Medical Teams has a long history of supporting the surrounding regions of Ukraine — namely Moldova, Romania and Ukraine itself — which uniquely positions us to respond to the massive Ukraine refugee crisis. The following is a brief account of our work in these countries, including an update on our work to care for the many Ukrainians forced from their homes and country as of February 2022 (now the largest movement of people in Europe since WWII).
Moldova: Coram Deo
Coram Deo is Medical Teams’ former partner in Moldova. Currently, in response to the Ukraine refugee crisis, Coram Deo prepares hygiene kits and boxes of food on a daily basis and drops them off at a refugee transit center. Volunteers distribute the hygiene kits to Ukrainian refugee families and three meals a day are prepared for all of the Ukrainians in the transit center.
Medical Teams International began operations in Moldova in April 1997 by establishing a partnership with Ron Helton, an American missionary who worked in association with Kishinev Bible Church. Initially, Medical Teams worked in orphanages as an extension of the work of the Kishinev Bible Church. This included refurbishing some of the children’s rooms in the orphanage with volunteers and sending Gift of Hope teams (i.e., donor teams that distributed gifts to the orphans at Christmas time).
In the early 2000s, Ron Helton left Moldova which resulted in the registration of Coram Deo in the country. Officially a local Moldovan agency, Coram Deo was then led by Rodica Cherbov. During that time, Medical Teams continued to support Coram Deo by providing project planning and funding, including volunteer teams for various projects.
In addition to the initial orphanage project, Medical Teams:
- refurbished the burn unit at Chisinau Hospital
- deployed massage therapy teams to assist burn survivors’ recovery
- deployed volunteer teams to orphanages (medical, physical therapy, and Gift of Hope teams)
- provided emergency medical service training in Chisinau and near the region of Transnistria
Medical Teams ended its collaboration with Coram Deo around 2016-2017, but the agency continued operations on its own. Rodica’s son, Vladimir, is now on the Coram Deo board. Vladimir reports that Coram Deo has a very good reputation within the country with helpful government networks and connections. Medical Teams also maintains a very good reputation with the government of Moldova.
Romania: Fundatia Heart of Hope
Medical Teams’ work in Romania began in 1990 through a local partner called Fundatia Heart of Hope (FHH). In the 20 years of working in Romania, Medical Teams sent 173 volunteer teams to support the orphanages in Romania whose deplorable conditions received worldwide attention following the fall of the communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu. The types of volunteer teams varied widely — there were Gift of Hope teams providing Christmas gifts to the orphan children; teams that supported optometry needs, dental work, emergency medical services training, and physical therapy; and construction teams to help remodel the orphanages.
Medical Teams also sent 39 container shipments of medicines, medical supplies, and other equipment to support the orphanages, families, and villages where FHH works. We ended our formal partnership with FHH in June 2010 (unfortunately, largely in part due to funding constraints brought about by the 2008 financial crisis).
Ukraine refugee crisis update
Even before the most recent Ukraine refugee crisis, Medical Teams was involved in supporting health needs in the country. Since 2015, we’ve partnered with two organizations, Ukrainian American Cultural Association and Emmanuel Mercy Mission, to ship critical health supplies and equipment into Ukraine. In total, we shipped 446 pallets with an approximate value of $14 million. Given our history and connection with Ukraine, it was an easy decision to a mobilize a greater response in light of recent events.
When the fighting began in February 2022 in Ukraine, Medical Teams quickly sent a team to assess the needs in the region and set up our response. One of our first efforts was to partner with Coram Deo and its work at the refugee transit center (noted above). Now, we’re sending volunteer medical staff to assist with refugee health needs such as treating various conditions as well as training border staff in emergency first aid. In addition to having staff and volunteers on the ground in eastern Europe, we’re partnering with other organizations — like Integra in Slovakia — to send crucial supplies into the region.
As the Ukraine refugee crisis continues, our team monitors and assesses ongoing needs in the region. The generous support of our donors allows us to adapt as the situation changes to best meet the needs of those displaced by the conflict. Consider joining our life-saving work in Ukraine today.
As global ambassador at Medical Teams, Joe elevates the significance of faith in our organization. He ensures our Christian identity permeates throughout all we do, promotes the spiritual growth and well-being of staff and volunteers, and represents the organization to external audiences.