Becker and son make humanitarian trip to Poland, Ukraine

On March 29, a few days after he returned to Iowa from Poland and the Ukraine, Charlie Becker gave a presentation to the community about his humanitarian trip with his son, Chad. (Photo by Kim Brooks)

Charlie took a photo of this road sign leading them into Lviv, Ukraine. (Photo submitted)

In this photo, Charlie (far left) and his son, Chad (far right), arrive at a train station in Warsaw, Poland. Chad’s mutual friend, Sam Akina (center), assisted them in getting to Ukraine. (Photos submitted)

Once in Lviv, Ukraine, these tankstoppers stood in front of the military hospital. (Photo submitted)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     On a whim, father and son, Charlie and Chad Becker, decided to fly out of Des Moines on a humanitarian trip to help the Ukrainian refugees fleeing their war-torn country into Poland.

     On Thursday, March 17, Charlie impulsively emailed his son, who was working at a hospital in California.

     “He has his residency in Palm Springs,” Charlie shared with a crowd at the Monticello Renaissance Center on March 29. “About once every two months he goes out there for three to five days and works in the ER and then he comes back and works for three UnityPoint hospitals in Des Moines.”

     The email stated: “Crazy dad to crazy son… any interest in going to Poland to do a humanitarian project?”

     The thought was they could collect donations of medical supplies and use Chad’s medical background and expertise to be of some service.

     Becker, who is the CEO of Camp Courageous and serves on the UnityPoint Health – Jones Regional Medical Center board, is no stranger to taking such trips.

     “I have done a lot of crazy trips,” he said. “We’ve had some really good times throughout the world going to all kinds of different places.”

     Once Chad agreed to go over to Poland, things started to move rather quickly before their flight on Monday, March 21, from Des Moines to Frankfurt, Germany, and then to Warsaw, Poland.

     Various UnityPoint Health locations throughout Iowa were willing to provide basic medical supplies such as masks and surgical gloves for the Beckers to deliver.

     They also made a connection with a former Iowan who is a documentary filmmaker living in Poland.

     “Thanks to UnityPoint Health team member Scarlett Taylor Moffat, Chad was able to make a connection with an American family living in Poland, Sam Akina, who was going to connect the Beckers with the Ministry of Health in Ukraine,” wrote Mutchler. “In fact, Sam had also organized to have medical supplies sent to Ukraine, as he has many friends at the frontlines. Through generous donations, Sam purchased many trauma kits, tourniquets, blood clotting agents, drones and solar powered batteries to be delivered to Poland and then brought to Ukraine.

     “The timing could not be more perfect, as Chad and Charlie coming to Poland, they were able to intercept these orders and hand-deliver all these much-needed items to reach Ukrainian civilians much more quickly.”

     Becker said Chad also brought back medical supplies from California as well.

     “When you’re in a severe situation, you could care less whether medications are expired or not,” he said.

     Charlie and Chad each had about 100 pounds of medical supplies with them, plus minimal luggage for the few days they would be overseas. Charlie booked their airline tickets through United Airlines, and informed them in advance of their intentions.

     “I told them what we were doing from a humanitarian standpoint,” he said. “What would be the charges? How much could we get for free? They waived some fees and allowed 100 pounds apiece for free.”

     Of making the connection with Akina, Charlie said it was as if it was all meant to be.

     “It was like it was meant to happen. It just came together in pieces.”

     The Beckers booked a hotel in Warsaw, Poland, that they used as their hub, despite not spending a single night there.

     “We needed a hub so if we got separated or something happened, we had a place to go back to,” Charlie explained.

     They met Akina at a train station to head to Krakow, Poland. Once in Poland, they also picked up hundreds of pounds of canned meat to deliver to the frontlines.

     “Our SUV was weighted down. We also took on more medical supplies.”

     The Beckers utilized Uber a lot, and affixed humanitarian symbols and messages on the car to stand out.

     “It’s not going to stop a bomb, but it gets your some of the checkpoints a little quicker,” Charlie said of the symbols.

     The trip to Ukraine took about two hours using the backroads.

     With Chad wanting to help some of the hospitals, Charlie said the task was greater than they initially anticipated.

     “The head surgeon from the largest military hospital in Western Ukraine was in contact with Chad and said they could use him. That was all part of the deal. That’s why we were there. But then the main surgeon said they were on a mandatory 100 percent lockdown. Nobody in; nobody out. So we came all that way… he couldn’t do anything about it.”

     They then made their way to a small, civilian hospital, with no luck.

     “Even to go help the refugees, you had to have credentials.”

     Overall, Charlie said they never felt unsafe or scared for their lives. The people in Poland and Ukraine were more than generous and hospitable.

     “What’s really cool is that Poland is an incredible country and so is Ukraine as far as good people,” he said. “You had two million people who came across that border and you can’t tell at all. No one is wining. No one is complaining. People are taking in a ton of families. You can’t tell there is a problem what-so-ever.”

     He said they tried paying for their drivers’ gas everywhere, but no one was willing to take any money.

     “They just appreciated you being there.”

     By Friday, March 25, the Beckers started their journey back home to Iowa.

     The Monticello Chamber Ambassadors donated money toward Music Mission Kiev, formerly the Kiev Symphony and Orchestra.

     “We are kind of in a unique position here in the State of Iowa as far as Kiev and what is going on in Ukraine,” said Ambassadors Gerald Retzlaff. “They have been here five times and we have a unique relationship with many of those folks. Because Monticello has this special relationship with Music Mission Kiev, we thought if we could do anything to help them, we wanted to do so.

     “It’s obviously going to be a long haul. We’d like to raise some money,” continued Retzlaff.

     If anyone is interested in assisting the Ambassadors with simple fundraising ideas, contact one of the Ambassador members.

     To make a tax-deductible monetary donation, checks can be made out to the Monticello Community Foundation.                

     To assist in donating supplies to hospitals in Ukraine, visit

     Olivia Mutchler, marketing specialist, UnityPoint Health, also contributed to this article.


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