Winter break in Ukraine: a humanitarian story

ORU freshman Kelsey Wright hopes to spend this summer in Ukraine, where she traveled over winter break to volunteer with a humanitarian group, Help All Together. Ukraine has suffered more than 18,800 civilian casualties since the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022, according to the United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Larissa Davenport, Staff Writer

Growing up in a family who loved missionary work, Kelsey Wright, an international relations freshman at Oral Roberts University, developed a passion for Ukraine after a mission trip to the country when she was three years old. Her family had also adopted one of Wright’s older sisters from Odesa, Ukraine. 


After the Russian invasion started a year ago, she felt God pulling her back to the country and she decided to spend winter break in Ukraine in the middle of the ongoing war. 


Through some friends her family met working in the mission fields, Wright connected with Help All Together, a charity organization providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine. 


“My desire only grew, not just with my passionate anger about the war, but I wanted to be able to do something,” Wright said. 


Besides her family and a select group of prayer supporters and donors, few people knew about her dangerous trip, but her parents and everyone she told were very supportive. 


“My parents were the first people I discussed the trip with and prayed through it with,” Wright explained. “They were completely supportive from the very beginning. Overall, everyone I spoke with had peace about me going, but we all wanted to ensure that I was as prepared as possible if something were to happen that I could leave [and] be as safe as I could when I was there.”  


Ukraine has suffered more than 18,800 civilian casualties, including 7,100 killed and 11,600 injured, since the start of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, 2022, according to the United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In addition, more than 5.9 million people have been displaced from their homes inside Ukraine, with 8 million refugees going to other European countries, and 17.6 million people need humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. 


Getting to Ukraine was a challenge of its own due to the war, Wright said. 


She first had to fly into Poland, take a bus to a border town, ride a train into Kyiv and then drive to her destination, meeting with Help All Together. 


“I had to buy war insurance to cover me for injury,” Wright said. “I also was by the front lines, so that was emphasized as well, just in case something were to happen to me.”


“Even with the peace about going and with God’s confirmation, the dangers are still incredibly real, and you cannot go into something ignorantly or naively.” 


Wright primarily wanted to meet tangible needs of the people who have been displaced by the war, but she also wanted to share the Gospel. 


“If I’m going to serve and share the Gospel, but I’m surrounded by people who haven’t eaten in almost a week or people who don’t have a jacket … I want to go help with those tangible things, and the rest follows,” said Wright. 


While in Ukraine, Wright would mainly serve in the Kharkiv region, packing bags and giving out humanitarian aid such as food and supplies to those displaced in Ukraine.  


“We would bring these bags of food, and we would distribute them,” said Wright. “We would share the gospel with them, and we would just kind of be there for them if they wanted to talk or needed support afterward.” 


Dr. Ruby Libertus, a professor of international relations at ORU, encouraged her student during every step of the process.  


“I was excited and proud that Kelsey wanted to go assist in Ukraine during the break,” said Libertus. “It is easy to move past the conflict and forget how tragic and horrifying the situation is, and so to have a student willing to help in any way she could, was reassuring and as if on our behalf.” 


Once Christmas break ended, Wright tried to stay in Ukraine while still completing her degree. Ultimately, however, despite her efforts to stay, Wright came back to ORU for the spring semester. Still, she plans to return to Ukraine this summer break and continue giving humanitarian aid to the Ukrainian people.