Grad student develops materials to help Ukrainian refugees

March 29, 2022

Shot of Thomas Kinton on the field during the Afghanistan refugee crisis

Thomas Kinton, MS ’22, was compelled to offer a unique skillset to Ukrainian refugees — the publication of a Smart Book designed purposefully to enable aid workers to safely continue delivering supplies and services.

“Last summer, as the Afghanistan refugee crisis unfolded, my wife and I were drawn in to help,” said Kinton, who is completing a master’s in instructional design. “We live in Kaiserslautern, Germany, and she is a U.S. Army Civil Affairs officer, and I am a retired Civil Affairs officer.”

Kinton and his wife were engaged full-time with the efforts for around three months.

“When the Ukraine situation unfolded, I re-connected with several organizations doing refugee support operations and was asked to contribute some thoughts to a Smart Book,” he said. “As I have four combat tours and was the senior civil affairs instructor for around five years in the U.S. Army Reserve, my skill set came in handy.”

The Smart Book was conceived after a request from a friend in the Youth With a Mission. He expressed great concern that the Youth With a Mission members in Ukraine were not trained or prepared to deal with active war-zone conditions.

“He asked me to develop a set of materials that could be either printed up on laminated pocket cards and/or built into a mobile phone application,” Kinton said. “The Smartbook is complete, and I am in the process of converting it into a simple app for mobile use.”

Youth With a Mission is a Christian youth organization with thousands of workers around the world — including about 100 on the ground in Ukraine.

“After the things I have seen in my career, it’s good to be able to contribute to work that builds things up in time of need,” he said. “I suppose you could say it gives me a little closure after four deployments trying hard to do the right thing.”

The Smart Book will be distributed in both physical and virtual form — through laminated pocket cards and a mobile app.

Members of the university community helped with translation included Christopher Ball, Director Central European Institute & Istvan Szechenyi Chair and associate professor of economics; Gedeon Werner, Novak Family Polish Chair; and Adam Roth, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

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