When JD Partain woke up a couple weeks ago and checked his email, the last thing he expected to see was a reply from Tom Beam, the Lead Coordinator for Send Relief, a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Alpharetta, Georgia, informing him that he had been selected —from a pool of some 500 applicants— to travel to Poland as part of a refugee assistance team.

After seeing the carnage and misery created by Putin and Russian forces in Ukraine, and the ensuing refugee crisis affecting huge swaths of Europe, Partain began reaching out to various NGOs, hoping to find one to help him make an impact. Just sending the emails out was “strangely therapeutic,” he said.

(Photo by Anastasia Vlasova/Getty Images)
(Photo by Anastasia Vlasova/Getty Images)

Not Their First Rodeo

The Partains are no strangers to volunteering. In 2010, J.D., together with his wife Lana, traveled to Haiti in the aftermath of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated the island. As rescues tapered off in that catastrophe, Lana Partain’s skills as a registered nurse specializing in Pediatrics came in handy. But when J.D. told his wife that he had volunteered to go to Poland, and was selected, she was at first a bit skeptical. “I talked to my wife about it, she wasn’t too happy about it at first. She was like, ‘are you insane?’” J.D. said. But after talking to her mother, she was convinced to go along and lend her skills to the effort. But this of course doubled their costs.

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Early Friday evening, Partain was still hoping to get enough funds together to cover their airline costs, which come out-of-pocket for the volunteers, as well as lost wages. Lana is a full-time employee at St. Pat’s, but J.D is only able to work for wages part-time in the mornings, owing to the fact that most of his time and energy is dedicated to running the non-profit he started, the Missoula Boxing Club. However, upon arriving home and opening two pieces of mail, Partain was happy to find that they were now exactly $325 over their budgeted $6,700.

But with a clear desire having been demonstrated to help with the disaster that’s been created in Eastern Europe, the Partains want to keep the donations rolling in, and to have the greatest impact possible. For that reason, a GoFundMe account has been opened, and can be found here at: Partain’s in Poland: Relief Fund, organized by J.D. Partain.

"Flexibility is Key"

Although they do have some idea, one thing has been made perfectly clear to Team Partain: don’t ask what you’ll be doing when you’re here. During a Zoom call with on-ground coordinators in Poland, Partain was told, “Please do not ask us what you will be doing here- things are so fluid that they change daily. Anything we tell you now would likely be incorrect when you arrive.”

And in an email reply from Tom Beam, Lead Coordinator for the teams, Partain was told: “Because of the war, things change often. We have had many more people volunteer than we are able to send. You may go thinking that you are going to help cook meals, but don’t even make into the kitchen while there.” He added that, “One of the greatest needs right now is monetary donations to provide food, medical supplies, hygiene items and other essential supplies. We are getting most of these items in Europe, so financial support is what is needed. 100% of what you give will go to this effort."

The couple’s daily activities will also be uploaded to a new, temporary Facebook page, Partains in Poland, so that people who choose to donate to the relief effort on the ground there can literally see for themselves the impact they’re having, and rest assured that it’s through local people who are getting the help to the people who know how to use it.

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