Call to Action - Please Help Ukrainian Refugees by Lydia McCleary

As a little girl, I always wanted to be able to help people. I loved to bandage up my siblings or to bring my mom tea and toast when she was not feeling well. So, pursuing a nursing career seemed like the best way to be able to help others.

Upon entering college, I began to lose some of that vision. Nursing school is long and hard and, at times, I was so involved in just surviving that I focused only on myself and my needs. Helping others fell far down on my list of priorities, while assignments and a busy work schedule rose up.

My senior year started in January 2022, and one of our main courses is Community Health. In this class, we learn about public health and caring for a community at large, including topics like epidemics, school nursing, hospice, and home health nursing. The experience of caring for my community began to reawaken my love for helping people. Still, I was so busy and stressed at the beginning of the semester that I again found myself focused on my goals, my future, and my needs.

Putin’s vicious attack on Ukraine was a stark reminder of why nursing is so important. It's not important because nursing will get me a good salary or because it will provide a stable job with good career growth opportunities. Nursing is important because other humans are important. Nursing is important because it is a way for us to reach beyond ourselves to help others.

When I heard about Ukraine and the plight of the refugees, I immediately wanted to help. I have friends who emigrated from Ukraine several years ago and who still have family there, so perhaps the issue was slightly more personal for me. However, what I knew most was that it is wrong for an innocent child to be forced to grow up in a war-torn country. It is wrong for a wife to have to say goodbye to her husband because a dictator wants to steal power. It is wrong for a country to lose its freedom for the sake of politics and dominance. And it is WRONG for the rest of us to stand by and passively watch and shake our heads and say, "How sad." We MUST stand up. We MUST give aid.

When my Community Health professor, Dr. Klaudia Lewis, announced that she was planning an initiative to support the Ukrainian refugees and the Polish people who are helping them, I immediately signed up. I wanted to make a difference and help another community.

The more I learned about the refugees and their situation, the more I realized how essential humanitarian aid is and will be in the coming months. Currently, over two million Ukrainian refugees are in Poland, seeking safe haven. This migration affects all of Poland and its infrastructure as well as the health of all those who have been forced to flee. Where will people live when all the housing is taken? Where will medical help come from when the hospitals and doctor’s offices in Poland are overwhelmed? Where will the food come from when the grocery store shelves are empty? Healthy food, safe housing, and adequate medical care are essential to the health of a population, and the entire community suffers when these basic needs are not met. Putin’s unrelenting assault has created an urgent need for basic supplies such as diapers, toothpaste, baby formula, blankets, socks, and underwear. Stop-the-bleed kits, bandages, and other medical supplies are also needed. Disaster preparedness from governments, communities, and people around the world can help to stem the tide of the humanitarian crisis which is occurring.

Ukraine and its people need these things, but what are we going to do about it? It is very easy to bury our heads in the sand, to hope that others will help. But, it is up to us now to decide if we will be among those who are willing to take action.

First, they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

  • Martin Niemoller, Lutheran pastor in Nazi Germany

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