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Special Olympics Romania athletes’ compassionate support for Ukrainian refugees

A group of one woman and two men wearing bibs stand in a room full of boxes.
Edi (left, in blue bib) and Ionut (right, in pink bib) of Special Olympics Romania are volunteering to support Ukrainian refugees in Romania.

Ionut, 25, and Edi, 30, have joined hundreds of volunteers who help Ukrainian refugees transiting through Romania to other countries in Europe. The two men, who live in a Motivation Foundation Romania group home in Buda, Ifov County, help unload and reload vehicles full of donated supplies for the Ukrainians. Recently, they prepared backpacks filled with essential items and loaded a van destined for Piatra-Neamt, in northeast Romania, where Ukrainian children staying at a municipal sports camp took part in a Special Olympics fun sports day. The event was supported by Citizens of our Planet—A Chili Piper Foundation through the Special Olympics Unified with Refugees initiative.

“We wanted to help Ukrainian families and we did it with our hearts. We did not see it as a job,” said Ionut, a gregarious man and Special Olympics basketball player, who works as an apprentice in the Motivation wheelchairs repair workshop.

Two men and two women wearing bibs stand behind rows of yellow backpacks lined up on the floor.
Edi (in pink bib) and Ionut (in blue bib) join other volunteers in preparing backpacks filled with essential items for Ukrainian children who will take part in a Special Olympics fun sports day.

Ionut and Edi had a rough start growing up in a state-run institution for children with disabilities until they were brought to the Motivation group home. “I know why it is important to help other people because I was helped when Motivation took me out of the institution. Now, I have a home and I have a job,” he said. “For this reason, I want to help others as I was helped,” he said. His friend Edi, quiet and reserved, who works at McDonalds and is a Special Olympics skier, added: “It is a good thing to help others. It gives us satisfaction.”

Ionut said he learned about the war from watching television. “Families are being separated or destroyed and we need to help them in any way we can.”

Both men opened their home to Ukrainians. “We had a woman, her son and her father stay with us. We helped them find things in the kitchen and they took care of our cats. We couldn’t speak to each other so I used Google translate to communicate with them,” said Ionut. ‘And it worked.”

“We were sad when the family left,” he continued. “I hope they are happy. We would certainly welcome more refugees into our home.”

Motivation Romania Foundation donates wheelchairs, walking frames, and crutches to refugees with mobility needs from Ukraine. The Foundation provides accommodation especially for groups that include people with mobility disabilities. The Special Olympics Unified with Refugees initiative provides funding to support Special Olympics National Programs who are helping Ukrainian families.

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