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Student serves as humanitarian aid volunteer in Ukraine while taking online classes
Student Nicholas Dore in Bakhmut, December 2022

Student serves as humanitarian aid volunteer in Ukraine while taking online classes

September 22, 2023 at 10:15am

Last spring, Tudor Parfitt, professor of Religious Studies at the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs, met Nicholas Dore, an International Relations student in his senior year. Dore could not get to his first class on religion and society in the Middle East in person and requested the chance to attend online.

“I sent him an email,” Dore shared, “saying, ‘Professor, I'm so sorry, I won't be able to make it to class. I'm in Bakhmut, Ukraine.’ And I think he said it was in all his years of teaching one of the craziest excuses he had ever received.”

“It was a dramatic first meeting,” Parfitt said. “That very day, the news reports were full of the bloody fighting around Bakhmut. I wondered what kind of student would be spending his school vacation in such a place.” 

Dore became interested in volunteering in Ukraine when Russia first invaded the country in February 2022. He volunteered from May to September before returning to FIU in fall to attend classed in person. He has since gone back to Ukraine twice and is currently volunteering while taking courses online for his double major in international relations and religious studies.

“I just wanted to lend a helping hand to the Ukrainian people,” Dore explains. “Like most people, I was just seeing it all unfold on the news. And then President Zelensky said, ‘We need people to come and fight for us. We need people to come to do medical work, humanitarian work, all types of help.’”

In Ukraine, Dore has volunteered with Base UA, a Ukrainian nongovernmental organization (NGO) helping with civilian evacuations in the region. He has worked in its mobile clinic, which provides medical care to civilians near the front line, and delivered food and medicine to those who cannot evacuate or choose to remain in the area.

“We'll go to wherever they request from. Usually these are places that are being hit by artillery,” Dore said. “We'll usually bring them back to a shelter in one of the cities behind the front line or put them on an evacuation train, and it'll take them to Kyiv or anywhere they might want to go. Our biggest thing is just getting them out of the hot zone and getting them back to a shelter or an evacuation train.

“It's just very hard to explain to people how it feels that every second of your life you're worried about something falling on top of you like a missile or something like that. There’s no United Nations, there's no Red Cross. This is the front lines between Russia and Ukraine. So, the only ones that can help out are the small NGOs, like the one I volunteer with,” Dore explains.

This summer, Dore also participated in Project Aladdin, an international two-week study abroad program which aims to fight extremism and bigotry through lectures, workshops and discussions. Dore was invited to a session in Istanbul, Turkey, where he and his fellow students discussed the impact of ecological disasters on fractured societies. He said the experience was enriching and nurtured unique discussions and intercultural exchanges.

Currently in his final semester at FIU, Dore plans to continue his studies and is interested in pursuing a master’s program in Russian or Slavic studies. He credits the support and guidance of his mentors at the Green School, like professors Naisy Sarduy, Carlos Grenier and Parfitt, for keeping him on a solid path to his future.

“I can't even just explain everything that he's done for me,” says Dore about Parfitt. “I value it so much. I've really been able to take a huge step forward, not only personally, but in my career because of him. I value his mentorship very much, and I'll continue to do so."

“Nicholas is a rare individual indeed,” says Parfitt. “I haven’t had many students like him. Had he been born earlier, he would have volunteered on the correct side in the Spanish Civil War. He puts his ideals above everything. It has been a privilege to know him.”

Dore says the most rewarding part of his time volunteering has been the kindness reciprocated by those whom he has helped. 

“They've probably seen their home for the last time,” he explained “They've seen it destroyed in flames. Just seeing that smile on their faces when you bring them to the evacuation train or to the shelter has definitely been the most rewarding thing I've gotten from them.

 “I feel like I've found my calling in life over here, and I’m moved by the Ukrainian people and just how strong they are and their resilience during these difficult times. It's kept me motivated to just keep going no matter how hard things get.”