Good People Doing Good Things — Too Many To Count

I have just one story for this week’s ‘good people’ post, but it involves so many good people helping a family of refugees from Ukraine that I’ve lost count.  Be sure you have a box of tissues handy for this one, my friends.

Back in February when Russian troops attacked Ukraine and rockets landed less than two miles from their home, the Bezhenar family of Odessa knew they needed to leave the country for their safety.  So the family of six: (Oleksandr (father), Mariia (mother), Nina (grandmother) and 3 daughters – Ahnessa (age 10), Anhelina (age 15), and Eleonora (age 17) set out for the border leaving everything behind except one suitcase each.  They left their home, Oleksandr’s business, and the family pets, two dogs and a couple of cats.

It was no small feat leaving Ukraine … they waited in line for more than 24 hours at the border to Romania, fearing they might not be allowed to cross because of the rule that males under age 55 would not be allowed to leave Ukraine because they were needed for military duty.  But when they finally reached the front of the line, they were told that there is an exception for men who are accompanying more than two children and they were allowed to cross.

After arriving in a refugee camp in Romania, the family was linked via a refugee program to a man in the San Francisco Bay Area, Geoffrey Peters, whose son had recently purchased a house he was planning to rent out.  Mr. Peters convinced his son to donate the house to a refugee family for a period of two years, and he offered it to the Bezhenar family.

After two months of paperwork delays, the Bezhenars were finally on their way to their new home in Cloverdale, just outside of San Francisco.  Their new home with no furniture.  But Mr. Peters called on friends and neighbors for help and the people of Cloverdale came together in remarkable ways!  They not only furnished the house, but upon learning that the Bezhenar’s daughters were musically inclined, someone donated a piano!  They entered their new home to find a fully stocked refrigerator and a welcome cake with a Ukrainian sunflower for decoration.

Geoffrey Peters tells their story in his own words on the GoFundMe page he set up to help the Bezhenar family.  What you’ve read so far, in and of itself, would be a good people story, with Mr. Peters, his son, and the many community members of Cloverdale who did so much to make this refugee family feel welcome, but … it doesn’t end there!

Now, during the flight from Romania to San Francisco, the family’s mum, Mariia, chatted with one of the flight attendants, Dee Harnish, and the two exchanged contact information and stayed in touch in the days after, as the Bezhenars settled into their new life.  One day, Dee Harnish called Mariia to see how they were doing and was told that the youngest daughter, Ahnessa, missed her cat, Arsenii, so much she was not sleeping well and had become inconsolable.  Dee was so moved by their story that she reached out to Caroline Viola, a fellow flight attendant who is involved in animal rescue. Caroline recognized the desire to get Arsenii out of Ukraine as the monumental mission that it was, but nevertheless she offered to see what she could do.

From her home in Hawaii, Caroline worked with a rescue worker in Houston, Texas, and Arsenii’s journey was about to begin.  Mariia’s brother-in-law, who was taking care of Arsenii back in Ukraine, took care of details on his end, getting him vaccinated, microchipped, and obtaining a passport for the furry family member.  Who knew pets needed a passport???  He then drove Arsenii across the border on his motorcycle to Moldova.  Then, a driver took him to Romania, where he lived with a foster family for one month while his passport and other documents had to be re-done, since he came from a non-EU country.  Finally, with paperwork all in order, Arsenii was ready to head to the U.S. to rejoin his family!

Another person involved with animal rescue, Mimi Kate, was on vacation in Greece at the time, but when advised of the need for a human to accompany Arsenii, she cut her vacation short and went to pick up Arsenii in Romania.  There, a tuk-tuk driver, as if the story couldn’t find room for more characters, helped out, and drove Arsenii and Kate from Bucharest back to make her flight in Athens. Kate then took Arsenii from Athens to Montreal, Canada, then back to her home in Seattle, Washington.  Aresnii had put 7,000 miles under his paws.  And at the end of the long journey …

The entire Bezhenar family greeted them at the airport and what a reunion it was!  So many good people working so hard to get this family to safety, help them establish a whole new life, and reunite them with their beloved furry family member.  I think you’ll love this video of the reunion … I certainly did.  You did remember your box of tissues, right?

