Hello Everyone! The latest update for the Strayboar Ukraine Aid Project is here! Thank you to everyone who's made this effort a success. We hope you enjoy, and continue to follow along!
We couldn't be more excited to share the news!
It is our extreme pleasure to announce a collaboration between The Strayboar Project, and best selling author and comedic legend, Ron James! Its been a year since we first connected with him while we were in Poland, and what's developed is an aligned desire to spread a message of kindness, compassion, and empathy. Not to mention, a pretty solid friendship! All proceeds from the show will go directly toward the upcoming Strayboar mission in Eastern Europe. With Ron's generous help, we'll be providing assistance to Ukrainian civilians displaced by war. The show is set in the beautiful Lunenburg Opera House on May 20th at 8pm. Please join us in an evening of laughs and entertainment!!
Liala served 12 yrs in the Canadian Armed Forces as an army logistics officer. About 6 months into the pandemic she started to explore art again, something that she had stopped making time for in those 12 years she served. She bought some watercolours and started to learn to paint with them. Not long after that she started to explore other art mediums.
When Liala was in the process of being medically released she was finding great struggle in finding new meaning. She knew that she still wanted to help people, that’s why she joined the military in the first place, but she didn’t know what that looked like. She knew that with her medical conditions that she needed to find flexibility, but also wanted something different than what she did in the military. This was an opportunity to try something else.
Liala feels that art therapy saved her. On a personal level, it has helped her begin to heal from her own traumas, and also in helping her find new purpose. She is also an Art Psychotherapy student, in her final year, and she’s been co-facilitating virtual art therapy groups with veterans for her practicum. “Being able to be a part of someone’s healing journey is a true honour, and witnessing art therapy help people grow, is affirming for me that I’m in the right place.”
Liala likes to work with mixed media. She incorporates a variety of materials including collage using mono printed papers which she also makes herself. These layered art pieces are created intuitively, there is never a plan on what it will look like. The act of letting it “just happen” in the artwork is healing for her because it is freeing to not have to feel like she needs to be in control of every situation, a common experience after experiencing trauma. Liala likes to use bright colours in her artwork because they make her feel happy. Being able to shift a mindset is important when feeling distressed. She also incorporates texture into the artwork, because being able to feel the bumps and ridges on the canvas is kind of like a calming sensory experience for her.
This art piece is titled “Weathering the Storm”. Liala said at one point in her layering process she noticed a sailboat, with fish coming out of the waves. The sailboat is headed in the direction of light and leaving behind a storm. She feels the sailboat weathered a really rough storm. This piece really resonated with her as she dealt with difficult events a month prior and the messaging to her, was that there were brighter things ahead.
More of Liala's artwork and ongoing story can be found at @artesandminds on Instagram Thank you for your wonderful work and perspective Liala!
TW: descriptions of war
I need to take a moment to relay an ongoing story of hope and kindness to start this new year off. I haven’t written about it prior to this, honestly because I wanted to protect the people involved. Some of the folks that we used to work with are still operating in sensitive areas, so it’s an ongoing consideration. One such person we remain in contact with is operating in Ukraine at the time that I’m writing this post.
Brandon Mitchell arrived in Ukraine around the same week in April 2022 that we landed in Poland. He liquidated a safe and secure life in western Europe to purchase an ambulance and drive into a fresh war zone intent on providing help. He weathers regular shelling, bears witness to horrific actions and is increasingly shown the depths to which humanity can sink.
Good morning from our undisclosed location on the road in Eastern Europe!
All that aside, once we made our link-up we were met with hugs and smiles. These people are beautiful, and so incredibly hopeful for a return to normalcy. Thanks to absolutely everyone involved for making this happen ❤️
So today was the first set of aid purchased using the funds donated by the generous Strayboar supporters!
Royce and I took to the streets of Lublin Poland today to source the food, medical and sanitary supplies destined immediately for the border. We were excitedly acquiring supplies from every source we could, and ended up with our biggest load to date. The incredibly hard working people of the "Help Ukraine" project were the beneficiaries of this latest package. Within the next couple days, the supplies will be headed to the civilian population of Ukraine's most hard hit frontline cities. I can't describe how grateful I am to have had such a positive response from our Strayboar community. I promise to thank everyone personally once I put my feet back on Canadian soil! Thank you so very much Lynn Hennigar, Adrien and Dylan Bohach! You were absolutely instrumental in making this connection for us, and we're so happy to have made a solid lifelong friendship. 💛💙
If you are interested in helping us purchase more aid please consider our GoFundMe campaign, Direct help to refugees in Poland with Strayboar.
