CA nonprofit goes to Ukraine war zone to rescue civilians with disabilities

According to the Ukrainian government, there are more than 2.6 million people with disabilities in their country.
UKRAINE (KGO) -- As the war continues in Ukraine, there's a California-based nonprofit that is helping Ukrainians with disabilities flee to neighboring countries.

It's a daring rescue that requires mobilizing into the war zone.

"For example, with quadriplegic, if they're are on the 9th floor or on the 7th floor when there is this alarm that there could be a bomb, they don't have the time physically to go downstairs," said Galyna, Ukrainian citizen.

TAKE ACTION: Local and national support for people in Ukraine

Galyna is leading the critical efforts for the California-based organization Joni & Friends International Disability Center. Galyna's husband enlisted to fight for their country and she is helping stranded Ukrainians with disabilities cross the border into Poland and other neighboring countries.

About 24 hours ago she had a Zoom conversation with the CEO of the nonprofit on how they helped evacuate 35 people, including 15 with disabilities.

"So we were trying to evacuate first of all, the people who have quadriplegia or cerebral palsy or are in wheelchairs. We have 11 people on the wheelchairs all together and also four kids," said Galyna.

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Nonprofits are gearing up to help Ukrainian refugees entering the Bay Area amid the war between Ukraine and Russia.



According to the Ukrainian government, there are more than 2.6 million people with disabilities in their country. Joni & Friends International Disability Center is gearing up to begin their second rescue mission.

"In eastern Ukraine there are care facilities and orphanages where we have heard the staff are abandoning some of these individuals. We cannot confirm that, but when there is war of course these facilities are going to be short-staffed," said Joni Eareckson Tada, CEO of Joni & Friends International Disability Center.

Joni Eareckson Tada is a well-known disability advocate, her non-profit provides aid to the disabled community around the globe. Their focus now is Ukraine.

Luz Pena: "Where is your team finding people with disabilities are they knocking on doors or going to hospitals? How are they finding them?"

Joni Eareckson Tada: "We are working through our vast network of churches, of nonprofit organizations, yes medical institutions. Most of these people are sequestered away on the 5th and 6th floors of apartment buildings."

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The hugs couldn't wait for Halyna Marchenko and her two children -- relatives ran down before they fully cleared security Tuesday night at RDU International Airport to greet them after their trek from Ukraine to Raleigh.



As their mission continues, this group of volunteers secured a home for the caravan of Ukrainian refugees with disabilities in the Netherlands.

"We thank God that we could cooperate with the local government," said Galyna and added, "You feel relaxed that this group of people is already safe."

You can go here to help Joni & Friends International Disability Center with their next rescue mission.

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