In August, 2022, I was a part of a team that went to Ukraine in order to provide life-saving water filters to people in war-torn parts of Ukraine, including portable water bags to soldiers and refugees, and to gather intimate stories to connect people around the world with what can be done to care for the people of Ukraine. In our one week of travel through the war zones in Ukraine, through military checkpoints, amidst curfews, air raid sirens, and evidence everywhere of war, the Ukrainian people welcomed us with open arms. Their hearts, tenacity, bravery, and pride moved us over and over. We talked, collaborated, laughed, ate, adventured together and now, we join them in their work and fight, with all our hearts.
Our mission at a glance:
- 420 filters delivered (which means that 6,300 soldiers, first responders, and Ukrainian citizens now have safe, clean water!)
- 20+ visits to bomb sites and conversations with community in war-torn parts of the country
- 20+ meetings and connections made with NGOs, government officials, entrepreneurs, communities, and families
- 1 Seeds community gathering in Kyiv to foster collaboration and enCOURAGEment
- 1 mission to the front lines of the war in Mykolaiv
- Press Release
We are infinitely grateful to the Seeds of Exchange community, which has given $70,687 to date to provide filters to the people of Ukraine through our Seeds Giving Fund. Read more
Day-by-day video story of our mission, followed by a collection of stories of our journey:
Day 1 | The journey begins …
Day 2 | Moldova-Ukraine
We landed in Moldova today. We had a long wait in customs to get our 420 Water for All filters cleared from customs. But, thanks to the help of new and old friends, we made it across and our team grew to 7 amazing people with our amazing team of Ukraine Young Life. Late in the evening, we finally arrived in Odessa, Ukraine, after passing through 8 check points. Curfew was 11 in the city and we were late so we were able to get through the check points even though we were late due to the 5 hour delay with customs.
Day 3 | Odessa-Mykolaiv
We continue to distribute water filters to Ukrainians living in conflict zones and in parts of Ukraine in desperate need of clean, safe water. We now have seen and know, more than ever, how important are these Water for All water filters. On our way to Mykolaiv, we stopped at the site where a missile hit 3 weeks ago. As I stood in the rubble with Brandon, we met 2 grandmothers on their way to the market and listened to their stories of loss and war.
Day 4 | Mykolaiv
We visited the front lines (this was the first time I’ve ever worn a bullet-proof vest!) and met the brave, inspiring, and kind-hearted soldiers and medics of the Ukrainian army.
Day 5 | Mykolaiv-Kyiv
We began our day with delicious breakfast sandwiches, thanks to our host, Masha / Маша, and then, we packed up for our 7-hour road trip to Kyiv. After lots of rich car conversations with our Ukraine partners – Oleh, Ilya, and Nik – stops at gas stations for road trip snacks, and a filter demo in swampy water, we arrived in Kyiv, just in time for our Colorado Public Radio interview (listen right here). The day wrapped up with an amazing dinner (chili, salad, grilled pork, and bread … mmmmm!) cooked by our host, Ksusha.
Day 6 | Bucha-Irpin-Kyiv
We began our day with yet another amazing breakfast crafted Ksusha. (Our Young Life Ukraine dream team is sooooo incredible!) Then, onto Bucha with Misha and Skeeman’s in their food distribution to the survivors of war and atrocities few of us can imagine. Jill Tupper offered an experience of her Warriors Powered by Love teaching. We fell in love with the sisters and brothers of Bucha, and several shared their stories with us. We toured and saw evidence of the senseless bombing of schools, a cultural center, a mall, and civilian infrastructure.
Meanwhile, John DeYoung and Brandon Davison-Tracy met a new soul brother: Artem Shyra, a water filtration producer in Ukraine. In the afternoon, we met again our friends, Alex and Roman / Роман, who we met last May when they were civilian soldiers fighting for freedom. We enjoyed a tour of their amazing manufacturing plant and gallery … absolutely STUNNING art at Panoptikum Collections. Next stop: the central street of downtown Kyiv, where we had our Seeds of Exchange Kyiv community gathering: Friends, Filters, and Food … to cultivate connections, share stories, and fuel hope.
Day 7 | Kyiv
Another powerFULL-to-the-brim day: Delicious breakfast, thanks to Ksusha and Oleh’s hospitality, 2 Vivoblu Water for All Water demo’s – one in a muddy part of a lake in Kyiv and one in the Dnipro River – meetings with Ukrainian government and military leadership, and an interview in the studios of Radio M, thanks to Ilya. (Here is the replay link.) We spent a sobering and intense evening walking through the downtown Kyiv exhibit of the war thus far and ended the day at “home” with Ksusha’s dinner and home-made cheesecake.
