Wisconsin charity helps Ukrainian orphanages in war-torn country

Two board members of a Wisconsin-based charity are spending Easter weekend about as far from the usual celebrations as they can get: helping with war relief efforts in Ukraine.

R.J. Johnson, president of Wisconsin's World Orphan Fund, got a call Tuesday, hopped on a plan Wednesday and was in Ukraine Saturday to help some of the country's most vulnerable people.

"People working together can come up with remarkable solutions," said Johnson.

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For Johnson, it's all about connection. Even when that thread pulls him from Wisconsin to war-torn Ukraine.

"It’s like a small town Wisconsin country. Everybody knows everybody, they’re all connected," he said.

Wisconsin's World Orphan Fund helps orphanages in Ukraine

There is no bigger bond to have severed. A spotty internet connection and time zone difference could not stop him from sharing his mission with FOX6 News Saturday.

"Orphans are, by nature, traumatized," Johnson said. "They’ve been removed from a family situation, so they're already significant issues they have to face on a psychological level. Add a war to that."

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Johnson and another board member of the Randolph-based charity are in western Ukraine vising often-strained orphanages – one for special needs children now with quadruple the usual number of children.

"When we walked in there, it seemed insurmountable," said Johnson.

By working with others in Ukraine, it is a mountain they will be able to climb. Not only is Johnson working to secure several staff members for that orphanage, he's also setting up a pilot program at an orphanage to help children with their trauma. It is a testament to the strength of connection – even between people living halfway across the world.

Wisconsin's World Orphan Fund helps orphanages in Ukraine

"Those solutions are possible with just average people working together," Johnson said.

Before he returns Monday, Johnson is spending Easter visiting orphanages and talking with a group of psychologists to work on setting up that program to help with children's trauma.

To help, visit the Ukraine Orphan Crisis website; 100% of donations go directly to help orphaned children.

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