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Anchorage woman recognized as CNN Hero, for work with Ukrainian refugee crisis

Published: May. 10, 2022 at 9:59 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage resident Teresa Gray has been recognized as a CNN Hero after working to provide aid to thousands of Ukrainian refugees in Romania through the humanitarian organization she founded, Mobile Medics International.

Gray specializes in sending small, mobile teams of four to eight medical volunteers who go into remote areas. A need she recognized after working with other refugee crisis groups. Gray most recently flew to Romania to support Ukrainian refugees suffering from the Russian invasion.

“There’s a quote I really like that says: somebody should do something about that and then I realized, I am somebody,” said Gray.

People around the world have been moved by the compelling coverage of Ukrainians in distress, fleeing their homes after the Russian invasion began in late February, but the scope of the situation can be difficult to comprehend. For many of the millions of people fleeing from Ukraine, Romania has become a major stopping point over the border, which is where Gray and a small team of volunteer medics have spent weeks providing lifesaving aid to refugees.

“Unfortunately I’m sort of a refugee crisis expert because I’ve done so many around the world,” Gray says.

In April, her expertise has received national recognition as a CNN Hero, which is an award recognizing everyday people doing extraordinary things to help others. Despite the national praise and publicity for her organizations efforts to provide care to approximately 30,000 people on five separate continents, Gray remains humble and wants to focus on serving people in need.

“It’s really uncomfortable, it’s extremely uncomfortable,” Gray said. “I’m really really honored that we are a CNN Hero — it’s fantastic — but it’s uncomfortable for me personally, because I may be the face of MMI but the real work is all the volunteers that go.”

When one woman, whose 90 year old mother asked for help, Gray’s volunteers literally went the extra mile by driving her to the border so she coul see Ukraine one last time, because she doesn’t think she will ever go back. Aside from medical care provided near Ukraine in Romania, Gray’s group also organized a warehouse full of donated goods, delivered supplies, and provided care for other nearby refugees.

“As an American citizen, that has never been my reality, I have never had to worry about fleeing my home in the middle of the night because of a foreign invasion,” Gray said. “That’s just not even on my radar, and so it’s experiencing emotions that you’ve never had to experience before because, you’ve never had to think about it, and listening to their story and standing there and holding their hands and looking with them across to where their homeland is — and it was actively on fire — you could see big plumes of smoke where they were bombing them and setting things on fire and just, you can feel their pain and their anguish and desperation and you know that there’s not much more that you can do for them, like you cant make it safe for them.”

Gray was also named Alaskan of the Week by Sen. Dan Sullivan. Even with the national attention, Gray has no plans to slow down.

“I’m sure there will come a time when everybody is like Teresa needs to stop,” Gray said. “But what I’m hoping to do I’m hoping to build MMI so it can continue on past me, I think it’s my legacy.”

In the six years since its introduction, Gray never imagined that Mobile Medics International would go this far. To Gray, providing care so that each refugee knows that someone cares about them takes the highest priority.

Gray is set to head back to Romania to continue her efforts in a week. This trip, around not only will Mobile Medics perform medical aid as needed, but they will also do training classes for search and rescue crews to teach them wartime and trauma medicine.

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