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Joni Eareckson Tada’s Joni and Friends Helps Evacuate People With Disabilities Stranded in Ukraine

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Joni Eareckson Tada’s Joni and Friends Helps Evacuate People With Disabilities Stranded in Ukraine

By Movieguide® Contributor

The war in Ukraine has left countless people stranded and desperate for help with evacuation, and people with disabilities are among the most vulnerable.

Faith-based ministry Joni and Friends is stepping in to bridge the gap for many of the 2.7 million persons living with disabilities in Ukraine who might have otherwise been left behind. Founded by Christian author, speaker, and radio host Joni Eareckson-Tada, Joni and Friends has helped 250 people reach Poland since the start of the war and plans to escort more to safe locations around the globe as conditions allow.

According to CBN News, Joni and Friends is planning to rescue an additional 50 people with disabilities and their caregivers in Eastern Ukraine on Friday, March 25, organized by Galyna, their In-Country Coordinator in Ukraine.

 

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In a post dated March 2, founder Joni Eareckson-Tada wrote:

With many people desperate to flee Ukraine, Galyna and her team had to make hard choices about who to evacuate first. They started with the most vulnerable: people with quadriplegia or cerebral palsy who use wheelchairs, and four children, some with autism. “For the kids with autism,” said Galyna, “to hear the sound of sirens, or to hear the sound of bombings, causes panic. They’re afraid. Because the adults are afraid. So you can just imagine what the children with disabilities can feel.”

Galyna says, “People with disabilities are always a vulnerable category of people. And if there is war, the people, for example with quadriplegia, if they live on the 9th floor, when there is this alarm that there can be a bombing, they do not physically have time to go downstairs, or somebody to take them downstairs.”

Joni and Friends shared this update on the operation on March 23:

We have evacuated another group of people with disabilities and their families to safety across the border. Most of them came from Brovary and Bucha, Kyiv region, where the fighting is intense. Their escape was truly a miracle.

When the latest caravan reached the Netherlands, our partners receiving them had baked a cake with a message written on it: “Welcome to the Netherlands! You’re safe with us.”

Eareckson Tada became an advocate for people with disabilities after she fractured her neck as a teenager after she dove into the Chesapeake Bay, leaving her paralyzed from the neck down. Movieguide® previously shared Eareckson-Tada’s thoughts on the 45th anniversary of her memoir “Joni” and the work she has been able to do through the book:

“I’m still overwhelmed when I think of the incredible numbers of people with disabilities, specifically, who have been strengthened by the insights I shared in that book,” she shared. “Then I think of how God has used that story to save many lives, I’m absolutely overwhelmed.”