Today was Easter and I'm missing my little boys. The excitement on their faces, the sugar infused madness of running around a house full of orchestrated magic. I miss my greenhouse and the buds on the honeysuckle. I can't wait to listen to the birds of spring in the forest around my house, or the peepers on the lower land. The way the sun filters through my wife's hair when the light catches her just right. I'm far away, and my heart longs for the peace of my home. I'm sitting with "Mila" today. She is being employed by the residence that we're staying at right now. This place also provides accommodation for Ukrainian refugees of a terrible conflict they didn't ask for. I spoke with her at length through a translator on a phone that we turned back and forth on a tabletop. The first words I typed out to Mila were, "My friend and I are from Canada, we're here to show the people of Ukraine that you're not alone."
It was Easter for Mila and her three children yesterday too. She fled her home in the beautiful Carpathian countryside to an uncertain future in a land that's not her own. She showed me pictures of a river running through a forest with heavy snow laden branches. The words "Only could God create something so beautiful" caption a scene that could very well be in my own backyard.
Her husband fights in a major Ukrainian city that I won't name to protect his identity. I can only surmise that he's fighting to protect the sovereignty of a land that he holds like a treasure. Much the way I would mine if someone tried to take it. The light in Mila is the universal strength of a mother. She wants nothing more than the safety of her children and that of her husband. The conflict in Ukraine has forced six million people like Mila to flee the beauty of their own homes. To flee the safety of a partner's arms. To run to a future that may never include them again. The pain is palpable. Yet. Mila sits up straight, her composure crisp. Her chin is low, her eyes straight ahead. Like a fighter preparing for a scrap. She didn't want this fight, but she's in it. We're standing with her. We hope that the rest of Canada stands with her too.
Sorry people! It's been a busy few days. Royce and I have been on the move between the border of Ukraine and several towns in Poland.
The weight thrust upon the people of the Ukrainian underground is unimaginable. We spoke at length with the two of them about what we could provide and what we could not. We've learned to introduce ourselves as Canadians, as emissaries of peace. It seems that the reputation of Canadians precedes us, for more than once we've been referred to as the kind ones.
After a lengthy chat about when and where to meet with food and medical supplies, we moved to another location inside Poland. Acting on a tip from a friend in Canada, we drove three hours to the Help Ukraine Center coordinating out of Lublin. Operating on nothing but the location of a HUGE warehouse complex, and the smiling faces of Lynn Hennigar and Adrian Bohach in a photo. These two beautiful Canadians are from Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia (15 minutes from my home!!) yet we have never crossed paths before. We entered a complex of industrial buildings and warehouses. As we drove through the manned gate and into a maze of buildings, Royce commented that a needle in a stack of needles would be easier to locate. Agreeing, I just picked a space at random and hopped out with phone in hand. As we picked a door that looked like an entrance, a man came out pushing a dumpster of cardboard boxes. I looked at my phone and back at Royce, "I think that's Adrien." I laughed and we both stared in disbelief.
The man looked at us puzzled, "Yes?"
I said, "A mutual friend of ours in Nova Scotia says hello... we're from Lunenburg." What came after the laughter and a couple of expletives, were the seeds of an immediate friendship. Adrien is of Ukrainian heritage, now living in Mahone Bay with his beautiful family, all of whom are working out of this warehouse, processing aid packages from all over the world. After giving us a tour of the facility, he introduced us to a staff composed of girlfriends and wives of Ukrainian service members. It was immediately apparent where our next shipment of aid was headed.
Serendipity doesn't describe the set of circumstances that brought us here. I firmly believe that a mission built on a foundation of peace and kindness has no limits. Keep us in your thoughts, but please direct your light and positive energy at the heroes of this conflict.
We've found no greater purpose here than emissaries of peace.
Since the war began in Ukraine, we've seen numerous veterans putting the armour back on to ride off into battle. Whether it's on the frontline as an operator longing for the tip of the spear or in any of the numerous roles along its edge, there is a very clear theme, service is never done.
"J" was apparently tired of watching the war unfold from the safety of his home, and hopped a plane to help the refugees who lost everything. The gist of the conversation as we walked in was, "...But Ma'am, I have three houses back in the United States. These people need homes, and I got ‘em!"
I reiterate, service is never done. It's not indoctrination, it's not brainwashing. It is a fundamental need to help, to run toward the fire. Royce and I stood in awe with our load of food and art supplies, like looking into an almost certain future.
"I think this is what we do now, I think this is our job."
All I could do was nod.
Okay, so it's been a busy few weeks.
Over the past few days we've been able to acquire an 8 passenger transport van to move people and humanitarian supplies in and out of Western Ukraine. The latest day's work consisted of making contact at the Warsaw East train station (impromptu refugee staging area) and two other Polish camps housing refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya and Ukraine.
Poland has welcomed these people with open arms in an unfathomable act of kindness. We had the absolute honour of meeting some real life heroes today, to witness first hand what's possible when peace and love are used in place of cruelty and malice. We're helping to deliver aid to two camps tomorrow.
Three gents in the midst of shifting gears focused on tenets of adventure, comradery, peace, good food and the pursuit of artistic purpose.