Utah woman travels with nonprofit, helps orphans escape Ukraine

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SPANISH FORK — A Spanish Fork woman is back home after working with Utah-based organization Exitus to help orphans escape Ukraine.

The country has an estimated 100,000 orphans, and that numbered is expected to rise as hundreds of children flee the country unaccompanied. From Feb. 24 to March 17, nearly 500 children fled to Romania unaccompanied, according to UNICEF.

It is something Mary Crafts saw first hand while on her seven-day trip to the Ukrainian border of Moldova and Romania. Crafts said she was inspired by the volunteer nurses and EMTs in her group who helped around 50 orphans escape Ukraine.

"To see them gather around and instantly know what to do, how to do triage, how to get them located in one of the safe houses was inspiring," Crafts said.

Many orphans the group helped rescue are special-needs and needed immediate medical care.

"They all needed IVs; many of them are not verbal, they can't tell you what they need," she said. "Some were even abandoned. The caretakers at these orphanages have walked away and ran as refugees themselves."

The nonprofit used an ambulance to get the children across the border into refugee camps before they were taken to hospitals.

Some were even abandoned. The caretakers at these orphanages have walked away and ran as refugees themselves.

–Mary Crafts

At the refugee camps, Crafts helped organize donations for many families streaming into surrounding countries.

She said the experiences she had during the trip helped her realize that the worst in humanity can actually bring out the best in people. Many locals in Romania took her group in when they needed a place to stay.

"They were opening up their homes not only to receive the refugees but to people like us who are volunteering there," Crafts said.

Crafts plans to travel back to the area in the next month with Exitus. She will be focusing on getting mothers and children visas so they can continue their journey into other countries to start their new lives.

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Ashley Moser
Ashley Moser co-anchors KSL 5 Live at 5 with Mike Headrick and reports for the KSL 5 News at 10. She was born and raised on the island of O’ahu and worked as a reporter in Hawaii and a handful of cities across the U.S.


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