Good People Doing Good Things — Here & There

Helping Ukrainian refugees

Brian and Sharon Holowaychuks live on Vancouver Island in Canada.  Brian’s grandparents came to Canada from Ukraine, so as you can imagine, the Russian invasion of that nation has been very personal for the couple.  Well … they decided to do something to help.  The Holowaychuks are converting their 15,000-square-foot resort property into a Ukrainian refugee home, called the Ukrainian Safe Haven.  Says Brian …

“We’re in a position, in a place, in a time where we could help make a bit of a difference. And I thought, you know, it’s time to stand up and be counted.”

The Holowaychuks bought the resort in East Sooke, known as the Grouse Nest, last year. It sits on a 33-hectare (about 81.5 acres) property surrounded by trees, wildlife and overlooking the ocean waterfront.

Originally, they were going to convert it into an art gallery and events centre, which they’d already started remodeling to do. But Brian said those plans can now wait.

“I’m calling the plumber saying ‘Okay, all that stuff we took out, we gotta put it all back’.”

Brian hopes that for Ukrainians coming to Canada they can find the Ukrainian Safe Haven as a place to rest and feel safe and that they can stay as long as they need to.

So far, the local community has shown a flood of support for the project, with volunteers and supporters coming in to help or donate, Brian said. Stewart Johnston, a Victoria-based lawyer, decided he wanted to help out by registering the project as a non-profit at no cost …

“This is an extremely important cause and I’m really impressed with what they’re doing to help. I wanted to help out.”

With help from volunteers, they’ve completed enough of their remodeling to host the refugees who should be arriving within the month.

A young person with a heart of gold

Maria Balboa is a college student who also works as a bagger at the H-E-B in Corpus Christi, Texas.  On Monday, April 4th, she was bagging for a woman who had two little boys with her. When it was time to pay, Maria said the woman only had $19 left on her SNAP card and couldn’t afford the rest of the total.

“She was going to put back the groceries instead of a couple of items that she needed for dinner that night. I asked the cashier what the remaining total was and she said it was $137. Immediately I heard a voice inside my head saying, ‘pay for the groceries’. I stopped to think for a second but then I heard again, ‘Pay for the groceries Maria!'”

The woman tried to refuse the generous offer but Maria insisted. She paid the bill.

“$137 was quite a bit of money for me that day, but still I knew that I would get it back on payday and maybe she wouldn’t.”

On her next shift, Maria was called into the manager’s office. She thought she was in trouble.  It turns out the woman whose groceries she paid for filled out a survey …

In the survey, the woman explained her financial struggles. She is providing for her two grandchildren on her own and working a low-paying job to keep the siblings out of foster care.

“I was ashamed not having enough money and she insisted to pay for them. Today she made me cry but happy tears. Thank you from the heart for [your] kindness. My grandkids and I have managed to pull through since January it’s been very tough but God put this young lady at the bagging area for us. I wish I could have gotten her name.”

Maria said she was brought to tears from the kind words.  The store’s manager, Mark Moeller, ended up reimbursing Maria for her good deed. She also received a goody basket with groceries.

Lending humans???

I found the concept behind the following story intriguing and wondered if this might not be one way we humans could better understand each other.  It’s called the Human Library and it’s located in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Instead of reading a book, you spend 30 minutes learning about the person, or the “human book”.  The goal of the Human Library Organization is to address people’s prejudices by helping them to talk to those they would not normally meet or speak with.

“The Human Library Organization is a global movement working to build spaces in the community for personal dialogue about issues that are often difficult, challenging and stigmatizing.”

The Human Library was created by Ronni Abergel, a Danish human rights activist and journalist who became interested in non-violence activism after a friend he describes as a “troubled youth” survived a stabbing in Copenhagen. He wondered if a human library could bring people together peacefully like a traditional one.  He launched the first Human Library at the Roskilde Festival in Copenhagen in 2000. It ran for four days with eight hours of conversations each day. More than 1,000 people took part.

The next Human Library was hosted in Oslo, Norway, by Abergel for the Nordic Minister Councils youth assembly. The first permanent Human Library was established in Lismore, Australia, in 2006. As of 2022, the project has grown to have partners in more than 80 countries across the world. Most happen as events, although there are a few permanent Human Libraries.

