Grand Rapids couple help Ukrainians await bomb attack

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – As Ukraine faces a new wave of missile attacks from Russia, a Grand Rapids couple are on the ground offering 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 with the sounds and sights of war.

“Armed soldiers on some corners. There will be sandbags around government buildings,” said Tammy Friesen. “Some of our partners were out at the time and had a great time.”

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

“I work with children from 5 to 12 years old and the goal is to train local workers here who will then develop the same program and maintain it in this local environment,” he explained.

“If you can get kids to express themselves, whether it’s verbally, through drawing, or through play therapy, they have an opportunity to express what trauma means to them,” he added.

He was able to conduct some informal training while the group took shelter in a basement during the missile attacks.

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

Tim Friesen conducts trauma training in a basement bunker in Ukraine amid the threat of Russian bombing. (decency)
Tim Friesen conducts trauma training in a basement bunker in Ukraine amid the threat of Russian bombing. (decency)

The rocket attacks were after retaliation Ukrainian troops destroyed an important bridge in Crimea, cutting off a key Russian supply line. The couple say in Lviv it appears Russia is attacking energy infrastructure and trying to cause damage before the winter by cutting off electricity.

“When we were in the basement in the dugout, it was pretty dark. We got (power) back by evening,” said Tammy Friesen.

The couple would like Americans to continue to support and provide assistance to Ukraine.

“It will be a financial sacrifice for the US, 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 over. Grand Rapids couple help Ukrainians await bomb attack

Dais Johnston

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