Wrapped in a blue and yellow Ukrainian flag, Tom Armour keeps a piece of shrapnel that was given to him during a recent trip to the country.
Armour last traveled to Ukraine nearly a year ago as one of many international volunteers who help build panel homes for people whose homes had been destroyed following the Russian invasion. The jagged, black spike was a gift from one of the men he helped. The shrapnel was once part of a home, he said.
Last month, he once again departed from his Snoqualmie Ridge home and returned to Ukraine for another months-long effort to help build more homes and deliver supplies to those in need.
When he last arrived in Ukraine, he was set up in a small agricultural community with homes lining the road.
“It felt like it could have been my hometown,” he said.
But unlike back home, its residents, many of them elderly, had been subject to the horrors of the now 18-month war. Nearly all the homes were at least partially destroyed, he said.
Both of Armour’s trips were part of an effort by Youth With A Mission (YWAM), an international Christian missionary organization. Following the Russian invasion, the Kyiv chapter of YWAM made the decision to stay in Ukraine, transitioning into a volunteer response movement, focusing on food, housing, evacuations and medical supplies serving 1,500 people a day.
Last year, teams made up of over 300 volunteers from across the globe built 100 homes and delivered much needed water to those in need, according to YWAMs website. YWAM’s goal is to build another 100 homes this year. Each of the homes are estimated to cost about $9,500.
Armour stresses the trip isn’t political or religious, but is all about “neighbors helping neighbors.”
“After witnessing first-hand the restorations of hope in humanity providing panel homes for senior citizens,” he said, “I’m excited to return.”
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