Santa Clarita Valley resident Joseph White arrived home exhausted after his trip to Ukraine last week.
White recalled his trip, where he drove through the damaged cities of Lviv, Kyiv, Dymer, Bucha – where more than 1,000 Ukrainian civilians were massacred by Russian armed forces during the fight and occupation of the city – and Irpin.
He remembers the rubble; he remembers the people; he remembers the gloomy, sad atmosphere that hangs around the cities and their occupants.
“Seeing all the military posts, the occupied cities, seeing all these destroyed buildings…this is so serious,” White said. “There is a war. People are struggling.”
While White passed through Kyiv it felt empty, he said. According to White, more than 40% of those who live in Kyiv aren’t currently there. Many Ukrainians left their nation seeking refuge as Russia continues to fight to seize territory in eastern portions of Ukraine.
However, whenever White stopped to speak with someone or when he delivered supplies, there was a bubble of gratitude that changed the moment.
“They’re happy they’re still there. They’re happy for the food they are able to receive,” White said. “They [Ukrainians] are thankful to live another day.”
White, 26, was born in Glendale but grew up in Ukraine. His parents have been missionaries there since 1992. He has a strong desire to provide humanitarian aid to the place he considers a second home.
This trip marks the third time White has embarked on a journey to Ukraine to deliver medical and food supplies, but this time was a solo trip. During his first and second trips, James Lee, Jake Dai and Charles Yeh accompanied him to deliver supplies.
“I was bringing around 13 bags with me. Twelve of those bags were prescription and first aid supplies, which are going toward some hospitals and pharmacies,” White said. “First aid will help some of the soldiers who need it.”
White arrived to Poland on June 21. Other volunteers were waiting for him at the airport. They packed two cars with supplies and headed to meet his father across the border in Ukraine. Once they met, the volunteers split off to deliver supplies to various parts of the country.
White and his father stayed one night in Kyiv and the next day they drove to a small church in Dymer.
“My dad knows somebody at a church, and that’s kind of a main hub for them to give food out to the locals in the area,” White said. “People come to the church and get food, and the church also sends out food to smaller villages in the outer regions.”
In total, they were able to provide food to about 200 people, White added.
“[My] goal is to provide humanitarian aid, but I’m also religious, and I’m trying to show the love of God that he has shown us,” said White, who is a Christian. “That’s kind of one way we can try to help people, encourage them and provide for their needs.”
In the past few days, Russia fired missiles at an apartment complex and kindergarten in Kyiv; there was also news of another missile attack on a Kremenchuk shopping mall, killing 20 people and injuring another 59 Ukrainians, according to media reports.
“There’s a lot of unnecessary [violence], people dying and that’s just the soldiers and then there are civilians who are dying from starvation and dying from getting bombed,” White said. “It’s really sad and so many unnecessary deaths of these people.”
Although White is now home, he is considering a fourth trip in a few months. He said many volunteers, like his father, are looking forward to and preparing for the winter.
White encourages those who can donate to gbcworship.org, the Grace Bible Church, which is providing mutual aid to Ukraine. According to White, most supplies can be purchased in Ukraine so monetary donations are ideal for continuing their work.
White wanted to remind people of something important: “People in the U.S. and others around the world who aren’t in a war situation, they should be thankful for what they have, whom they’re with, and they shouldn’t take things for granted.”