Local man travels to Ukraine to provide medical assistance – Action News Jax

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The most recent figures on Ukraine show that more than 3.2 million people have evacuated the country. Many of those who left were women and children, while men between the ages of 18 and 60 were forced to stay to help with the war effort.

But there is a group that will not leave the country, and not because they are staying to fight.

Now two pediatric dentists – one from here in northeast Florida – are leaving on Sunday for a trip that few people would even consider taking right now. They go to Ukraine, to help the orphans who cannot leave. Provide them with dental aid, medical assistance and comfort.

“I started with orphans in 98 in Belarus who were suffering from the Chernobyl explosion. And so I went to Belarus for I guess 10 years in a row at Christmas and played Santa Claus at night at the orphanage and to the dentist during the day, so I always had a warm place for orphans.

John Pfefferle has been providing international pediatric dental assistance to children, especially orphans, for two decades. He went to countries like Gambia, Beirut, Israel, Nicaragua and China with over 116 teams. Sunday… he and one of his co-volunteers, Phil Aday, embark on their most dangerous mission yet.

“To care for orphans and widows in their distress. That’s why I’m going,” Aday said.

The two travel to Ukraine to help more than 160 Ukrainian orphans who have been transferred to an orphanage that already has dozens of children the two have helped in the past.

Phil explained how the orphans were cared for, saying, “Because of the invasion, an orphanage located in the eastern part of Ukraine, these orphans had to be evacuated to the west.”

They’ve been to this Ukrainian orphanage before to help through a Christian missionary group called Global Health Outreach – but this time they’re going as individuals.

“Due to the suddenness of the invasion, Global Health Outreach was unable to respond in a timely manner. And would probably never deploy into an active war zone.

The man who runs the orphanage has become a friend of the couple – when he found out they had more children coming, he called for backup.

“He knew if he talked to Phil, I probably wouldn’t say no to Phil and so…he’s like a brother to me in Ukraine. He’s an incredible man.

Now, as they head in that direction, they don’t know what to expect.

“Those who come from the east? We have no idea. what they will look like. we’re just going to know that they’re going to have had a lot of traumatic moments.

They will fly to Krakow, travel to western Ukraine and work at the clinic. They say that once they are done giving dental assistance, they are ready to continue helping.

“We’ll just do what we have to do and if we don’t have patients we’ll work on the grocery chains,” John said.

But while they’re sorting out their business here, things like making sure they have their own protection, “we had to make sure we had our insurance, they’ll come get us if we’re sick, they’ll come get us if we are in a combat zone…”

They hope to show some love, patience and peace there.

“It doesn’t matter that we don’t speak their language; sometimes they just start talking to me and I’m just sitting there… I have no idea what their words are, but I know if it’s the language of their hearts.

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