Credit: George Danby

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William Lambers  is an author who partnered with the United Nations World Food Program on the book “Ending World Hunger.”

For Valentine’s Day in 1940 a unique dinner and dance was held in New York City. But this was not your typical Valentine’s event as World War II was raging in Europe. An evening of fundraising was dedicated as “A Valentine for the Children of France.”

France was at war with Nazi Germany. Things would soon get worse as France would fall to Germany in June 1940.

Donations were raised on Valentine’s Day for the “International Committee for the Aid of the Children of France” as well as support for the children and wives of French aviators.

The First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was among the donors, sending a generous contribution from the White House. This Valentine’s Day event was among early efforts to support nations suffering from war and resisting aggression.

Support for France and other World War II devastated nations would continue all the way through the reconstruction known as the Marshall Plan. A Valentine’s Day benefit to help war victims was in keeping with the origin of the day. Saint Valentine was devoted to helping those who were persecuted by the Roman Empire.

As this year’s Valentine’s Day arrives there are also victims of war that need our help. The brave people of Ukraine are resisting the Russian invasion. Millions of Ukrainians have been displaced from their homes and are experiencing the hardship of winter amid the war. Ukrainians live with the constant danger of Russian missiles striking their cities. Power outages are frequent as Russia targets civilian infrastructure as part of Putin’s cruelty.

It’s important to keep supporting the people of Ukraine with the hope that Russian forces will soon withdraw and finally recognize the futility of war.

There are also other war victims we need to help. There are the starving and displaced people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, which don’t receive much attention. That is why Pope Francis recently visited those two African nations, which have suffered from internal conflict.

War-torn Syria and Turkey were devastated by a recent earthquake, and urgently need help. Kieren Barnes, Mercy Corps’ Country Director for Syria, says: “Supplies of goods inside of Northwest Syria are quickly depleting, and prices are likely to start skyrocketing……In addition to supplies, shelter is a priority need. Mercy Corps staff have observed many people sleeping in cars and staying in heavily damaged buildings. People don’t know where to go and there is extremely limited guidance or coordination on shelter options.”

This year for Valentine’s Day you could participate in an event benefiting war and earthquake victims. You could host a fundraiser for the UN World Food Program, UNICEF, Save the Children, CARE, Mercy Corps, Edesia, Catholic Relief Services, Mary’s Meals, and other charities that need help to provide relief to those suffering.

You could give a Valentine’s gift to a “silent guest” by donating to one of the charities. Your gift to a war or disaster victim abroad could provide life-saving meals.

Small children in impoverished countries need a Valentine’s gift of food to prevent deadly malnutrition.

That is how you can make this Valentine’s Day special by sending love to those who need it most, the starving war and earthquake victims.