More Ukrainian aid urged at Hamilton fundraiser | News
WENHAM — It’s a match made in Ukraine, and it’s saving lives.
North Shore residents helping drive aid and supplies to Ukraine received an update on the impact of their efforts at a fundraising event held at Hamilton’s Community House Tuesday night.
There was both good and bad news delivered when Ukrainian family Helen and Joseph “Skip” Davis took the stage.
“We have some challenges. What are the challenges?” Davis said, looking to the ground. “Food and medicines are in very short supply. Local charities have outright abandoned them. They won’t, for now, give them any aid.”
Supplies are routinely seized by Russian forces and then sold for a profit to help fund the war in Ukraine, Davis said. Many families find they’re eating kasha, a cereal dish like oatmeal, around the clock. Areas lacking supplies are starting to see more malnutrition and starvation each day.
Where aid caravans and convoys can’t get to those in need, it’s often because “they’re trying to cover up war crimes,” Davis said.
But then, there’s the stories of what is getting in — the good news shared at the event. That’s where the First Church in Wenham enters the picture.
Skip and Helen Davis, living in Arlington with family, are in the United States after escaping Ukraine the day before the war began this past winter. Skip Davis has worked around the world for a variety of agencies, with a heavy concentration on Ukraine, where he married Helen in 2013. The two went on to start a family in the country, where they cautiously watched tensions rise leading up to the conflict’s launch in February.
Skip Davis has a connection with Hamilton resident Christina Comparato. The two performed together in the early 1990s in a cross-cultural concert group called Up With People. When he escaped Ukraine and landed in the States, he contacted Comparato, who had a community in Hamilton and Wenham dying to help those in Ukraine, she explained.
The community “grabbed on to this awesome family and said, ‘can you come to our church, present what you’ve experienced and what your needs are?’” Comparato said. “Since then, the church has raised $20,000 that these folks have given directly to a friend in Ukraine.”
The friend, who was identified during the event by first name only for safety reasons, has been channeling cash into resources on the ground throughout the conflict. That’s because many families haven’t left and are riding the war out, according to Skip Davis.
“Because it’s illegal for 18- to 60-year-old men to leave, the women don’t want to leave their husbands,” he said. “So it’s all, or no one.”
Bags of clothing donated early in the conflict made it to households in Ukraine. As resources began flowing, notes and letters of thanks — many of them in Russian or Ukrainian — started coming back. Helen Davis read one such letter to the crowd at the Community House.
“When the war in Ukraine started on Feb. 24, 2022, my husband lost his job the same day. He was working for the municipal taxi service,” one letter read. “That day started as always… he left home for work. He barely reached Odessa when the Russians started shelling all Ukrainian cities.”
The family found themselves without income or resources, the letter read. Money donated by the church crossed the lines into Ukraine, however, and provided an income to buy not just food, but insulin for a diabetic child.
“This support wasn’t just helping them have some food. It helped their son to live on,” Helen Davis said, lowering the letter. “That’s why she’s saying, ‘we’re extremely grateful for the support of your church. We wouldn’t even be able to purchase by ourselves the food and medications that were brought to us many times.’”
Reading from another, Skip Davis then added, “’I thank God for bringing all the wonderful people in our lives and responding to God’s prayers.’”
“What are we dealing with? What’s the need right now?” Davis said. “We need a reliable and steady supply of critical medications for 118 families and food until government agencies and non-government organizations can resume operations. We don’t know when that’ll happen.”
To view the latest iteration of the Davis family’s presentation, including letters and images of gratitude and ways to help, visit tinyurl.com/3sac2pte. For more on First Church and to donate through them, visit firchurchwenham.org.
Contact Dustin Luca at 978-338-2523 or DLuca@salemnews.com. Follow him at facebook.com/dustinluca or on Twitter @DustinLucaSN.