On November 15th, five visitors from Ukraine visited San Antonio in pursuit of examining strategies that support civic agendas, facilitate social movements, and build capacity for advocacy. The majority of the meetings arranged involved organizations that support various minority groups. Meeting with representatives from the Bexar County Veterans Service Office and the Wounded Warrior Project addressed the challenges and successes of supporting veterans. Meeting with these two organizations emphasized San Antonio’s undeniable involvement & attraction to the United States’ military, housing the nation’s largest active and retired military populations. After all, we are known as the nation’s “Military City”. The visitors quickly found common ground with representatives from both veteran organizations in hopes of combatting the same issue in their home county. Since 2014, Ukraine soldiers and civilians have combated Russian military aggression, leaving soldiers disabled and citizens displaced. In fact, the staff at the Wounded Warrior Project was surprised to learn that Ukraine as a Wounded Warrior project of their own, called Wounded Warrior Ukraine!
Meeting with former mayor of San Antonio, Phil Hardberger reminded the visitors of the displacement issue Texas repeatedly faces in the wake of destructive hurricanes. Throughout the meeting, the visitors and former mayor exchanged practices on effective services for individuals who have fled their homes, applicable to both those fleeing from conflict or natural disasters. Phil Hardberger successfully provided housing for thousands of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina and Rita, many of whom remain in the area today. Fortunately, San Antonio did not have to prepare for such drastic measures in the recent wake of Hurricane Irma.
Lastly, the visitors met with representatives from Eva’s Heroes and visited Morgan’s Wonderland to learn the various ways San Antonio supports those with disabilities and developmental delays. Eva’s Heroes provides strategies for sustaining healthy, independent lifestyles through recreational and leisure opportunities. On the day of their meeting, Eva’s Heroes hosted a dance event allowing the visitors to interact with the teenagers who rely on their services. Perhaps the most interactive meeting of all was the visit to the 25 acre theme park designed with special-needs individuals in mind, Morgan’s Wonderland. Touring the park during open hours allowed the Ukrainian visitors to witness park guests utilizing the rides and interactive activities, sometimes even participating themselves! Truly one of a kind, Morgan’s Wonderland is an international attraction, welcoming visitors from around the globe every year.