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HomeNewsCity resident travels to Ukraine to help refugees

City resident travels to Ukraine to help refugees

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North Bay’s John Best is back home after spending a month helping refugees fleeing Ukraine.  

The retired general contractor set up latrines and showers for staff and patients at the Samaritan’s Purse emergency field hospital in Lviv. 

“It’s about an hour over the Polish border into Ukraine.  We spent our time setting up that hospital, it’s a rather big affair.  It’s quite capable of surgery, obstetrics, wards, ICU and everything.  There’s quite a bit to it,” he says. 

It was a memorable mission, too. 

Best says one thing that stands out involves the families fleeing the conflict in Ukraine and arriving by train every morning in Lviv. 

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“Later in the day all the men would get back on the train and head back to the conflict zone,” he says. “What they’ve done is escorted their families out of the conflict zone and they’re heading back.  The emotional impact of what was happening at that train station kind of sticks with you.  There were hundreds, if not thousands, of families splitting up every day.” 

Best says he’s a man of faith, which played a major role in deciding to get involved. 

“I know that I have been well looked after.  Life here for me in North Bay has been absolutely marvellous.  I got to raise my family and so here’s an opportunity to give back and so I think I want to do that,” he says. 

Best also says there are ways local residents can offer assistance. 

“If they want to take part and support Samaritan’s Purse or find the organization that you want to work with and give them a hand,” he says. 

Best says another way local residents can help is by looking into hosting families from Ukraine.  

He says he learned more from a mother and her daughter at the airport in Warsaw, who were on their way from Ukraine to Meaford, Ontario. 

“I asked them how in Ukraine do you find Meaford, Ontario?  There’s a Facebook page called ‘Ukraine Take Shelter’ and on that page there are Canadians that are willing to host families, usually moms and kids,” he says. 

This was Best’s eighth deployment with the Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Assistance and Response Team (DART). 

Among his other DART deployments are Bahamas in 2019 after Hurricane Dorian; Cremona, Italy, with their emergency field hospital for COVID-19 patients in 2020; and helping Thunder Bay through a COVID-19 emergency in 2021.

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