Rachael Ray Reflects on Her Trip to Ukraine: 'With Heart and Soul, Anyone Can Change the World'

The celebrity cook recently traveled with the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America to deliver aid to displaced families

Rachael Ray is a celebrity cook, star of the Rachael Ray show, and philanthropist through her Rachael Ray Foundation. In PEOPLE's Why I Care column, Ray, 53, looks back on her trip to Ukraine and Poland during the ongoing war against Russia. She traveled there with the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, and together with partner organizations Operation White Stork and Ukraine Friends, delivered aid to displaced families. For more from Ray, pick up this week's issue, on stands Friday.

I created my brand almost 20 years ago to be of service. I got married later in life and knew I probably would never have children—but I want to pay my life forward.

With the help of [the nonprofit] Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), I visited Poland and Ukraine for six days in May. Whatever we wanted to give—food, time, money—the UCCA helped arrange it.

We brought a box truck packed with first-aid kits to go directly to the front lines. I get thank-you videos from the people who are using them, and they make me burst into tears.

Rachael Ray Ukraine
Rachael Ray delivered hundreds of toys to local children in orphanages and hospitals. Ukraine Friends Instagram

I visited the largest orphanage in Lviv. There's nothing happy to say about orphanages—the children's homes are gone, their parents are gone—but they are cared for in such a special way, and there is hope in that place. I brought a bunch of toys, and the kids had a crazy Christmas, right in the middle of spring.

Rachael Ray with the mayor of Lviv, Andriy Sadovyi, on May 13.
Rachael Ray with the mayor of Lviv, Andriy Sadovyi, on May 13. Courtesy Rachael Ray

I also visited a children's hospital, where I met twins Yarik and Yana, who were at Kramatorsk station when it was bombed [on April 8]. Their grandmother was [killed]; their mother lost a leg; Yana lost both her legs.

When I went to their room, she wanted to know if she looked okay, so she put her earrings and her favorite necklace on. These people are the bravest, most beautiful human beings on the planet.

My work afforded me the luxury of being there in person, but everyone can do something for Ukraine. Everyone can be a brother or sister to the people who are literally defending democracy for the Western world. With heart and soul, anyone can change the world tomorrow.

The UCCA gives every dollar they get to those who need it. They're incredible people putting their lives on the line every day. [Supporting them] is the best thing I've ever done.

For more information, go to ucca.org.

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