2022 was an extraordinary year of service for Project HOPE and our Vermont relationships deepened.


With much strife in the world today, I was still thankful for the human connections that we made through helping people in need. Our CEO, Rabih Torbay, recently highlighted three very personal interactions he had this year that I thought would be interesting to share with Valley Reporter readers.

The first was a Ukrainian doctor he met on a trip to Irpin and Bucha. The doctor explained that Russian snipers were targeting health care workers and people were afraid to go out and get the bodies as they’d become targets themselves. This doctor, while still working tirelessly to care for injured patients, took it upon himself to negotiate with the Russians to safely gather the dead; he dug the graves himself and buried over 200 bodies. He just couldn’t leave his colleagues where they fell. As our team left him, he said, “don’t let the world forget what happened here.”

A second encounter, also in Ukraine, was with a woman in hospital who had been shot in the arm while her hands were raised surrendering. The bullet traveled through her arm, into her side and lodged in her sternum. Fortunately, she was taken to a still functional hospital, one that we were supporting, and she was getting decent care. The HOPE team was moved to tears listening to her story. Her concern was for Rabih and, as she took his hand, she said carefully, and proudly, in English, “Thank you very much. It will be alright.”

A final encounter occurred in a clinic in Ethiopia. The country saw a devastating drought, civil conflict, and a large displacement of people in 2022. Children have suffered disproportionally. Malnutrition is a major problem and infant mortality is six times higher than in the U.S. While Rabih was at the clinic, a small boy, maybe 5 and under-fed, tugged on his pant leg, smiled at him, and engaged him in play. He played with the boy for a half hour or so. Kids will be kids, no matter the circumstances or where you go. They long for human interaction.

In the face of hardships, we can only imagine sitting here in the U.S., human beings prove to be resilient, determined, thoughtful, courageous, caring and playful. Sometimes all they need is a little help. The human spirit is indominable and can overcome just about anything. I am thankful that our work in 2022 reminded me of this fact.

The Vermont connection? We attracted the attention of Phish for our work in Ukraine and were extremely grateful to receive funding from their Burlington-based WaterWheel Foundation and from the sale of Jim Pollack’s artwork for our benefit. We are putting it to good use and I am sure our aide efforts in Ukraine, and other parts of the world, will be continuing for a long while.

Mooney lives in Waitsfield and is the Project HOPE board chair.