Check out their website   … I’ll be curious to get your take on this one.  I see it as maybe a way for people of different backgrounds, religious beliefs, gender identification, and more to learn about others, people who aren’t just like them.  It may be a way of promoting understanding, something along the lines of what Daryl Davis did when he opened lines of communications with members of the KKK and converted many.

Good People Doing Good Things — Ari & Marco

Over the years I have written about many, many good people – some doing small things, others changing lives.  But my favourites are the stories about young people doing good things, for those stories give us hope for the future.  Today I have one such story that I hope you will enjoy … it is the story of a young man – well, two young men actually – with an idea that has led many others to become good people themselves!

I’d like to introduce you to this young man, Ari Schiffmann.  Ari, age 19, is in his second year at Harvard University.  He has taken this semester off and was in San Diego visiting family when one night in late February he attended a demonstration protesting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  Later that night sleep would not come, so he lay awake in bed thinking.

“I couldn’t stop thinking about what I could do to help. I wanted to do something that would have an instant impact.”

But what?  What did a 19-year-old college student have to offer the people of a war-torn nation?  Schiffman suddenly sat up in bed with an idea: Make a website for Ukrainian refugees who needed places to stay in other countries. He put out a tweet.

He followed up asking for help from people who spoke other languages to translate the website into Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Czech and Romanian.

Then he texted his Harvard University freshman classmate Marco Burstein, an 18-year-old computer coding whiz, to ask if he could help him quickly develop a website. Burstein was 3,000 miles away in Cambridge, Mass., and had papers to write and classes to attend. Still, he was in, he told Schiffmann.

The pair worked almost nonstop from 3,000 miles apart, texting and on FaceTime to create a website that would be easy to navigate for people offering help and those seeking it.

Ari Schiffmann (l) and Marco Burstein

On March 3rd — three days and only five hours of sleep later — they launched Ukraine Take Shelter, a site in 12 languages where Ukrainian refugees fleeing war can immediately find hosts with spare rooms, unused resort condos, mother-in-law apartments and school dormitories.

“If someone has a couch available, they can support a refugee. And if somebody has an entire house, they can put it on the site and support a whole family. What we’ve done is put out a super fast, stripped-down version of Airbnb.”

In the first week, more than 4,000 potential hosts around the world, including in the United States, have offered a place to stay through Ukraine Take Shelter, said Schiffmann, noting that the number of hosts grows each day.  Here’s one example …

One host from the United States commented: “I have to ask myself, ‘If not I, who? If not now, when?’  I cannot stop this invasion, but my faith tells me now is my time to help others find safety and shelter.”

While most of the hosts who sign up live in countries surrounding Ukraine, Schiffmann and Burstein have seen offers from as far away as Israel and Canada. In some cases, the hosts are even springing for airline tickets to get families to safety.  Says Marco Burnstein …

“The number of new hosts we’re getting every day is mind-blowing, and we’re seeing immediate results in how the website is making a difference.  It’s literally saving lives for people in a terrifying situation. We’re really thankful for the real volunteers or the people hosting their homes for all these refugees. We’ve heard incredible stories.”

As of March 17th, the website had more than 1 million active users!  Both Burstein and Schiffmann said they see their project as a public bulletin board offering something for everyone who is packing up whatever they can carry and fleeing Ukraine.

“We found that existing sites run by governments to help refugees were clumsy and full of complicated jargon. You submit something into a black box and just hope that somebody will read it and help you. Somebody running away from explosions and gunfire is under stress and needs something that is more straightforward and easy to use.”

On the Ukraine Take Shelter website, refugees type in their current locations and dozens of host offers pop up from the closest towns in neighboring countries, Burstein said. They can also specify the number of people who need shelter and whether they have pets or family members with special needs.  Wrote one volunteer host …

“I am a medical student, as is my boyfriend and we live in a one-bedroom apartment in the center of Kaunas, Lithuania. As of such we can only offer our couch in the living room with free food, supplies and anything else that is necessary. We don’t have any kids and could babysit as well.”

