Volunteers leave Japan to help Ukrainian evacuees with disabilities

A group of student volunteers has left Japan for Poland on a mission to help Ukrainian evacuees with disabilities who have crossed the border to flee Russia's invasion of their country.

A send-off ceremony for 25 students was held on Monday in Tokyo.

They have been selected from about 230 applicants for a program organized by The Nippon Foundation.

Foundation Executive Director Kabasawa Ichiro told them they had been unable to travel either within or outside Japan due to the coronavirus pandemic. He expressed hope that the program will give them an opportunity to learn what is taking place in the world.

Waseda University student Saito Rinka said that, as a person born with a hearing impairment, she can imagine how anxious the evacuees must feel and that they must be suppressing their emotions. She said she wants to help ease their worries and inconvenience.

The foundation says there are about 2.7 million people with disabilities in Ukraine, and that while some have left the country, support for them is insufficient.

The volunteers will stay in the city of Krakow in southern Poland and work with local support groups to distribute medical supplies and food.

The foundation plans to dispatch a total of 105 students by around October, while soliciting new volunteers.