Project CURE volunteers bring emergency medical aid to Ukraine

PHOENIX, Ariz.—Over the past 30 years, retired surgeon Jay Alan Riseman has traveled to 11 countries as a volunteer physician, but he has never seen a greater need than in Ukraine.

“A lot more,” Riseman said as he packed boxes of donated surgical instruments at the Project CURE (Commission on Urgent Relief and Equipment) location in Phoenix, where he and his wife Mary are regular volunteers.

Two, sometimes three days a week, the Risemans volunteer at the Phoenix warehouse in any way they can.

Their sense of urgency is also great.

“I feel like we are helping to change the world. The world can be a cruel place [and] we saw horrible areas. If we can give back, we want to give back what we can,” Riseman said.

The Risemans have been performing medical missions since 1992, hoping to put a lifetime of experience to work.

“We had a bunch of surgical instruments in our garage. So we came and donated it – about two or three boxes – to the CURE project. We were here as volunteers the following week,” Riseman said.

It was in January 2021.

Since the Russians invaded Ukraine in February, Project CURE and other US-based charities have worked to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine’s civilian population.

Project CURE in Phoenix, Arizona on April 19 was among many nonprofit charities offering humanitarian aid after the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)

“Project CURE will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine and will be ready to respond to any requests for assistance we receive,” according to the Project CURE website.

As of April 19, the organization had shipped 230 pallets of medical supplies to Ukraine from its seven distribution centers in the United States.

Special equipment containing a cardiac ultrasound for a children’s hospital in Ukraine was among those items. Large quantities of trauma and surgical supplies are currently awaiting shipment from locations in Denver, Houston and Kansas City.

“Demands have shifted from field trauma supplies to a surgical-specific focus [which] will be the main focus of upcoming medical relief deliveries,” the organization said.

Ruth Sanchez, executive director of the Phoenix site, said there was no shortage of donations despite shortages of some items.

Inside the 40,000 square foot warehouse, volunteers worked diligently on April 19 to pack boxes of biomedical equipment, ensure quality and check expiration dates. Millions of dollars worth of vital supplies.

“Everyone who comes into our warehouse is a volunteer,” Sanchez said. Before COVID-19, “we probably had 8,000 in Arizona alone, or 25,000 across the seven chapters. We are always looking for more.

Epoch Times Photo
Two volunteers prepare medical supplies to be shipped to Ukraine on April 19 at Project CURE Phoenix in Arizona. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)

Many items are destined for Ukraine. The organization also ships to 137 other countries and has 36 projects underway.

Ukraine is his primary mission.

“I think with Ukraine and what’s happening with the war, a lot of our partners, like hospitals, are giving us even more supplies,” Sanchez said.

“I’m telling about my other projects, don’t worry, we’re focused on you. Your container has not become unimportant. We have to juggle to make sure the needs are taken care of. There is a lot of suffering, a lot of suffering.

Following the Russian invasion, the CURE Phoenix project made two or three shipments by air freight. The organization is working with “multiple Ukrainian partners” to ensure the delivery of future shipments.

“Our multiple partners have declared [to] give us 100 beds, 200 beds,” Sanchez said, adding that the organization has fallen to 4,000 beds from 22,500 before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other disaster relief non-profit organizations also raise funds and humanitarian aid to help displaced Ukrainians living in and near the war zone.

UNICEF, for example, said it needs $10 million to support families with children in the eastern region of Ukraine, where much of the fighting is taking place.

Nova Ukraine, another nonprofit charity, said it had raised $20 million as of April 26 while serving 960,000 meals and more than 106,000 aid packages to Ukrainian civilians.

Epoch Times Photo
A tractor-trailer waits to be loaded with humanitarian aid at Project CURE Phoenix in Arizona. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)

The Global Empowerment Mission said it had placed 2,143 people in temporary accommodation since the war began and delivered $840,000 worth of medical supplies.

“Ukraine is the greatest need right now,” Sanchez said of Project CURE’s global mission. “I would say [it’s] Very urgent. We are dealing with personal and tragic stories of people saying their son is in the military and if I don’t get a call from him, I freak out. They don’t even have access to the hospital because it was bombed.

Other items currently on their way to Ukraine include boxes of surgical instruments and syringes, incubators, baby warmers and even anesthesia machines donated by local hospitals.

“So we hear first hand a lot of what’s going on there. [in Ukraine]. We have been sending containers for more than 10 years to Ukraine and this region, which includes Kosovo and Poland,” Sanchez said.

Founded in 1987, Project CURE delivers four to six tractor-trailer-sized containers full of medical equipment every week.

“It’s not that we have to learn to do this. We already knew how to do this. So we were ready to step in” when the Ukraine crisis erupted, Sanchez said.

Volunteers are an integral part of the organization’s work, with more than 146,000 hours donated each year.

“My volume of volunteers has tripled. There are a lot of people out there who want to help,” said a Project CURE Phoenix employee, who wished to remain anonymous.

She said many items currently in high demand include tourniquets and special equipment to treat bone fractures and pitch-related injuries.

These items will prove crucial as the war enters its next phase in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region, which is why Sanchez said volunteers were arriving daily, willing to work with “any what in Ukraine”.

“When you are in this calling, you have a great humanitarian heart. When I think of Ukraine, I think of how can we do more, but it’s a heavy burden.

Allan Stein


Allan Stein is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Arizona.