The group is stationed in Poland at a checkpoint where refugees are being provided with medical care and warm meals once they cross the border.
The small team of nurses, doctors and translators are providing initial care and assessments for those who’ve had to leave everything behind.
Dr. Anthony Fong, an emergency physician from Vancouver, B.C., said the Canadian Medical Assistance Teams (CMAT) is a humanitarian organization that helps provide disaster relief.
“We respond to disasters, and so each of us has our own motivations,” he said. “But basically, we respond to the call whenever there’s a high need, right after something disastrous happens in the world.”
As an emergency physician, Fong said disaster relief is his specialty.
“I wait for years to be able to help in this way, at a time of high need,” he said. “And it really is my privilege to be here and work with this team of experts and provide help to Ukrainians who need it.”
Nataliya Halych, a Ukrainian-Canadian translator and logistician, said helping out was an “absolutely natural” decision.
“I was born in Ukraine,” she said. “This is my homeland, this is my country.”
Halych said she is “very grateful” to her Canadian “friends and colleagues” who have chosen to step in and help.
“This is war, the people are dying — innocent people are dying,” she said. “That’s why we’re here, all of us as a team.”
Brandon Duncan is a pediatric registered nurse from Windsor, Ont. She said they are seeing a lot of people who have had to leave everything behind, including their “critical medications” to “try to find a safe place.”
He said the group recently treated people who left their homes 1,000 kilometres away and had just reached the Polish border.
Duncan said they were in need of medical assistance and needed to access medications they had left behind.
“So they’re getting through these bottlenecked checkpoints, and some of them are quite sick and dehydrated — they’ve been days without their medications,” he explained.
Duncan said they are working to provide preliminary care to the refugees to avoid putting strain on the Polish health-care system.
He said they are also able to help those who are sick cross the border quicker.
Duncan said the “world has really stepped up,” adding that their checkpoint has access to “almost everything that we need.”
He said the group has been at that specific checkpoint along the Polish border now for a few days, but he has been in the country for two weeks.
Jordan Lenz, a registered nurse from London, Ont., echoed Duncan’s remarks, saying the local communities have “really stepped up” and have helped gather much-needed resources for these checkpoints.
“Just the complete selflessness that they’ve shown each other, and trying to support one another through this has been really incredible to see,” she said.
On a shaky video call, Ameek Singh, a registered nurse from Brampton, gave Global News a view into the small clinic the team has put together.
Under a large white tent, Singh shows what has become an out-patient area, a pharmacy and an area for severely ill patients to rest.
Singh said they are mostly treating women and children. He said they are looking for any travel-related sicknesses, patients who may have left vital medications at home, or for people who need to speak to a doctor about any existing medical conditions.
“All of that is kept in mind for travellers that come to this checkpoint,” he explained.
On the other side of the tent, volunteers from Ukraine and other surrounding communities hand out hot meals to those just crossing the border.
“It just warms my heart to see all this happen,” Singh said. “And they’re doing this out of the goodness of their heart and just to support morale as people come through from different points — that there’s a warm person greeting them.”
He said the world is “coming together to help in this crisis.”
“I just want to show that that is the Canadian way,” he said. “This is what we do, right? We try our best to help each other, and that same spirit is alive here in Ukraine as well.”
-With files from Global News’ Kabilan Moulitharan