Amy Koomen and her husband Jason have three daughters from Ukraine— ages 11, 12 and 21. During the adoption process, the two of them flew to Ukraine multiple times and developed a strong emotional attachment to the country and its people. One of their daughters still has family there and Facetimes them on a regular basis. That made the Russian invasion which began in February all the more disheartening.
“The whole time we were in Ukraine, every single person was very nice to us, kind to us. They were very helpful. [We] always felt safe,” Koomen, a teacher for Indiana Digital Learning School (INDLS) said.
Nothing to buy
That personal connection has inspired the Koomens and a group of three fellow “adoption moms” to do everything they can to send aid to the country. Not just money, though— actual, physical supplies, hand-delivered to areas and people who need them.
“They said, ‘You can send us eight million dollars, [but] there’s nothing to buy. There are no supplies, there’s no medicine. It’s not like you can go to the grocery store, because the grocery stores are not being restocked. So that’s not going to help. Can you bring us stuff, can you get stuff to us?’”
The postal service is not working in Ukraine. And for all the humanitarian efforts raising money, the aid is either being held up at the border or being delivered only to the country’s largest cities. That means many rural areas— where the orphanages the Koomens and their fellow moms found their adopted kids— were being left out. The facilities were in desperate need of supplies— medical equipment, especially, as there are not many working hospitals.
Plans in motion
So the moms set into action. “We reached out to contacts we had— a friend of a friend who had a cousin that lives in Poland, near the border,” Amy said. “And we were like, ‘Hey, if we were to fly in, can we stay with you for a little bit? Can you translate this document for us? Can you help us get vans? What can you do for us?’”
The four families developed a plan. They gathered medical supplies, including four ventilators. They garnered a humanitarian letter with a seal from the government of Ukraine. Airlines gave them humanitarian rates, so they could carry more suitcases than normal. And they’d deliver it themselves.
“All of us, we’ve paid our own airline tickets, hotels/drivers to get to and from the airport. We all pay for it 100% on our own, so any donations that have come in from people, it’s 100% being used for medicine, food and supplies that we can purchase in Poland,” Amy said.
Amy’s husband Jason is in Ukraine as of this writing with some of the dads, delivering supplies personally. They filled four vans with everything they brought or purchased in Poland, and then after crossing the border were able to load the whole thing into a semi truck to drive directly to the dropoff, in a situation that Amy said was typical of the generosity of the Ukrainian people.
“One of the Ukrainian women happened to see a semi truck there with soldiers unloading things. She walks over, she says, ‘Hey, is this your truck?’ They say, ‘Well, we’re using it for supplies.’ And she said, ‘Hey, we’ve got some Americans bringing medical equipment in— can we use it?’ And they said, ‘Yeah, we’ll leave it in this parking lot.’ And that’s how it works. She said, ‘We’re going to be having a driver drive it into a potential warzone, it may not be coming back.’ And they said, ‘That’s okay.’”
Koomen estimates that just by reaching out and working with friends, the four moms have gotten over $100,000 worth of medical supplies, equipment and food to rural Ukraine. And the job is far from over. Jason will be home soon, and then, in the first week of May, it’ll be the moms’ turn to head to Poland and make a delivery.
“And our hope is, we can make these couple trips and, hopefully, things look better, or some of the larger scale humanitarian [aid] that comes from other countries or other major corporations has started to make their way to the countryside by then.”
Readers interested in contributing to the cause can send donations to the Koomens via Venmo (@Jason-Koomen) or Paypal (firstname.lastname@example.org). Tax deductible donations for aid can be made via reecesrainbow.org. They can also purchase supplies on a wishlist to be delivered directly to their contact in Poland at this link.