In Ukraine, Russian forces have repeatedly shelled and destroyed non-military locations such as hospitals and medical centers, leaving doctors, nurses and other medical personnel to operate in an unconventional manner.
A list, hand-written by a family doctor with a return address of a church in Chernihiv, is a testament to this fact.
“Please consider providing us with humanitarian aid in the form of medical supplies,” said the writer of the list, “for the needs of church members and people who seek medical care in war and post-war times.”
The list, containing the full name of its writer and address of its origin, could be a death sentence if its contents fell into the wrong hands. It could also serve as one for anyone wishing to fulfill its request.
But 26-year-old Joseph White, the person who will be personally delivering supplies in response to the letter’s call for help, doesn’t fear for his safety.
“I’m more worried about the manual shift because I need to learn it,” said White, who expects to learn how to drive a stick-shift vehicle during his voyage. “I’m not too scared about losing my life. I believe, you know, I’m a Christian. So I know where I’m gonna end up at.”
White, a graduate of The Master’s University, was born in Glendale but grew up in Ukraine. His parents have both been missionaries there since 1992. White considers Ukraine, specifically Kyiv, his home. He said that he has lots of family, friends and deep relationships there — not just with its people, but to its places as well.
“Last time I was there was 2019 I believe,” said White. “This, it’s kind of like, you know, when the war started [I was], like, ‘Oh, I know where that is’ and that’s been bombed or, ‘Oh, that’s no longer there.’”
The stark reality that places he once knew were vanishing and the lives of the people he loves were being disrupted prompted White to do what he could to help Ukraine.
His parents, who are still in Ukraine, knew that doctors in their area desperately needed supplies. So White decided that was how he wanted to help.
White eventually approached Dr. Peter Kim, a doctor at the Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital whom he knew through church, to see if the hospital would be able to donate the supplies that were mentioned in the list. Kim turned out to be the right person for this type of request, as he’s part of a coalition of doctors and pharmacists at Henry Mayo whose mission is to garner and distribute medical supplies for humanitarian aid. Kim said the group has been doing so for years and that the multinational team tries to help their countries of origin.
“For the past 20 years, there are a group of doctors who have the same mind and they were going to different countries every year,” said Kim. “There are many, many different countries and we all have a heart to our native country.”
Kim couldn’t immediately make any promises but said that if White could get a list of supplies, and assured him there were doctors on the ground in Ukraine who would put the supplies to use, he would see what he could do.
Thus, the list was made and delivered to White, who then gave it to Kim, and eventually made its way to Roger Seaver, president and CEO of Henry Mayo. White was thrilled that the list could be fulfilled.
“He had a conversation with the president and explained to them the situation, who I am, and that they could trust me,” said White. “So they were very, I guess, very generous and they gave a lot of prescription medicine and other medical supplies.”
Kim said the hospital was able to secure more than $5,000 worth of supplies for White.
“Which is about eight pretty big boxes,” said Kim. “A lot of medicine. So [the pharmacy] texted me [the] next week that the medicine was ready…So we went, I think the following Wednesday, we went there to the pharmacy department at the hospital…to pick it up the medicine.”
After White had secured the medicine the doctor in Ukraine had requested, he then made plans for the hard part: Getting the supplies into Ukraine.
White left Sunday to board a commercial flight on a Polish airline bound for Warsaw, with duffle bags full of supplies in tow. From there, he’ll be going with a group of others to transport the supplies into Ukraine with the assistance of the Ukrainian ministry of health.
While White did not appear to show any fear or anxiety about his mission and has assured everyone that the only road that can be used to transport supplies has been secured by Ukrainian forces, Kim was emotional about the fact that something could happen to his friend and called his mission a “selfless, selfless, selfless action.”
“So I asked Joseph, ‘What if a missile comes, or bombing, and you die?’ and he kind of smiled at me and said, ‘Worst case is I go to heaven.’” said a choked-up Kim. “He wants to help his father and God and Ukrainian people. He wants to serve God’s will, providing medicine for Ukrainian people.”
“I know my heart is just for the people and the people need you know…like, some people I know, they’re struggling. I see these photos, and I know those regions and, you know, my concern is for them, and I want to help them,” said White. “I’m sure once I get to the border driving in, I’ll get nervous. You know, that’s just, that’s natural. You know, right now, no, I’m not really nervous honestly. But I know for sure I’ll probably be nervous when I’m crossing that border.”