BANGOR, Maine — A former Bangor city councilor and Maine state senator is back home after volunteering in Poland for more than a week. Sean Faircloth spent his time in the country handing out much-needed clothing and food to Ukrainians fleeing their war-torn country.
“Giving money was one thing, but I was inspired ... to volunteer, which is something I never thought of doing in the past," Faircloth told NEWS CENTER Maine.
Faircloth said the bravery of the Ukraine people to defend their democracy inspired him to travel to Europe and volunteer.
"To see this foreign, evil dictator attack [Ukraine] really got my blood boiling, and America is supposed to stand on the side of democracy," he said.
Faircloth spent most of his time in Poland's second-largest city, Kraków, where he worked with the humanitarian nonprofit organization A Drop in the Ocean, or Dråpen i Havet, based in Oslo, Norway.
"We were providing clothing because a lot of Ukrainian refugees just left with the clothes on their backs," Faircloth explained. “There was a giant mountain of clothes they’d have on the loading dock. They’d have us, volunteers, separating the clothing and another group categorizing the clothing.”
Shannon Fluck is A Drop in the Ocean's logistics coordinator in Kraków. She said they're providing at least 6,000 articles of clothing and shoes to 1,000 refugees every day. Ukrainians have access to the nonprofit's free shop six days a week.
"A free shop is a concept where people affected by certain crises can choose clothes and shoes in a dignified way," Fluck said. "It's not like distribution where we give people a pack. [Refugees] can actually choose what they want. It's set up like a shop and allows people to come and pick out what they need."
Faircloth also spent time going back and forth between Medyka, Poland, and Shehyni, Ukraine, pushing a shopping cart distributing food and other essentials to refugees waiting to enter Poland.
"In our shopping carts, we would have blankets, and mittens because it was cold, and oranges and bananas, and candy for the kids, and we’d hand it out and provide it to them," he said. "There were smiles and a lot of friendliness in the interaction, but also, there was a lot of stoicism. You got the picture these people have been through a lot.”
While along the border, Faircloth said he met a New England law school student with military training. He decided to put his studies asides to join the Ukraine army.
"I figured if he could do that, we can volunteer for a nonprofit like A Drop in the Ocean," Faircloth said.
Faircloth hopes that by sharing his story, he will inspire others to help Ukrainians by either donating money or making the trip to Europe to volunteer.
“You will never forget the experience, and you’ll feel like you’re doing something that really matters," he said.