GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As Ukraine sees a new wave of missile attacks from Russia, a couple from Grand Rapids is on the ground providing training to help children through trauma.

Tammy and Tim Friesen are in Lviv in western Ukraine, not far from the border with Poland, and arrived in the country to the sounds and sights of war.

“Armed soldiers on some of the corners. There will be sandbags all around government buildings,” Tammy Friesen said. “Some of our partners were out on the road at that time and they did feel a blast.”

Tim Friesen is a psychologist with 20 years of experience who has worked in war zones around the world and founded the nonprofit Twelve12:Hope.

“I work with children age 5 to 12 and the goal is to train local workers here who will then develop the same program and sustain it within this local environment,” he explained.

“If you can get children in some way to express, whether it is verbal or through drawing or through play therapy, they’re having a chance to express what trauma means to them,” he added.

He was able to conduct some informal trainings while the group was taking shelter in a basement during the missile strikes.

“Watching their reactions and realizing this is their life every day, that was a very sobering experience for us. There was one man at the training that was triggered by the room going into total darkness, went into a panic attack,” Tim Friesen said.

Tim Friesen runs trauma training in a basement shelter in Ukraine amid the threat of Russian bombing. (Courtesy)
Tim Friesen runs trauma training in a basement shelter in Ukraine amid the threat of Russian bombing. (Courtesy)

The missile attacks were retaliation after Ukrainian forces destroyed a major bridge in Crimea, cutting off an important Russian supply line. The couple says in Lviv it appeared Russia was targeting energy infrastructure, trying to cause damage before winter by knocking out power.

“When we were in the shelter in the basement, it was quite dark. We did get (power) back by evening time,” Tammy Friesen said.

The couple wants Americans to keep showing support for and providing assistance to Ukraine.

“It’s going to be a financial sacrifice for the U.S. but the Ukrainians are incredibly grateful,” Tammy Friesen said.

They plan to leave the country at the end of next week when the training session is finished.