Some hosts don’t have room for more people, but they’re offering assistance for pets.

“We are offering a temporary place for one dog. We are living in an apartment building, but with a lot of green areas and dog parks next to us. Your dog will have food, care, a bed and long walks!”

My hat is off to these two young men who started the ball rolling, but also to the many people who have opened their homes and their hearts to help the people of Ukraine.  And to think … it all started with a sleepless night!  I wish my sleepless nights were that productive!!!

Good People Doing Good Things — Small Things Matter Too!

This week I have just a whole lot of people doing those small good things to help others, to make life just a wee bit brighter for some.  Most of us will never have the opportunity, the wherewithal to do the big things, like flying to Ukraine to help people find homes, or feeding an entire community, but we can do little things to help someone, to make a life a little easier.

LeRon Britt is a mail carrier in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  Terri Halliday is a disabled U.S. military veteran with only one leg, who lives on Britt’s daily route, and … well, I’ll let Ms. Halliday tell you in her own words what happened after her home alert system indicated movement outside her front door …

“I began watching on my phone, and I saw a mail delivery truck. The next thing I know, I see him coming up my steps with a snow shovel.  He shoveled all the steps and cleared off my front deck. I was shocked but grateful.”

A little thing, probably took him no more than 5 minutes, but it made a huge difference in one woman’s life!

The latest estimate is that more than 3.5 million refugees have fled from Ukraine … most are women and children.  The country that has received most of these refugees is Poland, naturally, since it is the nearest country.  The Polish people are stepping up to the plate in many ways, but this one caught my eye a few days ago.

Strangers are donating everything from diapers to strollers to help refugee mothers cope and take care of their children.  Here are a few pictures from the platform at the Przemyśl train station …

Polish citizens left shopping carts filled with diapers at the Przemyśl train station platform.

Strollers for refugees and their babies fleeing the conflict from neighboring Ukraine.

Small mountains of clothing, shoes, jackets and outerwear fill cardboard boxes just outside of the Przemyśl train station at a refugee relocation center.

Car seats and carriers line the wall of the Przemyśl train station.

Diapers, baby wipes and food items fill a room inside the Przemyśl train station.

And help isn’t just available in the form of physical supplies — some people have been holding up signs, offering rides to different places across Europe and volunteers are helping refugees find a place to stay — be it a school gymnasium or families who have offered to take in women and children.

Jackie Mihal of Panama City, Florida, runs a shelter … Salty Cats of St. Andrews Rescue Group … from her home.  Earlier this month, as a wildfire was rapidly approaching, she was faced with having to rescue some 86 cats and one bunny.  How could just one person rescue all those animals, some of which are feral, others have health problems, and with a limited number of cages?

Enter three strangers …

Brian Salmon, Scott Morris, and Scott Trunzo just happened to be in the area and jumped in to help.  I don’t know how they did it, but all 87 animals were evacuated to safety and have since returned home.  Thumbs up to these three guys … and to Ms. Mihal for all that she does!

Mike Nance is a garbage truck driver in Norwalk, Connecticut.  He was on his route on February 17th (which just happens to be National Acts of Kindness Day) when he spotted a woman walking around, talking to herself, seemingly troubled.  Where some people might have rolled their eyes and gotten on with the business of the day, Mr. Nance felt the urge to see if he could somehow help the woman.

He spoke with her for a time, found she had many troubles, gave her what little cash he had with him at the time, and gave her a big hug … a hug that caught the attention of Dave Kuban and Carlos Gonzales who were just opening their restaurant, Dave and Charlie’s Hometown Deli, for the day’s business.  Moved by the hospitality they were witnessing, Dave and Carlos found their own way to assist the woman.

“After we saw him do that, we made her a little breakfast and brought it over to her. It’s a domino effect.”

And in hopes of keeping that domino effect going, Dave & Carlos snapped some photos of the moment between Mike and the woman and shared them in a local Facebook group.  Says Mike, the guy who started it all …

“I’m a garbage man. We’re about the community. I’m about the community. I love Norwalk. I’m from Norwalk. I was born here. So whatever I can do to help, that’s what I’m going to do.  I try to be the best person I can be every day.  There’s a lot of good people out here in the world.”

