ALMENA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A Mattawan-area man has returned home from Ukraine after spending time as a humanitarian aid volunteer and is already planning to go back once he raises enough money.
“If I went more than two hours without getting shelled or having an air raid siren going off … there was an anomaly in the day pattern,” Rob Winblad said.
He arrived in Ukraine in the beginning of February. He had previously visited in December 2021, just a couple months before Russia’s invasion.
“Less of a shock coming into Kyiv, which is primarily where I was last time, and the biggest difference was you’d hear air raid sirens and then you’d occasionally hear an explosion from one of the missiles or the drones coming,” Winblad said.
He worked his way closer to the front in eastern part of Ukraine, where he saw the most destruction.
“You saw basically no windows on a lot of these buildings. A lot of them were just pieces of the houses were still standing and then there was just piles of rubble everywhere,” Winblad said.
There, he met up with a group a volunteers.
“When I first arrived, I connected with a chaplain and his team. They were working with one of the combat brigades operating near the front lines and what I did was I specifically helped with humanitarian delivery of supplies. We would deliver medical supplies, cloths, food; when we could get them, we would get generators,” Winblad said.
He connected with a foreign paramedic team near the end of the trip and hopes to return and work with them.
“I did have to come back for personal reasons. I’m hoping to go back as soon as possible. At the moment, I have about $2,800 I need to raise to support 90 days of transit and in-country living expenses,” Winblad said.
In addition to his willingness to help in hot spots around the globe, Winblad’s connections to Ukraine run deep.
“There was a bit of a personal attachment to it. It was personal to a certain degree,” he said.
His family hosted Ukrainian orphans for many years and he has a younger brother who was adopted from the country.
“One of the people we worked with in the hosting organization was killed by a Chechen sniper in the first couple weeks of the war, so that made it a little more personal as well,” Winblad said.
He said that despite the dangers, it was worth it to help people in dire need.
“They were so happy and grateful to America for what they’ve done so far,” he said.
If you would like to donate to Winblad’s humanitarian relief effort, you can do so through his GoFundMe page.