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How two Vermont medical students are helping people in Ukraine

A photo of people packing supplies into cardboard boxes scattered around a room
Ellen Mats, Caitlin Marassi, and Sammy Premsagar, Courtesy
UVM medical students Caitlin Marassi and Ellen Mats organized a medical supply drive in coordination with the nonprofit Razom for Ukraine. Vermont Flannel Company stores are still accepting donations through the end of the month.

At a warehouse in New Jersey, a pallet of supplies collected in Vermont is soon bound for Ukraine.

Boxed and tightly wrapped are tourniquets, sutures, gauze, antibiotic ointment, and one portable ultrasound machine. That’s alongside boxes of tactical backpacks, drones, and IV starter kits.

For the past month, people have dropped off the supplies at Vermont Flannel Company stores across the state.

A photo of plastic-wrapped cardboard boxes packed on a pallet in a warehouse.
Ellen Mats, Caitlin Marassi, and Sammy Premsagar, Courtesy
Medical supplies are prepared to be shipped to Ukraine.

They came from retired health care workers, a shuttered OB/GYN clinic, caregivers with leftover medical equipment, and others who picked up items at drugstores.

The drive was organized by two medical students at the University of Vermont — Caitlin Marassi and Ellen Mats – working with the nonprofit Razom for Ukraine.

More from VPR: 'How to meet suffering with creativity': Singing for Ukraine on a cold spring day in Vermont

Ellen’s family is from Kharkiv – a city on the eastern edge of Ukraine, not far from the border with Russia. She spent her childhood summers there.

“Being in Vermont is very far away from everything that's happening,” she said, “And I felt like in the beginning, I was kind of – I feel like this happens when there's like, always a tragedy, there's like all these links and all these ways to kind of help, when you don't really know where to start, you're digging through all the things and then you get exhausted and then you're like, ‘Nevermind.’ So I think me and Caitlin, we started thinking, ‘What we can do?’”

Caitlin added: “Seeing all of the images coming out of Urkaine – seeing these horrific injuries that are happening from bombings, we just felt like the best way we could contribute was just trying to raise these medical supplies.”

"[T]he goal, is just for people to want to do something and know that they can do something.”
Ellen Mats, UVM medical student

One of their main goals is to let people know there’s a way to help.

“And it doesn't have to be like, organize a drive or like any of this,” Ellen said. “But it can be like, it can just get people thinking, and they can be like, ‘Oh, I can also donate to this organization.’ Or like, spread the word. Like I had someone reach out to me and say, ‘Oh … my sister's a nurse at Boston, can you send me the list?’ And I was like, ‘Yes.’ They’re probably not going to bring gauze to us from Boston, but maybe they'll do their own thing, which would be great. And that's like, sort of the goal, is just for people to want to do something and know that they can do something.”

At a supply drive held in March in Burlington, Ellen got to speak Ukrainian with other Vermonters whose families are still there. She said at a time when it’s so easy to feel hopeless, it helps to be able to come together.

Vermont Flannel Company stores arestill collecting medical supplies until the end of the month.

Lexi Krupp is a corps member for Report for America, a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and regions.

Have questions, comments or tips?Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Lexi Krupp:


Lexi covers science and health stories for Vermont Public.
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