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Texas couple traveling to Poland to help Ukrainian refugees

Jeff Teasdale and Debrah Candelas started planning their mission to Poland in March. They will be near a Ukrainian refugee camp for two weeks.

PFLUGERVILLE, Texas — Jeff Teasdale and Debrah Candelas first began talking about helping the people of Ukraine last month. Since then, those plans have materialized and, on Tuesday, they'll fly out to Poland to help Ukrainian refugees who have escaped the war with Russia.

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"These are civilians, these are women, these are children," Teasdale said. "These are people that don't want bombings and everything that's happening to them right now. And if we can help in some way, we have the means."

Both Teasdale and Candelas have previous experience helping those in crisis. Candelas, a traveling nurse, helped people relocate in Texas after Hurricane Katrina. Teasdale assisted in the rescue efforts after Hurricane Harvey.

"That opportunity presented itself, and that was kind of the catalyst that set us on this path," Candelas said after seeing posts by the non-government group Rescuers Without Borders.

Candelas said those posts in her social media groups for travel nurses prompted her to consider more seriously traveling to Poland to help. Rescuers Without Borders is based in Paris and goes by its French name, Sauveteurs Sans Frontières.

"The organization reached out and was looking for doctors and nurses specifically," Candelas said. 

As for why the couple wants to help, it comes down to one simple reason.

"If it was my kids and my family, I'd want somebody to do it for them," Teasdale said. "We have the time, we have the availability."

The two have already collected more than 75 pounds of donations, from bandages to children's puzzles. Many of the donations were collected by Sugar Shine Bakery in Buda. 

For those that cannot donate physical items, Teasdale and Candelas collected $3,000 in cash contributions, plus they started a GoFundMe that's raised about $1,300. The cash contributions will help pay for logistics of their trip, and the leftover money will be donated locally in Poland.

"Anybody who could use it if there's anything left over ... we're not putting anything in our pockets for this," Teasdale said. "Somebody needs help somewhere. We'll figure it out."

The couple will be staying just outside Krakow and commuting to the Ukrainian refugee camp each day for two weeks to help wherever needed. Candelas expects she'll be using her nurse skills while Teasdale said he'll do anything asked of him, from heavy lifting to applying bandages. The couple flies out of Austin on Tuesday for the mission.

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