When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, CU Denver International studies Alum Felita Gosau Reed, along with her Ukrainian husband and Ukrainian friend, launched a grassroots effort to collect and deliver needed medical supplies and transport and relocate refugees. Here, CU Denver News tells more about Reed’s journey, including how her time at CU Denver helped her focus on her dreams of making a difference in the world.
As a child, CU Denver Alum Felita Gosau Reed, a native Hawaiian who grew up on the North Shore of Oahu in a family that worked in tourism, dreamed of one day traveling the world. “I would befriend hotel guests from all over,” Gosau Reed recalls. “I grew up in a place that people have always wanted to visit while always wanting to visit other places.”
Gosau Reed started at CU Denver in January 2017, after working in the military for several years as an Arabic cryptological linguist. “I chose CU Denver because it was more non-traditional, they took the GI Bill, and I was going back to school at 27 and felt really comfortable on campus,” she says. . She was able to transfer previous undergraduate credits and many military credits after attending language school in the military.
In the fall of 2017, Gosau Reed participated in CU Denver’s political science-focused study abroad program in Berlin: Bridging Global Divides. “We focused on comparative politics related to refugee politics and sustainability,” says Gosau Reed. She and her CU Denver student partner were interned for three months at an emergency refugee shelter in Berlin housing mostly Syrian refugees, deepening her growing interest and commitment to finding a career in international affairs.
“The program is great for students because it allows them to immerse themselves in German culture and politics,” says Christoph Stefes, program director and professor of political science. “In addition to the courses they take in Berlin, the internships are so meaningful. Students have worked with refugees and in environmental NGOs (non-governmental organizations).
While in Berlin, Gosau Reed fell in love with her future husband Kostja Gosau Reed, a Ukrainian living in the neighborhood who worked in project management for sustainable rural tourism associations. Despite the challenges, the couple maintained the relationship after returning to campus. She continued to take classes and after being back in the United States about six months to reset her visa, she returned to Germany and completed the rest of her studies at CU Denver online, while taking courses in ‘German.
Finding a Niche in International Studies
Gosau Reed credits CU Denver for helping her focus her interest in all things international more narrowly. “I really enjoyed my classes and my teachers, and discovered that I was particularly interested in foreign policy and international cooperation,” she says. “Choosing to complete my studies online meant that I had to learn about online collaboration, something that has ultimately served me so well over the past two years.”
Gosau Reed earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies from CU Denver in May 2019. “I got along really well with Christoph and asked him about good schools in Europe that taught English,” she says. “He mentioned the Hertie School, a private university that primarily focuses on international affairs, public policy, and now data science.” She obtained a master’s degree in international affairs there in June 2021.
She applied for an international relations position (for which she is currently nearing the end of a lengthy background check) and worked on volunteering projects in Germany while Kostja continued her master’s studies in public policy and change. social studies at the University of Tübingen. In February 2022, she returned to Hawaii to spend time with her family before starting her new job later this year.
Meanwhile, although the pandemic forced them to forgo a traditional wedding, the couple married in 2020. “Our neighborhood registry office was still marrying people in a small chapel inside of a building that had been a hospital,” she said. “We couldn’t have guests but we had witnesses and a photographer.”
Turning concerns for Ukraine into action
When Russia invaded Ukraine, Gosau Reed was in Hawaii. Worried about her family and friends in Ukraine, she, Kostja and one of her classmates in Germany, Viktoriya Tregub, also from Ukraine, pondered how to help.
“Viktoriya is originally from Kyiv, studied undergraduate in Poland and knew someone who could help us deliver supplies to Ukraine, which eventually led to helping with the relocation of refugees,” says Gosau Reed. “We knew they needed medical supplies and my husband has a pharmacist friend who eventually put us in touch with other pharmacists who gave us a substantial discount on supply orders.”
Gosau Reed reached out to his family members and friends for support and funding. “A lot of people didn’t trust the organizations, but they trusted us,” she says. Urgently needed medical supplies are purchased in Germany, dropped off in Poland and then transported to crisis areas in Ukraine. While in Poland, Kostja and Viktoriya also pick up refugees and transport them to accommodation in Germany. Gosau Reed takes care of the substantive coordination with individuals, a partner association and grassroots groups.
“They joke and call me ‘the night shift’ because Hawaii is 11 hours behind Germany,” said Gosau Reed. “So when they wake up all the accounts have already been made and I usually have a group of refugees to contact. We actively help Ukrainians and non-Ukrainians, that is, everyone who is trying to get out. So far, I think we’ve had four trips where my husband and our friend brought the medical supplies to a town in Poland that’s actually a dance school.
The school collects the supplies and a volunteer organizes transport to Ukraine. “As far as the return of refugees is concerned, we coordinate with volunteers to find people who need to be transported to Germany,” says Gosau Reed. “Everything is done online and via Facebook. My husband’s family is still in Ukraine and has friends of friends who might need transportation. We pick them up in Poland near the Ukrainian border. It would be very dangerous for anyone to enter Ukraine, and we try to keep everyone as safe as possible. »
Although they have teamed up with a non-profit (cassiopeia-ev.de) for help with German regulatory and financial issues, the group remains widely popular “because governments can take a long time to find and then implement decisions, while grassroots efforts can respond more quickly and effectively.”
Provide sustainable aid for the future
“We’re talking about starting our own nonprofit and applying for government funding, which my husband already has experience in,” says Gosau Reed. “I hope at some point this will continue as a paid project for him and our friend. I will continue as a volunteer. The career path I am moving towards now is more in administration within of international organizations.
Like many Ukrainians, Kostja’s family is staying put. “They’re in a sort of stuck position, in a city that’s surrounded, so it’s a risk to leave and a risk to stay,” says Gosau Reed. “It turned into realizing that we may not be able to help his family directly, but we can help other Ukrainian families and hope someone else can help ours.”
To find out more about how you can help, go to cassiopeia-ev.deor follow Gosau Reed on @felilita(Instagram) and Reed Felita Gosau (LinkedIn).