Phoenix woman volunteers in Ukraine after finding inspiration through Arizona’s Family series

Sonyia Santana is now on her way to Ukraine to use her medical background to help refugees.
Published: Nov. 28, 2022 at 6:05 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - In May, Arizona’s Family anchor Jared Dillingham traveled overseas to Poland, sharing the stories of the war in Ukraine. He profiled refugees seeking shelter and a new beginning while also highlighting nonprofits and people from the Valley going there to help.

That series inspired a local woman moved to make a difference in the same way. Sonyia Santana is now on her way to Ukraine to use her medical background to help refugees. “If you’re able to help, do it,” she said. Until this year, Santana said she never thought she could help others almost 6,000 miles away. That is until she says she saw a familiar face. “Inspiration came from Jared Dillingham doing his week long series, and I saw those people, and how hurt they were, and what they needed. I thought this is something I would like to do. Help people,” Santana said.

She says that it’s because of those stories she’s on her way to treat patients in Kyiv. “I’ll be able to do vitals, draw blood for them, because they probably haven’t had their blood drawn in months,” she said. Her efforts are part of a mobile primary and urgent care team deployed with Global Care Force, a nonprofit connecting volunteers to partners serving people in need. “They’re not able to go see their doctor on a regular basis, so we’re able to go out to these rural communities affected by the war and give them the treatment they deserve,” Santana said.

This will be her second trip volunteering this year. In June, Santana went on her own, eventually teaming up with World Central Kitchen. “What I saw there was the busloads of people just coming in and it was just disheartening. All they have is what’s in their two bags. Three generations, grandparents, their children and the grandchildren and even pets,” Santana said.

While she’s there for two weeks offering aid to complete strangers, she says their faces and words of gratitude amid tragedy and destruction will remain engraved in her memory forever. “I never knew how far ‘thank you’ would go. We take things for granted and when someone tells you ‘thank you’ and you give them a hug, or you shake their hand,” Santana said. “It’s validation. You’re overwhelmed with feelings and joy, and I love that.”

Global Care Force says they are always looking for volunteer medical professionals and donors. If you’d like to volunteer, click here.