By Emory Morsberger, Rotary Club of Gwinnett County, Georgia, USA
In August I wrote about my June 2022 trip to Ukraine, where I saw firsthand the devastation families were facing as they struggled to survive in the midst of war. A lot has happened since then.
In conjunction with the first anniversary of the war, teams from the nonprofit we established, HelpingUkraine.us, will be installing 45 new generators across Ukraine’s frontlines and in impacted cities and rural villages. It will be our nonprofit’s third mission in 2023.
My friend and fellow Rotary member, Chris Brand, CEO of Friends of Disabled Adults and Children, initially recruited me into this effort. My first visit in June delivered medical equipment purchased with the help of funds raised by Rotary members. Since then, the nonprofit has shipped $1 million of equipment raised with the help of Rotary groups to more than a dozen Ukrainian hospitals. We have contributed generators and blankets to six Ukraine Rotary clubs.
It’s hard to believe that only a year has passed since the violence against Ukrainian freedom began. The effect of the intrusion on Ukraine’s peace is painfully clear in the faces of children I have seen in shelters. It is apparent in the faces of the elderly, whose eyes light up when they see our team arrive with blankets, insulation materials, and wood-burning stoves. And it is evident in the camaraderie our team members feel when we step into rooms lit by generators we provided and share coffee and bread with everyday folks trying to make sense of their new normal.
I saw it last June, the first time I went to Ukraine, and I saw it again when I joined frontline team leader Ken Ward there in early February. Ken and his son, Matt Ward, began our nonprofit’s second mission of the year just a few days before my arrival, regrouping with the church members, Rotarians, and regular citizens Ken has deployed to provide aid across the country.
The mission has grown in complexity and scope – a necessity as the gears of war cause further destruction. What began as an effort to deliver medical supplies has expanded into an efficient production line supplying blankets, wood-burning stoves, generators, and food to people on the frontlines. Donations have enabled HelpingUkraine.us organizers to mobilize more than 120 volunteers and frontline team members. They work every day to ensure the humanitarian pipeline is seamless and accountable.
Ken’s inspiring enthusiasm has strengthened our partnerships on the ground, making it possible to provide help throughout Ukraine. Our network is solid and functional because we’ve worked hard to achieve smooth logistical coordination across the board: from planning, to loading, to shipping, to delivering.
One example is our relationship with the Odessa People’s Church. The church is effectively serving as a vein from the grassroots into the heart of frontline cities and rural communities that, lacking infrastructure, need the most help. Because of this unique opportunity to assist both large cities and smaller villages, our team is currently exploring a relationship with the Ukrainian government to streamline these outreach efforts.
We remain laser-focused on helping the people of Ukraine. We want to continue supporting Ukrainian children who are scared for themselves, their families, and their futures. We want to continue to hear stories about how our equipment has saved lives. By supplying people with aid, we also give them hope.
Our local Harbor Country [southwest Berrien County] club in District #6360 has been approached by Elllie Mullins the daughter-in-law of one of our membes. Ellie’s friend Natali Gnatyuk is a Ukranian dog breeder. Natali has fled to Poland with her animals, but she travels to Ukraine with the help of an American ex-marine named Phil Ehr. Phil is currently making trips to Ukraine and working with other volunteers there, who were there during the terrible attacks on Dnipro. Phil is using a “needs-led” mission to help get people the things they truly need and have requested, like manka (sp?) a porridge thats a staple diet for people, as well as medical supplies and trench candles. Filling a van with requested supplies, including small generators costs around $10,000.
Yes, the Rotary Way — leading by example.
You all are awesome.
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