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Volunteers from Grosse Pointe Park church heading to Poland to help refugees

Ukraine border
Posted at 11:19 PM, Mar 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-24 23:19:50-04

GROSSE POINTE PARK, Mich. (WXYZ) — A metro Detroit church is preparing to send a group of volunteers to Poland to help Ukrainian refugees.

In about a week, 20 parishioners from St. Clare of Montefalco in Grosse Pointe Park will be spending 10 days at a Polish monastery, which has been temporarily housing hundreds of refugees.

“It came about as a, I would say, as a spark of the holy spirit,” said Father Andrew Kowalcyk, the pastor at St. Clare of Montefalco.

Kowalcyk has been in Michigan for nine years but spent most of his life in his home country of Poland. The country now finds itself in the midst of a crisis, taking in more than two million refugees fleeing their war-torn home of Ukraine.

“It just touches the core," Kowalcyk said of the war. "You want to scream, you want to cry, but you want to give a helping hand and say, 'You’re not alone. I’m going to be with you.'”

So, Kowalcyk put out a call to his parish, asking for volunteers to go with him back to Poland. Within days, he was turning people away, already reaching the max of 20 volunteers.

“It's absolutely not a surprise at all,” said parishioner Scott Lowell, who is going on the trip. "This is a quality community of people."

Paying their own way, this 20-person group will head to Poland on April 4 to work at a monastery near the Ukrainian border, which is now housing nearly 400 refugees.

One of those volunteers is 22-year-old Liam Conlan, who like most of Americans has spent the last month seeing images of a brutal war.

“I think that’s part of the reason I'm going," Conlan said. "It’s a little helpless and hopeless sitting here and seeing this happening.”

On top of cleaning, making food and making beds, these volunteers will also be helping people heal. Although most only speak English, they all speak kindness.

“Language is not going to be what the barrier is going to be there," said Sue Buckley, another parishioner going on the trip. "I think that anyone can give a child a welcoming hug.”

“Suffering touches every heart," Kowalcyk said. "No one wants to see children suffering and that’s what we want to help.”

The church is taking donations for their efforts in Poland. They say all money will be used to help refugees once they arrive in Poland. To donate, visit the churches fundraiser online.