A Christian group in Ohio has helped more than a thousand orphans in war-torn Ukraine since the Russian invasion in February.
New Horizons for Children, a Christian charity in Ohio led by a clinical psychologist who worked with traumatized youth for years, has partnered with orphanages across Ukraine since 2009 to provide children with their basic needs and assist teenagers who age out of the foster system. Since the Russian invasion sparked in February, the Christian charity has been coordinating with military in Lviv and other groups to transport children to safety.
According to the Christian Post, New Horizons for Children has been working in Kyiv, Mykolaiv, and Kharkiv, among other regions to evacuate children, the organization's executive director and CEO Sherri McClurg confirmed. For security reasons, the psychologist specializing in trauma care did not offer specific names of the cities where the children are being rescued.
"If you think of Ukraine, on that far eastern side and you make kind of a backward letter C from the top where Kyiv is...if you circle all the way around to the bottom where Mariupol is, that whole kind of range, we've been just continually evacuating more and more kids," McClurg shared. She added that some of the children were evacuated from air-raid shelters in the middle of the night, so they were not able to change into clothes for traveling.
"We had to clothe them. We had to feed them," McClurg said. "We had to tuck them into bed and just help to calm their worlds down."
Central Ukraine has not been severely attacked as much as the eastern regions are. These eastern regions experience heavy shelling, which is why it was more dangerous to transport children out of those areas. For the most intense rescues, New Horizons for Children relies on the disaster response group Aerial Recovery.
McClurg explained that Aerial Recovery is aware of the security risk, which they monitor very carefully before extracting the children. She reassured that the organization doesn't move the children unless there is a safe window to get them out. The methods they use highly depend on the safety in the region where the evacuation efforts are being carried out. Some places are closer to bus or train stations, but others are closer to roads where Russian forces have installed minefields.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or UNHCR, more than five million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion sparked on February 24. Another 6.5 million have been estimated to be displaced from their homes.
New Horizon for children focuses on youth in orphanages, boarding schools, and other institutional care facilities. McClurg reported that orphanages in Ukraine are few and far between as most orphaned children live at boarding schools. The Ohio charity also helps rescue children whose single fathers may have gone off to war.
To help children who were mentally affected by the Russian invasion, the organization helps kids discuss what they are going through and provides caregivers who speak their language and gives them prompts. The group is also looking to renovate 20 more spaces near the border to ensure immediate evacuation of children in case of an emergency.
"We're creating the safe havens for those who are wanting to stay in the country," McClurg said. "This could be a long time. We're trying to protect their heritage, their culture, their friendship groups there. So we're keeping kids when they come from a boarding school; we're keeping all those kids together in whichever safe haven we put them in."