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Ukrainian children, all under the age of twelve and some as young as six, faced their fears by climbing one of Austria’s mountains.

Hope and Healing

In a small village in the Austrian Alps, surrounded by mothers, a grandmother, and children displaced from war-torn Ukraine, Amit Oren, PhD, Nathan Schmidt U.S. Marine, and Dan Crossen, Navy Seal were candles of hope and healing.

The March 10, 2024 episode of CBS’ 60 Minutes, told the riveting story of twelve Ukrainian widows and their children on a journey to healing. The children, all under the age of twelve and some as young as six, faced their fears by rappelling and climbing one of America’s tallest dams. If you have a fear of heights, you’ll want to lean back in your chair away from the screen. (Watch the program here.)

Helping People

The story in the story is how one person’s healing from trauma can be the light to help another person in the midst of trauma.

Amit, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry, traveled to Piesendorf, Austria in late July 2023 to create and implement a wellness retreat for Ukrainian families. The gathering was coordinated by Mountain Seed Foundation, a Virginia-based organization which works to heal children and families from war-torn countries like Ukraine.

The foundation’s organizers believe in the healing power of nature, and the seventeen children in Oren’s retreat were challenged to a week of high-altitude mountain climbing on some of the world’s most beautiful peaks.

While the children climbed, she taught the twelve mothers how to self-care during times of crisis and how to cope with long term uncertainty. She helped the women tune into their emotions and identify positive sensations despite the horrors they were experiencing.

Dr Amit

Amit is Jewish with deep roots in Ukraine. In 1903 her maternal great-grandmother fled Kiev with her eight children. The family settled in Israel in a village a mile from the border with Jordan with eleven other Jewish families. Exactly thirty years later, in 1933, her paternal grandmother fled Germany with her boys. They lived a year in Lebanon and ultimately were granted permission to enter Israel where Oren’s parents met. What better way to bring hope to these desperate Ukrainian families than by saying, “My ancestors were refugees who experienced the same painful journey, hardships, and losses as you.”

US Marine

Nathan Schmidt, lieutenant colonel U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, founded the charity, the Mountain Seed Foundation. Nathan served three tours in Iraq and lost mentors and buddies in the war. He found healing in mountain climbing, an activity that terrified him. Facing his fears was a path to healing from grief. Nathan wanted others experiencing traumatic loss to experience the freedom he found. He took the name of the charity from the Bible. “With faith the size of a mustard seed, one can move mountains.” Nathan says, “We’re not a religious organization, but that faith in something bigger… if you can reinforce that faith, we can move mountains.”

Navy Seal

Nathan had with him his old friend, Dan Cnossen, a Navy SEAL veteran who lost his legs to an IED, during a nighttime mission with his platoon in Afghanistan. Dan was one of many guides and volunteers with the program. Cnossen climbed for the first time since losing his legs in 2009.

Dan’s story of recovery was one more light for the women and their children.


These families developed a kind of courage that will need to be embraced by so many more Ukrainian families. 70% of Ukrainians have a friend or family member on the frontlines of the war.

Pray for Ukraine. Pray for evil to be pushed back and for grieving families to find hope. And healing. There are people who care and are doing all they can to feed the hungry and care for the afflicted. And there are Canadians who are working and giving to raise support for the, See how you can help in an All Canadian fundraiser.

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Bob Jones

Happily married to Jocelyn for 44 years. We have two adult sons, Cory and his wife Lynsey and their son Vincent and daughter Jayda; Jean Marc and his wife Angie and their three daughters, Quinn, Lena and Annora. I love inspiring people through communicating, blogging, and coaching. I enjoy writing, running, and reading. I'm a fan of the Double E, Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox and Pats. Follow me on Twitter @bobjones49ers

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