Day 8 | Bucha-Irpin-Kyiv
This morning, we had breakfast and listened to stories from a dear a fishing friend of Oleh’s who is a special forces soldier. As we are preparing to leave and no longer need our bullet-proof vests, we gave him one of our vests and shared with him the Vivoblu Water for All filter and portable bag/backpack. Like so many soldiers, medics, first responders, he said more are needed. We are doing everything we can to get more filters and water bags/backpacks to Ukraine.
Next, we went to visit a mentor of Oleh’s – a chaplain to the Ukrainian army and leader of a seminary that was bombed 13 times in Irpin. He showed us videos of the destruction and terrors of this war, of how his community offered a place to stay for hundreds of refugees, and gave us a tour of the rebuilding that is happening today. Of course, we did some Vivoblu Water for All demo’s of the bucket and bag applications and left filters, thanks to our generous WFA and Seeds of Exchange donors/communities.
Next stop: Dnipro River for a team dinner and stroll through Kyiv … full of life on this Saturday night! As we walked, we talked and shared more stories with each other – what a gift is our USA-Ukraine partnership-friendship!
Day 9 | Kyiv-Odessa
Today, we bid farewell to our beloved friends and hosts in Ukraine – and Ksusha (after another AHmazing breakfast!). What a week this has been! Road trip after road trip, story after story, bomb site after bomb site – and all of it, TOGETHER! It has been one of the supreme joys and honors in my life to collaborate with this team to work for peace and freedom in Ukraine – and to care for people who are suffering in the midst of war.
Then, it was time to pile into the car with Ilya and Nik for our 7-hour road trip south, to Odessa. We spent our last night in Ukraine with our 2 beloved brothers, Ilya and Nik, feasting on fish caught in the Black Sea, and even dipping our toes in the water after sunset. The juxtaposition continues here – even as kids splash and swim in the sea, there were 2 separate incidents in the past week in which explosions killed people as they took a dip in the Black Sea to cool off. There are countless mines left by Russia in the sea – with many more in rivers, forests, and pathways throughout Ukraine. War is mind-numbing and horrifying … may it end soon.
Day 10 | Heading home: Ukraine-Moldova-Austria
Today began early – as we needed to arrive at the border of Ukraine and walk through this border crossing into Moldova, in order to catch our flight home. Ilya and Nik drove us – ever-so-patient with the early morning departure, border traffic, and checkpoint after checkpoint explanation of who we are and what we’ve been doing in Ukraine. Each of these brothers have immeasurable grace and grit. As we walked across the border, my heart was FULL of gratitude for our week of work, together, in Ukraine – and spirit prayerFULL for the freedom, safety, and future of our sisters and brothers in Ukraine. Life is not easy for them – not at all.
We were met by a most-amazing and brand-new-brother to me, Gregg Montella, founder of Heroes International – and sister Hristiana. Over a cuppa coffee at the border of Moldova, Gregg shared with us about human trafficking in Moldova – and how the war in Ukraine has opened the door for human traffickers.
At the airport, we were met by Raisa and the amazing family of Lena / Лена. Jaw-dropping connections with humanitarians and agents of change, right up until we walked through the doors into the Chisinau airport in Moldova. What a feast of friendship!
Next stop: Vienna, Austria – where there was more evidence of the world’s prayers and care for Ukraine. As we journeyed home and basked in the beauty of the St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, we know it, with all our hearts: This Ukraine partnership-friendship is not over – no, not at all. We cannot wait to see them again and will do whatever we can to continue to collaborate and work, together, for freedom and a bright future in Ukraine.
Day 11 | USA & Ukraine
Our connection with Ukraine continues into our time back in the USA!! Just 48 hours after our wheels touched down in the USA, we were able to gather for an online and in-person event in order to share STORIES FROM UKRAINE – as a team, together with our beloved friends from Young Life Ukraine, Sasha and Iryna Utkina. We were able to hear from these two deeply inspiring and heroic friends … ALL while gatherings as a community to explore our part to care for the people of Ukraine.
And, that’s a wrap, loves. Thank you for joining us on this incredible journey!
Pray for peace in Ukraine, friends.
To our sisters and brothers in Ukraine …
We love you. Ми любимо bас.
We stand with you. Ми з bами.
xo, -Sarah DT