Dear donors, investors, mentors, teammates, and supporters,

My gratitude to Operation Mordechai donors and supporters is immeasurable. Your support for this mission has allowed us to help pay for food, school books, laptops, clothing, hygiene products, medical supplies, appliances, beds, toys, and diapers. We are proud to have shipped 2,500 pounds of medical supplies and hygiene kits to the Ukrainian boarder countries. In addition, we are now in the process of transporting 172,442 organic granola bars to Ukraine. Your encouragement and emotional support has given me the unwavering commitment and strength to do whatever it takes to make a small difference in the difficult lives of these innocent refugees.

I have just returned from eight days in Israel, where I had the honor and privilege of being welcomed into peoples’ very personal lives of hardship and tragedy. Many have asked me “did you have a good trip?” I am at a loss how to answer this simple question. If “good” ‘means “productive”, then yes. It was extremely productive. We set off to unknown places with unknown contacts, and created a calendar that was packed beginning to end with meetings, visits, and more hummus than one should consume in a single week.

We had the opportunity to meet many families and see how they live. Or rather, see how they survive. Because every day, they are just fighting to figure out how to survive. Some with elderly parents, others with babies and young children. These are all families who once had a life with homes, cars, careers, schools, businesses, and dog parks just over two months ago. Two months ago…… CAN YOU IMAGINE? To have to leave behind your family, friends, school, and every day activities that we all just take for granted. These refugees had to leave it all behind at a moment’s notice and flee to an unknown country with a foreign language, with whatever possessions they could fit into a single suitcase or backpack. And some came alone. And I mean ALONE….at 14, 15, 19 years old. Their mothers shipped them off to save their daughters from the horrors and atrocities of war. Many of their friends have been raped. Many of their friends are hospitalized from being raped seven or eight times. One girl as young as six….. How do you listen to these stories face to face and try to stay strong while speaking with these young girls that have witnessed the unimaginable. Their mothers shipped them off to Israel to be safe while many mothers stayed behind to care for their elderly parents that physically couldn’t or wouldn’t leave behind the only home they know. Their fathers and brothers are left behind to fight a senseless war. Young children with their mothers cannot understand why they can’t go back to school, see their friends, or even know when they will ever see their father again. I met a boy who is turning seven next week. All he wants for his birthday is to see his dad and give him a hug. A simple hug of their father is no longer so simple for these children.

Our visit to the elementary school was beautiful in terms of seeing the warm welcome other children have given to these young refugees. The language barrier is difficult, but they all understand the language of love, kindness and compassion.

The apartments where they live are sparse. Some with no refrigerator. They only buy perishables which they can eat that day. Others with no stove, toaster oven or microwave. Every day appliances and items we take for granted while enjoying our breakfast in our comfortable homes. Beds were scarce. Families of five or six are living with two twin mattresses. Many sleep on an old donated couch. Others on the floor. Clean sheets and towels are a luxury. A washing machine is a true luxury. My perspective on life and the depth and breadth of gratitude has forever changed.

THE GIRLS…. They are WARRIORS. They are strong, resilient, courageous, ambitious, and driven. Driven to rebuild their lives, so that they can save and provide for their families back home in Ukraine. These are pre-med students, psychology majors, computer programming grads, physical therapists, a budding journalist, and even a hopeful Hollywood actress. These girls exemplify grace, courage, and perseverance in the face of death, destruction and the complete unknown. They have witnessed dead bodies scattered around the streets while they fled their country. Some lived in makeshift bomb shelters for weeks before being sent off by their parents. Their homes are gone. Their schools are gone. Their families have been ripped apart, and all they want is to go home to the people they love and the world they once knew which ended two months ago. Many do not understand there is no home to go back to.

As we move forward, there is a greater level of understanding of the long road ahead for these refugees. Their journey to resettlement is not easy and they will need our continued support.

My heartfelt thank you to each and every supporter of Operation Mordechai. The Power of 1 can truly make a difference in the lives of others and you are all the Power of 1.

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Warm wishes,

Melanie Kelfer
Operation Mordechai