Over 12 thousand soldiers have been wounded since the start of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. Many if not most suffer injuries that require major rehabilitation and physical therapy, yet, unfortunately, the Ukrainian healthcare system, which has remained little developed since Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union, is unable to provide the quality of care and options these soldiers need. Instead, volunteers have stepped in to fill the gap to help as they can. Ukrainian-born American Iryna Vaschuk is one of them. Iryna has been arranging physical therapy and rehabilitation for Ukrainian soldiers in the US at the Next Step Rehabilitation Center. After the success of the center, Iryna decided to open a similar center in Ukraine to make it possible for more soldiers to undergo Neurological Physiotherapy - a type of physical therapy that focuses on treating head and spinal injuries that lead to selective paralysis.
In 2019 Iryna opened the first Next Step Physical Therapy center in Ukraine, in a town called Irpin just outside of Kyiv. Significantly, the center has been greeted by overwhelmingly positive stories and feedback from soldiers. With serious need and a proven model, the next idea was to open more centers in other Ukrainian cities, starting with the largest city in Western Ukraine, Lviv. The local international Rotary Club has been following the growth of Next Step from the US to Ukraine, and joined the initiative as a major partner, along with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Revived Soldiers of Ukraine charitable foundation.
As part of the partners' involvement, Rotary Club Lviv International will help buy needed equipment and machines; the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has agreed to provide and help with maintenance of space for the center; and Revived Soldiers Ukraine will train physical therapists and help manage the center to ensure consistent standards of care in line with Next Step's proven formula.
Once opened, Next Step Lviv expects to be able to welcome and contribute to full mobility and a fulfilling life for around 20 soldiers a month.