This story was recorded on March 13 and aired on March 18. So much has changed since then! Some good, most not so good. We began with 9 vans. Then, for various reasons, 4 drivers no longer wanted or were able to continue. We were running with 5 vans until very recently. Now we only have about 3 vans. They are running almost non-stop delivering food, medicine, and hygiene products to the elderly deaf or to those who no longer have access to stores or transportation. Then before returning, the vans load up with as many Deaf people they can fit and they are taken to a safer location. The numbers that have crossed the borders are in the thousands or more. Teams are gathering that information now. The situation is growing worse every day and the danger is increasing. The stories continue to be gut-wrenching as they describe the hell that they escaped from.
So as you read the article from Mission Network News below, remember that everything has changed and continues to change daily and even hourly.
Ukraine (MNN) — Russian assaults on major cities in Ukraine continue, though advancement appears to be paused for now.
Civilians continue to pay the highest price in this war. The total death toll remains unknown, though Ukraine has said thousands of civilians have died. Rescue workers pulled survivors from the rubble of a Mariupol theatre on Thursday; it’s unclear how many remain in the theatre’s underground bomb shelter.
What if you couldn’t hear the air raid sirens or find information about evacuation routes? That’s precisely why Deaf Bridge is helping Deaf refugees escape Ukraine.
“We have nine vans going into various parts of Ukraine and bringing Deaf people out,” Deaf Bridge’s Stacey McKenzie says.
“Over 800 (Deaf) refugees have come through the Deaf center, not including ones who have passed through (crossed the border) on their own.”
Stacey McKenzie’s Deaf husband, Chris, began Deaf Bridge to train and equip Deaf church planters. More about Deaf Bridge here. When Russia invaded, friends in Ukraine started messaging Chris in the United States.
“People didn’t know where the bridges had been taken out. So we were looking at maps and helping them navigate [while we were in the States] because they weren’t getting radio messages or any other kind of instruction,” McKenzie says.
“They don’t know what the safe routes are, where the checkpoints are. We also heard about a family who had gone down into their own shelter and didn’t realize everyone else had left their building.”
“Thank you very much for your donations! Now people are getting help and we are getting more volunteers to drive vans to pick up Deaf people from the war zone.”
(Photo, caption courtesy of Deaf Bridge)
Today, Chris is leading efforts to bring Deaf refugees from Ukraine to Romania. “On the border in Romania, there’s a Deaf center in the refugee camps, so [they have] all the resources in a centralized location,” McKenzie says.
“We have a couple of people inside Ukraine who can communicate with the Deaf, and now the information’s flowing a little better. But… many people aren’t connected or are just reaching out for help. We’re trying to get to them as well.”
“Gas and transportation are the biggest costs. We have nine vans and drivers, and the gas for those is very expensive,” McKenzie says.
“There are also (Deaf) people who don’t have access to food, or physically they’re not able to get out. We [are] delivering food and medications and whatever other resources are needed to those people throughout Ukraine.”
The original article along with the audio broadcast can be found here. https://www.mnnonline.org/news/deaf-bridge-helps-deaf-refugees-escape-ukraine/