He’s always on a mission to help. This time, his drive to help others took him to Ukraine

While the conflict is half a world-away, the war in Ukraine is top of mind for many at Maui Medical Center, especially for those who have family there.
Published: May. 3, 2022 at 5:46 PM HST|Updated: May. 3, 2022 at 5:57 PM HST
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HANA (HawaiiNewsNow) - While the war in Ukraine is half a world-away, it’s top of mind for many on Maui ― especially for those who have family there and others who have gone to great lengths to help.

Inese Kudeja is a nurse in Maui Memorial Medical Center’s Intensive Care Unit.

She is Ukrainian.

Half of her family is still in Kharkiv ― one of the hardest hit areas of the country.

“Everything is shattered, destroyed. It’s brought to dust,” Kudeja said.

Kudeja said her father can’t leave.

“Financially, they’re not as advanced,” said Kudeja. “They did have one car and it broke down.

“And I don’t know if people are aware of it, when you migrate, it also costs money. It’s not just like you pick up your belongings and go. Actually, there’s an expense associated with it.”

About 52 miles east, a physician assistant at Hana Health reflects on his recent mission to rescue Ukrainian orphans.

“I haven’t felt normal since I’ve gotten back,” said Aaron Asay.

Asay had only four days to prepare.

He said it was Maui’s medical community that pulled together to help make his mission possible.

Asay traveled with Aerial Recovery Group. They are the leading orphan rescue mission in Ukraine.

“I go to dangerous places, but this has been probably one of the most dangerous places I was willing to put myself,” Asay said.

Asay has been going on missions his whole life. From keeping people healthy in Hana to saving lives around the world, his main mission has always been rescuing children.

“Immediately, when I saw that they were doing the orphan rescue commission, I knew I had to go. I won’t be able to live with myself if I don’t in some way help,” he said.

With just a four days notice, he asked his nurse Robin Ferrier for help gathering medical supplies.

Robin got in touch with Inese and together they all filled nine large bags with IV supplies, blankets, dressings, and medications.

“Calamity is like a predator magnet. So anytime something bad happens in the world, the predators start showing up,” Asay said. “It’s especially true with human trafficking. The estimate is up to 10,000 children right now are in harm’s way at the moment.”

Asay said goodbye to his wife and children and wasn’t entirely sure he would return.

But with a prayer and a lot of miracles along the way, he made it and helped dozens of orphans and refugees find a safe place to live.

Aerial Recovery Group has saved more than 1,300 orphans and refugees so far.

Asay and Kudeja want to thank the people of Maui for helping make that possible.

“I never forget the smiles on those kids’ faces when they were rescued knowing that they were now safe,” Asay said.

“Sure, I’ve seen that a lot in my work with other organizations. There’s something different about this. There’s something different about seeing somebody’s whole world destroyed, and then you take them someplace else and give them a chance for a new world. It’s hard to explain.”

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