as $25 a week goes a long way,” Andy added. “Money is being used to help move refugees into Romania and get them into housing. We’re also feeding three meals a day to our refugees. Financial assistance is the easiest way to help.”
Evacuees Receive Help from Remember the Children.
For Andy, CDF Capital has been a tremendous help, not only during these intense few weeks, but CDF Capital has also been of great help in continually pouring wisdom into Remember the Children. The relationship between Remember the Children and CDF Capital has strengthened over the years and will continue to do work for the good of humanity.
“Dusty Rubeck looked at me the last time I saw him and he goes, ‘Andy, you know what your problem is? You’re one of the best ministries I know that nobody’s ever heard about,’” Andy said. “It’s great. I’m so thankful."
For Natasha, though the environment is tense and devastating, she is continually encouraged by the people of Ukraine. The current iteration of this war isn’t new to her, having experienced the pain and fighting since the Russo-Ukrainian War broke out in 2014. Natasha said they have been working hard to bring relief to the people of Ukraine since the beginning of the war and will continue to fight for their humanitarian rights long after the dust has settled.
“I just want to emphasize the incredible spirits of the Ukrainians. I’m just humbled,” Natasha said. “And when people literally rely on God for every breath and every meal, that puts everything in a different perspective. Our ministers are living out the gospel. They’re literally, right now, sacrificing their physical lives.”
“When people rely on God for every breath and every meal, that puts everything in a different perspective. Our ministers are living out the gospel.”
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