ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — As millions of people flee the war in Ukraine, a Tampa Bay area couple is on the ground in Romania helping provide shelter to refugees.
“I’m a native Floridian. My wife is from Romania, this is her hometown,” Kirk Nowery said.
Nowery lives in St. Petersburg, Florida but is currently in Romania.
Kirk and Violeta Nowery are part of “Hope Partners International,” a faith-based organization lending aid in the midst of the crisis. The organization helps abandoned and trafficked children around the country, and has a location 3rd Street North in St. Petersburg.
The organization also has a center 60 miles from the Romanian border. Since the war started, the organization has pivoted and also started helping refugees crossing the border to escape the war.
“We go up to the Ukrainian-Romanian border where they are crossing and I have staff that’s up there and they have vests that say I’m here to help you,” Kirk explained. “We currently house 230 families fleeing the war. We’re providing shelter, food, non-food items – you know – like diapers and blankets all that kind of stuff. It’s a tragic and horrific situation.”
The situation is being called the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II, and it is growing direr.
Women and children are leaving everything behind, with nothing more than the clothes on their back, and no family or friends to go to.
“They all come scared and afraid,” Violeta Nowery said. “For us, being able to be here and help them is our privilege because we know what to do basically and how to take care of them.”
“These people come in afraid. They just came out of a war. They’re traumatized,” Kirk added. “You just know when they have that traumatized, ‘I don’t know what to do and what’s my next step’ look on their face. This disaster is beyond any and all of our abilities, and we just need to pray for the Ukrainian people.”
The United Nations says more than 2.3 million refugees have now fled Ukraine and that total could reach 4 million in the coming weeks.
“We’re going to be here to assist these people until the last one,” Kirk said.
The organization relies on donations to provide resources to those in need.
“Our resources have come out of United States 100%. I can’t say enough about the American people and their generosity to allow us to come over here and give us resources,” said Kirk.
To find out how you can help Hope Partners, visit the organization’s website.