Remember that, my friends … “There’s a lot of good people out here in the world.”  It’s far too easy to forget in these days of social and political turmoil, of war and ever-decreasing natural resources, but yeah … there ARE an awful lot of people who will stop what they’re doing, even go out of their way, to help someone in need.

Good People Doing Good Things — Aaron Jackson

I don’t know how it is that Aaron Jackson has not flown onto my ‘good people’ radar screen before, but he’s there now and deserves recognition.  Jackson was a CNN Hero back in 2007, a few years before I started my ‘good people’ posts, and he has been noted for numerous humanitarian causes since then.  A bit about Mr. Jackson’s background from Wikipedia provides a foundation before I get into the reason he is on my radar today …

“Aaron Jackson is an American human rights and environmental activist. Jackson was raised in Destin, Florida and attended Valencia College until 2002. After backpacking around the world, he interned at The Homeless Voice, an advocacy group in Davie, Florida, and became director of the COSAC Homeless Shelter. The first orphanages he opened in Haiti were established using money he made as a golf caddy while living in a homeless shelter in order to fund the orphanages. Jackson was named a CNN Hero in 2007 after leading a campaign to deworm children in Haiti.

In 2004, Jackson founded Planting Peace, a nonprofit organization that advocates for LGBT issues and runs six orphanages in Haiti and India. In 2012, he purchased a home across from Westboro Baptist Church after looking at the neighborhood around Westboro on Google Earth. He painted the exterior of the house with the colors of the pride flag in 2013 and it became the “Equality House.” Through Planting Peace, Jackson placed a billboard in Kim Davis’ hometown after she denied marriage licenses to same sex couples in 2015. In 2016, Jackson traveled to Antarctica to place a pride flag deeming it ‘the world’s first LGBT-friendly continent.’”

The Equality House, a rainbow-colored house with an LGBTQ flag, across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.

I still cannot believe he hasn’t crossed my radar before this!  At any rate, what he has done most recently is yet another example of Aaron Jackson’s big heart and desire to help humanity wherever he finds the need.

When Jackson read a news story about Ukrainian refugees sleeping in a train station he packed his bags and got to work, heading for an area near the border between Poland and Ukraine.  Says Mr. Jackson …

“There I saw the true cost of war.  Families fleeing their homes. Families separating from their loved ones. Families fleeing from the lives they knew.  It is just absolutely freezing outside. So, getting people into housing is absolutely vital.”

While walking through a packed refugee center near the Krakovets border crossing, Jackson spotted a little girl playing with a toy. Speaking through a translator, he learned her parents were originally from Congo and had lived in Ukraine for the last 12 years.

The father, Donatien Tshikele Mubabinge, said that when Russian bombs fell too close to their home, he, his wife, Ngalula, and their 2-year-old daughter, Tushike, left everything behind, including their savings. They tried taking a taxi to the border, but when traffic got too backed up, he says they had to walk nearly 40 miles (about 60 km), much of it with Tushike on his back.

After learning of their ordeal, Jackson booked a hotel room for the family and began searching for more permanent housing.

“It’s horrible why they’re leaving, but it’s inspiring at the same time — to see the human will and the human spirit and what they’re willing to do to save their own lives and the life of their child.”

After several days of searching, Jackson found an apartment in Krakow, Poland. Using donations to his organization, he secured the flat for a year and provided the Mubabinges with funds for food and necessities.

“I just know that this will let them relax a little bit. To give them the ability to start looking for work. You know, just to get their bearings.”

Jackson is continuing his efforts to help refugees in Poland. He was happy he could help this family through such a difficult time.

“It’s good to have wins, you know? In a situation like this, this was definitely a win.”

Even The Dodo got on the Aaron Jackson bandwagon when they learned that he had stopped by a local animal shelter to offer aid and was speaking to the director outside when a family approached. Walking in front of them on a leash was a beautiful cocker spaniel named Bella.  After speaking with the family, the shelter director turned to Jackson and said, “They’re actually refugees and want to forfeit over their dog to us because they’re homeless and don’t have anywhere to go, and they don’t want their dog to be out in the cold.”

