Blog Post - Apr 21, 2022

Responding to Crisis

In this interview, Dairyland’s Director of Culture and Formation, Kailey Dharam, talks with Jordan Heres, a Disaster Response Specialist with Samaritan’s Purse (SP).

Jordan recently returned from Eastern Europe, where he responded to the Ukraine crisis on behalf of SP. When disaster strikes, SP’s response teams organize and provide food, shelter, water, and medical care based on the need of each situation. Jordan shares what it was like to be on the frontlines of this disaster response, and closes with practical next steps for those of us living outside of Europe who would like to help.

Kailey: Tell me about your role(s) with Samaritan’s Purse, including most recently. What is a day in the life of a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) member? 

I have been working with SP for about seven years in a DART capacity, and my roles have changed a bit over that time. I started in logistics, warehousing, and distribution – the whole process of storing, tracking, then getting [supplies] out to people who need it most. In the last few years, I transitioned to medical logistics and operations, overseeing everything to keep the field hospital running so the staff is free to focus on their medical work.

In this most recent response, I got a call on a Thursday night and then flew out midday Friday to land in Romania before eventually reaching Moldova. We started as a team of three, so I played many roles. We work 24/7 and the key is flexibility because every day is different… and the plans always change. The first day or two we play everything by ear, trying to solve problems, and get to the need as fast as we can to do assessments. Another day might involve distributions, then assessing again, monitoring and evaluating to make sure what we distributed was needed and people are able to use it. We repeat the process multiple times.

Kailey: How do you complete assessments and determine whether a response is needed? Was there anything unique to consider in this Ukraine crisis response?  

Watch Jordan’s response here:  

Kailey: What was your experience as one of the first staff members on the ground?  

I always like to start by putting things in context. I was in Moldova, which is a country of about 2.5 million. [It’s] a poorer country and they’ve received by now 390,000 refugees. Poland has received 2.3 million, Romania 600,000, Hungary 360,000, and then there’s refugees in further western European countries.

A large and important number to keep an eye on, too, is internally displaced people – there’s about 6.5 million in Ukraine then another 13 million in conflict zones. Each number is an individual story.

Hear about Jordan’s own experience and observations here:  

Kailey: To date, how has Samaritan’s Purse responded to the Ukraine crisis outside of Moldova?  

In the first two weeks that I was there, we were providing food for 10,000 households for three weeks, plus hygiene kits and bedding for another 10,000 households. As we’re doing these programs, we’re also expanding and proposing larger programs. Typically, that’s how it works – we use our funds that are flexible and can be used quickly, then we’ll apply for partnerships with groups like the World Food Program or other UN organizations.

[Our work] was a lot of supporting the infrastructure that’s there, meeting needs where they are. In Ukraine there is a Tier 3 hospital (designed after Doctors Without Borders’ field hospital model). Our Tier 3 hospital is the largest – it has about 60 bed in-patient capacity, two operating rooms, a pharmacy, and about 100 staff members (not including all support staff doing food programming, hygiene, water, sanitation). There’s also a smaller field hospital in Southwest Ukraine. We have programming in Poland as well, to do work similar to that in Moldova, supporting infrastructure that’s already hosting.

Kailey: What would you say to those of us outside of Europe who are wondering how to engage or respond?  

I realize now that I’m back in the US, I’m in the same boat as you all. Often it’s easier to be where the need is to feel like you can have an impact. I think we often feel powerless in these situations, and the truth is we are in many ways. We have to accept that, that we can’t change everything, but we do what we can. I think the response can be broken down into a few steps that I’m doing in my own life now that I’m back.

First, be aware of what’s going on – read individual stories of what the situation on the ground looks like. That can be really hard and leads to the second point which is to grieve what’s happening, to actually carve out space in your life to think about and grieve what you read. Then give and to act where you can. So often we get tied up in where we give, how we make the most impact, or get the most returns. Those are great questions but so often we let that limit what we do. Do your due diligence, but then just go ahead and start giving, even if it’s small.

Another part of this step is acting [personally]. Not everyone can go, but I always recommend that people look in their own community. I don’t want that to replace caring about Ukraine, but I think so often we get bogged down and overwhelmed in not knowing what to do that we don’t do anything. Redirect some of that energy toward being involved in your local community – in opportunities that are possible. A huge opportunity that’s not directly connected to the Ukraine crisis, but in many ways similar, is the fact that there are thousands of Afghan refugees being resettled across the U.S. Many of these people are now ripped from their previous lives where they don’t have much, may not know the language. You can engage with another people group that has suffered war and conflict. Again, it shouldn’t replace wanting to engage Ukraine, but I’d like to provide people an opportunity actually act. 

Kailey: What would you say specifically to this community of people striving to Live Engaged?  

Watch Jordan’s inspiring response here:  

Samaritan’s Purse is one of Dairyland’s humanitarian partners, providing aid to hurting people around the world. They help meet the needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine.  

Your involvement with Dairyland allows us to do something small but meaningful for those in crisis.  Thank you for helping us make a safer world.