Local woman travels to Europe to help Ukrainian refugees

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Kelly Bushey, Ph.D., displays some of the messages Ukrainian women wrote on trail-marking tape, which she plans to attach to a kite and fly soon in honor of the country of Ukraine. Bushey and Debbie Stout recently returned from a trip to Eastern Europe, where they assisted women and children displaced by the ongoing war.

ALPENA ­– When war breaks out, most people don’t just jump on a plane to get closer to it. But Kelly Bushey is not like most people.

The Alpena Community College adjunct instructor is best known locally as Dr. Bushey (pronounced Bu-Shay). Born in Alpena and raised in Ossineke, she has a heart for helping others. So when she heard of an opportunity to help women and children who had escaped their native Ukraine as refugees, she wanted to help them in-person.

“I went over Easter break,” she noted. “I went with the intention to help mothers and children who had to flee their country of Ukraine. And I went to offer hope, and help, and a safe place for them to express their emotions about what they were feeling.”

She and Debbie Stout partnered with the international youth ministry, Word of Life International, which has colleges and youth camps in over 80 countries.

“For decades, they’ve been offering hope to children around the world,” Bushey said of Word of Life International.

Courtesy Photos Dyma, 5, smiles while playing with a playdough toy and planning to eat a Kit-Kat bar.

In April, she and Stout traveled to Eastern Europe, specifically Romania and Hungary, to bring supplies, toys, and support to mothers and children who had to flee Ukraine because of Russian attacks.

“We met with mothers for psychoeducational groups with narrative therapy,” said Bushey, who has a Ph.D. in psychology with a cultural diversity emphasis. “Art and play therapy was used for the children in order that they may begin to express their emotions in a safe environment.”

Most of the refugees did not speak English, so a translator was used during most sessions, said Bushey, who lives in Ossineke. Bushey had a 10-year-old translator when she worked with the children.

“They had left their country 51 days before I had met them,” she said of the refugees. “So, when I showed up, the war had been going, and it’s still going on in their country.”

She said they basically left with very little but the shirts on their backs. Children wanted to pack bags with their toys, but there was no time or room for that. So they were very appreciative of the toys the women brought.

Kelly Bushey holds up the world globe beach ball she used during her first ice-breaker activity with the children in Romania. The X represents Russia, which a young girl traced when there was no other way to express her feelings because of the language barrier.

Alpena Alcona Area Credit Union donated yo-yos and playdough for art and play therapy for the children. Bushey and Stout stocked up on hygiene products and things like melatonin vitamins to help the mothers get a good night’s rest.

Dyma, a 5-year-old Ukrainian boy, learned how to use a yo-yo. He also enjoyed playing with the playdough and toys that were presented to him.

Another child could not speak English, but Bushey used a beach ball with a globe printed on it to break the ice. She was talking to the child, who marked an X over Russia. No words needed to be said. Message understood.

In one session, the women took the provided trail-marking ribbon and wrote their expressions of grief. These ribbons will be tied to the tail of a kite and lifted up for them and the country of Ukraine.

Bushey hopes to fly the kite at Sanborn Elementary School (where she attended school when she was Dyma’s age).

Bushey recently joined Alpena Community College history class remotely with the Political Science and History Instructor Tim Kuehnlein for an engaging and interactive discussion. Bushey was impressed with the students’ engagement and participation.

Bushey is a psychologist, motivational speaker and founder of Cherith Counseling & Conference Ministries. She is an adjunct instructor of psychology at ACC.

Her main motivation for going to Romania and Hungary in the middle of a tumultuous war was to do what the Lord asked of her. She felt a calling to go, and she answered it.

“Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you,” Bushey recited 1 Peter 5:7 from the Bible.

She knew God would take care of her and the refugees in their struggle. She shared that scripture with them, and they were grateful for it.

Friends asked Bushey before she left, if she was afraid.

She responded, “There is no safer place for me to be than in God’s will, and where He wants me.”


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