Mary Martz of Chilliwack has only been home for a few weeks, and is already planning a return to conflict-torn Ukraine.
“I’ll be leading a team of volunteers,” said Martz, project manager with Hungry for Life. “It’s a very quick trip this time. The need is great.”
They’ll arrive on the ground in western Ukraine by mid-April with the goal of buying bulk supplies of food, to assist refugees, widows and families in need.
They’ll be looking to source non-perishables like canned meat, rice, buckwheat flour, vegetable oil to last a month.
“Our main mission will be to show love in action,” said Martz.
They’re heading to a town outside the armed conflict zone.
Hungry for Life is helping with logistics to facilitate the trip, but the relief workers are all volunteers, who’ve raised their own funds to offset any costs.
A team of eight, including Martz, will see volunteers joining them from Chilliwack, Abbotsford and North Vancouver.
“There is still room for three more,” she said, adding the Fraser Valley team fell into place very well on its own.
The last time it was Martz and a friend who targeted an orphanage that had run out of food.
The conflict in Ukraine gained the worldwide attention last year after Russian Federation’s military forces invaded and occupied key Ukrainian installations, with bloody skirmishes that saw protesters killed.
Martz went about a year ago to help an orphanage that was struggling.
It’s hard for many people to understand what the conflict is about, the Ukrainian born Martz noted. She has siblings, parents and friends still living there.
It is a mission of faith they’re undertaking, but the work is also action-based to feed the hungry.
“All donations are 100 per cent going to the project, and everybody is paying their own way.
“Most of what we do is more about action than talking. They ask us, ‘Why would you come all this way from Canada?’ We believe in God. Part of that is to share with the needy.”
The armed conflict has been in the eastern part of Ukraine, and the plan is for the Fraser Valley team to head to Dnepropetrovsk, located about 180 to 200 kilometres outside of Donetsk.
“We will do immediate relief work there outside the war zone,” she said. “It has been so tough for many people — especially right now in winter. Many were not able to plant a garden for food last summer.”
They are aware a state of emergency was declared in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts on January 26, and there are travel warnings for those regions along with Crimea.
So they will exercise every caution, and withdraw at the last minute, if need be, said Martz.
She is also thrilled with how well Canada has stepped up, and how it has been perceived, for assisting with relief efforts, supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and attempting to de-escalate the crisis.
Canada as a nation has been among the strongest international supporters of Ukraine’s efforts to restore stability and implement democratic and economic reform.