GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids couple working to help children in Ukraine has returned home after providing training to mental health professionals and educators in the country that continues to fight a Russian invasion.
Tim Friesen and his wife Tammy Friesen is back from Lviv in western Ukraine, which saw missile attacks when they arrived earlier this month.
Tim Friesen is a psychologist and founder of the nonprofit Twelve12:Hope. He went to Ukraine to help set up programs to counsel children going to trauma. He was able to see the progress that could be made in a short amount of time.
“Many of the children in the orphanage that came to the training, some of them had been in the east part of Ukraine in an orphanage,” Tim Friesen said.
The Friesens arrived when the country was going through a new wave of missile attacks.
“We had an air raid every day except the last day. The air raid didn’t come to our closing time of coffee and cake, so we went. The last day was the only day that we had the regular program out of the bomb shelter,” Tim Friesen said.
He noticed the affects the missile attacks had on him.
“In the middle of the night I would wake up to a certain sound and it sounded like the first sound that would indicate an air raid and it puzzled me for a long time and finally I figured out it was actually a church bell ringing,” Tim Friesen said.
The war has disrupted the education system in the country, with many children unable to go to school.
“Millions of people, I think, are displaced now so they’re living in another city without their friends and they’re learning virtually and I think it’s pretty isolating,” Tammy Friesen said.
The Friesens were amazed by the determination of the Ukrainians, who are also thankful for the support.
“They’re so grateful for it and just continue to hope that the West will keep up the support and not get weary of it,” Tammy Friesen said.