The ground floor of Bre Stafford’s home in northeast Colorado Springs is littered with boxes, filled with her belongings, as she prepares to move to another residence.
The basement of the house, which she shares with three roommates, is full of boxes and parcels of a completely different kind. Stafford, a third-year medical student at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus, has been on a mission for the past few weeks, collecting an array of medical supplies for a humanitarian expedition to Ukraine.
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Stafford began his refueling campaign in early March after a series of conversations with his best friend Joanna Rak, a former classmate who is currently attending medical school in Krakow, Poland. The central European country has taken in hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees, and Rak sees them roaming the streets every day – mostly women and children, forced to flee their homes, sometimes equipped with only what little they could. carry.
“The stories I hear are pretty heartbreaking,” Stafford said. “A lot of (refugees) aren’t even sure if their family members are alive.”
After talking on the phone with a Ukrainian refugee whom Rak had helped with food and shelter, Stafford felt a sense of kinship with the young woman and with the Ukrainian people.
“I heard the (refugee’s) story,” she said. “A few weeks ago, she was living her life, just like (Americans), and now her whole world has been turned upside down. It made me feel visceral.
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Eager to help as much as she could, Stafford began networking with her medical school classmates and faculty members, learning where she could pick up medical supplies to ship overseas. She also contacted a non-profit organization called Nova Ukraine, which has support teams on the ground in Ukraine and neighboring countries.
“They were super on board with the idea,” she said of the nonprofit. “They plan to help out with a cargo plane once I get enough (of supplies).”
Stafford’s basement is currently stocked with a wide variety of supplies. There are crutches, bandages, antiseptics, suture kits and gloves collected from area clinics. There is trauma equipment like chest drains and intubation kits. A generous cash donation went towards other necessities including ibuprofen, feminine products and diapers.
“You wouldn’t believe the things they need there,” Stafford said. “It’s just a bit of what they need.”
Insulin, thyroid medication and burn supplies are also needed, but have been hard to come by, she said.
Stafford and his colleagues would like to send the cargo plane as full of supplies as possible. But the urgency of a war situation dictates that he act quickly. There are people in and around Ukraine who need these supplies now, she said.
“We want to gather as much as we can,” she says, “but at the same time, we don’t want to wait too long. People need these supplies and we want to send them soon. »
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Next on Stafford’s to-do list is to arrange transportation for the materials she has collected. Nova Ukraine will pick up its supplies — along with other collections from other medical students in Denver and Fort Collins — from a central location in Denver. But she needs a truck to take her there.
“There’s no way I could fit all of this in my little car,” she said.
Leading a humanitarian supply campaign while responding to demands from a third-year medical student was hectic and at times exhausting, Stafford said. But she was buoyed by an outpouring of support from classmates, faculty members and even strangers. She regularly receives emails and social media posts from people who want to help.
“There are horrible things happening in the world,” she said. “But there are also good people who want to help.”