Arizona families assist refugees in Poland arriving with nothing from Ukraine

The families are paying for their own transportation and lodging and raising money to buy supplies for refugees.
Published: May. 4, 2022 at 3:39 PM MST
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GILBERT, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Families from Gilbert continue making trips to Poland to help Ukrainian refugees who’ve crossed the border. It started after Marcee and Lance Foster diverted their family from a tropical spring break to Krakow in March. They brought their children along.

“We wanted them to see outside our bubble in the East Valley, what people experience in the world and what true suffering can be,” Marcee said.

From that initial trip, their mission blossomed to include more friends and family members traveling and volunteering. Lance remained in Poland and became an organizer of humanitarian aid and relief efforts. Marcee’s sister, Jodee Huish, who runs an art studio in the East Valley, joined on their second trip. A friend, Chelsea Walker, also signed up to volunteer.

The families are paying for their own transportation and lodging and raising money to buy supplies for refugees. Their daily activities vary and take them to different parts of southeastern Poland. For example, Jodee and Chelsea spent a day recently in a massive shopping mall adjacent to the main train station in Krakow. The group struck a deal with the Puccini suitcase company to get discounts on luggage. They’ve been wheeling the suitcases through the mall into the train station to deliver to Ukrainians arriving with next to nothing.

“A lot of the refugees arrive here with grocery bags or backpacks, and they’re heavy like bricks,” Jodee said.

They purchased 18 suitcases to give out on this particular day but say the total number they’ve delivered to refugees has surpassed 100. The Arizona-based volunteers quickly developed an efficient system, from purchase to delivery, despite having little-to-no experience with humanitarian aid.

“I don’t speak the language. I’ve never been out of the country. But I speak love. And that’s invaluable,” Jodee said.

They zip cash into each suitcase, hiding it since they found many refugees won’t accept money out of pride. They also include hygiene kits.

“We’re helping people, one by one, with more than just the suitcases. We’re spending time with them and trying to connect and let them know we’re there for them and love and support,” Chelsea said.

They have plans to return to Poland as the refugee crisis continues. Their nonprofit, REACH Humanity, is hosting a fundraiser at Schnepf Farms on May 14th. For more information on how to help, click here.