Within 20 minutes, Jackson was able to set up the family with pet-friendly housing. The joy on everyone’s faces was evident — including Bella, who couldn’t stop wagging her tail.

Jackson has been working tirelessly to find housing for refugees, funding month-long stays, meals and basic necessities through Planting Peace.

“Some people cross and they have places to go. Other people cross and they have no money and no place to go. Everybody is a little different.”

Two thumbs up to Mr. Aaron Jackson who has been a humanitarian for all of his life and today is helping save lives in an untenable situation!

Good People Doing Good Things — Two Humanitarians

The first of today’s ‘good people’ comes from our friend John Howell in his post of last Friday.

One man decided to do something …

A former UK Royal Marine has loaded a 16-seater minibus with sleeping bags, pillows, and toys for refugees moving across the Ukrainian border into Poland and pledged to drive 1,000 miles to personally deliver them.

31-year-old Tom Littledyke from Lyme Regis began his journey on February 28th, saying he was inspired to act after seeing pictures of “families broken and separated by the conflict.”

Setting up a fundraiser, it took Littledyke just twelve hours to fill his minibus with supplies and collect £4,000 in donations ($5,300) for the trip.

“Too often do we think that we have to do something grand, and if it can’t be grand, what’s the point,” he told the BBC. “It doesn’t matter what we do as long as it’s something in the right direction. There’s so many of us who want to help. It will all build to this gigantic thing.”

The 1,000 mile (1,600 km) drive will take him and his cargo through England, France, Germany, and Poland before arriving at the border with Ukraine, where an alleged 500,000 refugees have fled. After unloading the supplies, he plans to utilize the bus to give rides to people who have a place to stay.

Littledyke’s partner will hold down the fort in his absence, which consists of two pubs and an Italian restaurant.

While it is said that war is hell, Good News Network knows that during times when the capacity for human malevolence is greatest, the capacity for compassion is greater.

The good news here is one man decided to do something to help Ukrainians. Today’s JohnKu reminds us to think of those in need. I hope you have a super weekend, and maybe you can think of a small way to help.

Little Acts by John W. Howell © 2022

Big efforts to help,

Can also use the support . . .

Of little kind acts.

He just wanted to help people …

Dr. Paul Farmer died at the age of 62 on February 21st of an “acute cardiac event”.  Who is Paul Farmer, you ask?  He was a physician, anthropologist and humanitarian who gained global acclaim for his work delivering high-quality health care to some of the world’s poorest people.  He died on the grounds of a hospital and university he had helped establish in Butaro, Rwanda.

Dr. Farmer attracted public renown with “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World,” a 2003 book by Tracy Kidder that described the extraordinary efforts he would make to care for patients, sometimes walking hours to their homes to ensure they were taking their medication.

He was a practitioner of “social medicine,” arguing there was no point in treating patients for diseases only to send them back into the desperate circumstances that contributed to them in the first place. Illness, he said, has social roots and must be addressed through social structures.

His work with Partners in Health significantly influenced public health strategies for responding to tuberculosis, H.I.V. and Ebola. During the AIDS crisis in Haiti, he went door to door to deliver antiviral medication, confounding many in the medical field who believed it would be impossible for poor rural people to survive the disease.

Though he worked in the world of development, he often took a critical view of international aid, preferring to work with local providers and leaders. And he often lived among the people he was treating, moving his family to Rwanda and Haiti for extended periods.

Said Dr. Rochelle Walensky of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) …

“There are so many people that are alive because of that man.”

And it is said that the esteemed Dr. Anthony Fauci broke down in tears when he heard of Dr. Farmer’s death, saying …

“When you talk about iconic giants in the field of public health, he stands pretty much among a very, very short list of people. He called me his mentor, but in reality he was more of a mentor to me.”

In 2020, when he was awarded the $1 million Berggruen Prize, given annually to an influential thought leader, the chairman of the prize committee said Dr. Farmer had “reshaped our understanding of what it means to treat health as a human right and the ethical and political obligations that follow.”

Dr. Farmer, who never settled into the easy life of an elder statesman, was vigorously involved in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, prodding the Biden administration to drop intellectual property barriers that prevented pharmaceutical companies from sharing their technology.

