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USA News

Joni Eareckson-Tada helps evacuate more than 300 Ukrainians with disabilities

by Kelly Valencia

Christian author and speaker Joni Eareckson-Tada says her ministry has helped evacuate more than 300 people with disabilities from Ukraine. 

The 72-year-old runs Joni and friends, a ministry to reach and serve people with disabilities across the world. 

"Just imagine if you're a quadriplegic like me. I can't use my hands. I'm in a wheelchair, and if you were on the seventh floor of an apartment building and you're in Mariupol being bombed, and there were rocket strikes, it's not like you can jump out of bed, grab a few things, rush out the front door, make a dash for the border," Eareckson-Tada told CBN News during a recent interview. 

"You can't do that. And so, a lot of these people with disabilities are stuck in apartment buildings. A lot of them are in basements." 

Eareckson-Tada, who was left permanently disabled during a diving accident 50 years ago, said her ministry had partnered with other local organisations to help evacuate people with disabilities. 

"We've been working with our in-country partner Galina," Eareckson-Tada shared. "Galina and our teams have been out searching for these people even in the most dangerous eastern parts of Ukraine to rescue them and get them across the border and to safe haven in not only Poland but Germany and the Netherlands. And we've evacuated over 300 people with disabilities thus far and caregivers and we're still active," she said.

She also shared how plans to build a disability centre in Ukraine called Joni's House have been halted due to the Russian invasion. 

"We quickly pivoted and all the concrete, all the cement, the cinder blocks, the lumber, everything ready to go for the construction of Joni's House in Ukraine, we suddenly reallocated, redirected to be used to sure up homes and care facilities for the elderly, to protect people with disabilities," Eareckson-Tada explained.

"So, those items all were put to good use not in constructing a Joni's House but, of course, barricading people so that they might have a safe haven," she continued.

Eareckson-Tada urged Christians to pray for all of those involved in rescue efforts. 

According to the European Disability Forum there are 2.7 million people with disabilities in Ukraine. 

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