I decided to travel to Ukraine to raise money to help people who were directly affected by the war in early March.
This decision was made with the belief that my experiences as a mental health counselor, combat veteran, and former military contractor would bridge the gap between my community in North Idaho and the people in Ukraine.
My objective was to raise money and show my community how their donations were making an immediate impact.
Not knowing anyone in Ukraine or being able to speak the language, I traveled completely on my own. The plan was to meet with a pastor in Ukraine whom I found online. I begged him to allow me the opportunity to travel there and help.
It was terrifying to make this trip into an active combat zone, but it was a calling. Putting my fear aside, I left my wife and children to spend a month in Ukraine.
The response not only from my community, but from communities across America was nothing short of a miracle. We raised $170,000 and received thousands of dollars worth of medical supplies.
Donations started coming in from day 1 and we were able to open a shelter for displaced families in L’viv.
During this trip, I was able to bring medical supplies to areas that needed them most, evacuate civilians from cities that were being invaded, and teach a mental health workshop on PTSD and trauma.
As the fighting continues, I have had to process the devastating impact of this war. Being inside buildings that were recently destroyed, with the smell of burning flesh still in the air, haunts me.
Experiencing the rocket and artillery attacks in Kiev is unsettling to say the least.
Helping young children who were so traumatized they couldn’t speak is unforgettable.
Dozens of individuals who survived the Bucha and Irpen occupations shared their horrific stories. The site of the mass grave in Bucha, where innocent people were killed during the occupation, is very real.
These experiences and memories are what prompt me to remember that what we have managed to achieve in less than six months has far exceeded even my expectations.
Our communities have stepped in and shown such passion to the people of Ukraine. People wanted to help; they just needed a way to do it.
We created Project Victory Ukraine, a federally approved non-profit organization. The organization now has a board of dedicated members, a medical team, a campaign team and trusted partners across Ukraine.
We have partnered with the National Police of Ukraine, Ukrainian churches, the Chaplain Patrol of Ukraine, as well as private foundations and businesses across America.
We have received donations from the Netherlands, Australia, and all over the U.S. For example, we had no real way to send supplies to Ukraine, but we have since partnered with a Ukrainian-American shipping company in Chicago. This family refuses to pay full shipping charges and helps us get supplies directly to Kiev.
Despite the ugliness of war, I have also seen a beautiful side of humanity.
I have seen that Ukrainians have come together to help their fellow citizens.
I was with men who risked their lives every day evacuating women and children.
I have sat with young women who have survived some of the most unspeakable acts of evil and now work at a shelter to prepare meals for distribution to those in need.
We have American doctors and nurses working around the clock to provide critical surgical supplies that are then sent directly to the hospital on the front lines.
Children in our communities have made signs, jewelry and sold lemonade while donating everything they make to the cause.
American companies are matching their employee donations and offering discounts to our nonprofits on tourniquets and other medical supplies.
And Project Victory board members work tirelessly without collecting a salary.
We are bringing more surgical supplies required by frontline doctors, including an EKG machine.
We are partnering with the National Police of Ukraine to help sponsor children who have lost a parent to war. These kids are creating wish lists that include school supplies, toiletries, snacks and some small toys.
As we prepare to embark on this third journey, the support we have received is nothing short of amazing. There are no words to describe what our communities have been capable of.
But we need more. Every human life is worth saving.
To donate, www.gofundme.com/victoryukraine
Jared Malone is a mental health counselor for Heritage Health. The enlisted Marine previously served two combat tours in Iraq in his 20s and later served as a military contractor in Iraq for three years. Jared and his wife live in Post Falls and have two children together.