“It’s not just about health security, in the senses of defending yourself. It’s not just about charity, although that’s not so bad. It’s also about pragmatic solidarity with those in need of assistance.”

After graduating from Duke University, he moved to Haiti, volunteering in Cange, a settlement in the central Artibonite plateau of the country. He arrived toward the end of the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier, when Haiti’s hospital system was so threadbare that patients had to pay for basic supplies, like medical gloves or a blood transfusion, if they wanted treatment.

In a letter to a friend, he wrote that his stint at the hospital wasn’t turning out as he had expected …

“It’s not that I’m unhappy working here. The biggest problem is that the hospital is not for the poor. I’m taken aback. I really am. Everything has to be paid for in advance.”

And so, Dr. Farmer decided to open a different kind of clinic. He returned to the United States to attend Harvard Medical School and earn a degree in anthropology, but he continued to spend much of his time in Cange, returning to Harvard for exams and laboratory work.

Over the years, Dr. Farmer raised millions of dollars for an ever-expanding network of community health facilities. He had a contagious enthusiasm and considerable nerve. When Thomas J. White, who owned a large construction company in Boston, asked to meet him, he insisted that the meeting take place in Haiti.

Mr. White eventually contributed $1 million in seed money to Partners in Health, which Dr. Farmer founded in 1987 along with Ophelia Dahl, whom he had met volunteering in Haiti; a Duke classmate, Todd McCormack; and a Harvard classmate, Dr. Jim Yong Kim.

The clinic in Haiti, at first a single room, grew over the years to a network of 16 medical centers in the country, with a local staff of almost 7,000.  Partners in Health also expanded into Rwanda, where Dr. Farmer helped the government restructure the country’s health system, improving health outcomes in areas like infant mortality and the H.I.V. infection rate.

This was a man who spent his life caring for people, who helped people in need wherever they were.  He did not worry about how much money he could make or country club memberships or owning a million-dollar home … he just wanted to help people.

Good People Doing Good Things — Chef José Andrés

I have written several times in the past about Chef José Andrés and his humanitarian works, and today he is back in the spotlight.  I had trouble writing this one, for more than a few times the tears blurred my vision.  If ever there was a man who qualified for sainthood, it is Chef Andrés.

Chef Andrés has helped feed firefighters who were battling wildfires in California, he opened numerous kitchens during the first year of the pandemic to feed struggling families and give jobs to displaced restaurant workers.  He showed up to feed the thousands of displaced people in New Orleans after Hurricane Ida last year and in 2018 he and his team went to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.  This time, however, may top all the rest, for Chef Andrés and his World Central Kitchen (WCK) team have gone to the borders of Ukraine to feed the thousands of refugees streaming into Poland, Romania, Moldova and, beginning Monday, Hungary.

The team has a three-phase plan that first addresses feeding refugees as they cross at the borders and those remaining in the country. After that, the organization plans to focus on helping feed people at refugee facilities in neighboring countries. Finally, he said, the third phase would take place once the fighting has stopped in Ukraine, and WCK would help organize trucks to enter Ukraine and establish community kitchens in various communities.

“I will make sure we don’t fail.”

On Monday, Chef José Andrés had spent nearly all day handing out plates of hot food to hungry Ukrainian women and children who had fled Russian missile attacks in their country and crossed the border into Poland and he was exhausted, but before going to bed he posted this video that I think you’ll find tells the story far better than any words I could write.

José Andrés speaks from Poland

I noticed Chef Andrés’ blurb on his Twitter page and I think he sums it up well when he says …

“We all are Citizens of the World. What’s good for you, must be good for all. If you are lost, share a plate of food with a stranger … you will find who you are.”

Chef Andrés has won numerous awards, but the one that stands out in my mind is the National Humanities Medal he was awarded in a White House ceremony in 2016.

As I wrote this, I could not help but wonder how I could help, how I could do some small something to help, so after checking my bank balance, I decided to make a small donation to help Mr. Andrés and the WCK purchase food to help the displaced Ukrainians.  My hat is off to this wonderful humanitarian and all those who travel with him on his mission to provide food to those in need.  Thank you, Chef Andrés — be safe for the world needs you!