How two Vermont medical students are helping people in Ukraine
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.
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.
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.
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