Months into the brutal war in Ukraine, hospitals in the besieged areas of the country are overcoming incredible obstacles to treat patients who need them now more than ever.
With thousands of people injured, there’s been a dire need for medical supplies and non-profit organizations like the North Zulch, Texas-based Arlene Campbell Humanitarian Foundation.
“I see resilience,” said Lena Denman, president of the foundation. “I see a [Ukrainian] people who have great fortitude, who have a willingness to fight and win.”
The foundation is partnering with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), part of United Methodist Global Ministries -- the worldwide mission, relief and development agency of The United Methodist Church.
“The goal of UMCOR is to alleviate human suffering,” said UMCOR’s chief executive, Roland Fernandes.
The power of the global ministry plus its small donors has added up to one of the biggest donations of medical supplies from a nonprofit organization during the war. Despite the logistical nightmare, the organizations say they have delivered 24 tons of supplies worth nearly $1 million.
“We're working with specific doctors, specific requests, and we're meeting those requests so that we see where the aid goes,” said Denman.
Since Russia’s invasion, Denman’s foundation and UMCOR have sent three massive shipments of supplies like gowns, gloves, surgical kits and mask respirators. The third truckload arrived in May to the Ukrainian Health Ministry Heart Institute in the capital, Kyiv.
“I think really being able to get the supplies on the ground is something that we don’t often do,” Fernandes said. “So to see that happen was a sense of…hopefully this really helps people who really need this.”
The relief has helped.
One grateful recipient is Dr. Vitaly Demyanchuk. The cardiothoracic surgeon at the Ukrainian Health Ministry Heart Institute has been living in the hospital treating victims of the war.
Demyanchuk told ABC News “that despite the hard times, we’re trying day by day to return to work at full capacity. We are dedicated to providing care for patients.”
The doctor has also distributed some of the donated supplies to other medical facilities including a children’s hospital where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy recently visited and honored doctors. They have been taking care of orphans who escaped the bombarded city of Mariupol.
Demyanchuk said the U.S. aid “plays an enormous role in helping us do our job and do it as effectively as we can.”
Denman said she fell in love with the Ukrainian people and culture more than 20 years ago. In 2000, she traveled there with Arlene Campbell, who started a non-profit organization to ship containers of food, medical equipment, medicine, and supplies to the former Soviet states. Campbell also developed a student-teacher exchange program with the help of a grant from the U.S. State Department.
In 2016, Denman started the Arlene Campbell Humanitarian Foundation near College Station, Texas with a mission to honor her late mentor and continue sending medical supplies and equipment to that region.
Now with a new conflict after Russia’s recent invasion, Denman is stepping up efforts to help.
“The need is outstanding. The need has only increased,” said Denman. “The UN sent out a flash appeal asking governments and NGOs to only increase the aid not to decrease it at all.”
While the need grows larger by the day, the United Methodist Church and the Arlene Campbell Humanitarian Foundation say so does their support for the people of Ukraine.
“Arlene was a widow and she had no children,” said Denman. “Her legacy is me carrying on her foundational work to help Ukrainians and I know that she would be so pleased if she was alive today to see it in existence and to see the relationship we’ve built with UMCOR.”