In February 2015, in response to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine brought on by Russian aggression, major Ukrainian organizations in Canada met and established The Ukraine Appeal, a national humanitarian initiative, under the guidance of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC). The Ukraine Appeal now unites 12 organizations and consists of a Coordinating Council and three Advisory Groups made up of representatives from various organizations and regions of the country focusing on Medical Aid, Humanitarian Aid and Supplies & Logistics. The Ukraine Appeal was formed to help facilitate collaboration between various organizations, provide advice to the Ukrainian community in the planning and implementation of various projects, and to identify and promote projects in support of Ukraine by organizations from around the country.
The New Pathway spoke to John Holuk, the coordinator of the Ukraine Appeal. He explained that the group strives to assist the Ukrainian Canadian community to effectively provide Humanitarian and Medical Aid to Ukraine. It also tries to improve the awareness of the community of what various organisations are doing in order to inspire individuals and organizations and identify opportunities to work together.
The Ukraine Appeal invites organizations working on assistance to Ukraine to contact the Ukraine Appeal to discuss their projects and plans to assist Ukraine. The Ukraine Appeal has accumulated significant experience in shipping humanitarian and medical aid to Ukraine, often a difficult and frustrating experience in the past. The Ukraine Appeal’s Advisory Groups have developed a network of individuals with logistical, technical and medical expertise, identified partners to provide logistical and transportation support and trusted partners in Ukraine that can assist with customs clearance and ensure the aid gets to those in need.
John Holuk noted that, on a number of occasions in the past, entire shipments of goods from Canada either were rejected, delayed significantly at customs, or faced exorbitant fees. Organizations sending aid to Ukraine can now pre-approve the container with Ukraine’s Ministry of Social Policy and have the shipment certified as Humanitarian Aid before it arrives in Ukraine. The certified container then clears customs using a stream-lined process which dramatically reduces any delays. Recently, containers sent to Ukraine using this process have typically cleared customs in less than 18 hours.
The Supplies and Logistics group focuses on obtaining and shipping three major groups of goods to Ukraine: ambulances and vehicles, medical supplies and humanitarian aid, and medical and rehabilitation equipment. There have already been a number of good examples of cooperation in the community. A current initiative, led by UCC-Toronto Euromaidan Committee with contributions and volunteers from the League of Ukrainian Canadians, Children of Chornobyl Fund, Canada Ukraine Foundation (CUF) and the Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Association, is coming together to send containers of medical and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. In 2015, this group cooperated to successfully send three containers of medical supplies and equipment, humanitarian goods, children’s clothing, toys for orphanages, and refurbished computers for educational institutions to those in need.
The estimated value of the goods which have been shipped to Ukraine since the launch of Ukraine Appeal directly by the community or through events supported by community volunteers is approaching $1,500,000. This includes the shipment of four ambulances worth a total of $100,000, which have been donated to Ukraine and equipped by a project team that included the Government of Saskatchewan, the Paramedics of Canada, SURAC (Saskatchewan Ukrainian Advisory Council) and UCC Toronto-EuroMaidan Committee. The UCC – Manitoba Provincial Council and the Government of Manitoba have donated four more ambulances to Ukraine, along with the first ambulance from Ontario – making this a truly national project. The goal of the project is to send a total of 16 ambulances to Ukraine in 2016.
Medical and Humanitarian Aid Projects from various organizations featured by the Ukraine Appeal include initiatives and programs designed to address the many challenges faced by Ukraine as a result Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine. Featured programs include the Surgical Medical Missions (Canada Ukraine Foundation) which bring internationally renowned medical experts to Ukraine to share knowledge and expertise, programs to address the psychological impact of war on children and families (Help Us Help The Children – Dopomoha Ukraini), programs to provide soldiers, their families and those impacted by the conflict with Humanitarian Aid (FUDF- League of Ukrainian Canadians), initiatives designed to care for children and families displaced or impacted by the conflict (Children for Peace – St John’s Institute, Edmonton) and many others.
The Ukraine Appeal coordinates its efforts in Ukraine with the Working Group for Humanitarian Aid in Ukraine under the auspices of the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC). Victor Hetmanczuk, President of the Canada Ukraine Foundation, serves as the Vice Chair of this Working Group, which ensures that needs in Ukraine are understood and that Canadian organizations are aware of humanitarian aid efforts for Ukraine underway in other countries. Mr. Holuk stressed, “Our goal is to ensure that the aid sent to Ukraine has the greatest positive impact and reaches those who most need it. You can imagine the situation if various countries or organizations sent containers to the same hospital while leaving other hospitals with nothing. The issue of coordination, both in Canada and from the international perspective, is very important.” The UWC Advisory Group unites representatives from ten countries and the Ukraine Appeal is currently working with the UWC to allocate the humanitarian aid that has been shipped to Ukraine from Canada.
To bring attention to many vital projects where Ukrainian Canadian organizations are working in support of Ukraine, The Ukraine Appeal website was launched in October 2015. The site features projects from organizations around the country, highlights news from the community and links the community to the Ukraine Appeal Advisory Groups. Organisations can share their projects with The Ukraine Appeal through the website and work with the Advisory Groups to develop their projects, which will be featured on the web-site. This brings projects to the attention of both the Ukrainian community and the public at large and assists in fundraising efforts. Most importantly, it also provides an opportunity for many of the energetic and talented individuals in our community to learn about our organizations and their projects in order to find ways they can participate and contribute.
We believe that Ukraine Appeal’s mission is best described by John Holuk’s following words. “We have come from a period where our community tried to do everything they could to help Ukraine. There was an intense effort by many in the community, including myself, trying to do what they could to respond to the pleas for help from friends and relatives as they bravely volunteered to go to the front to defend Ukraine . Like many others, I searched for surplus boots, supplies and clothing and with help sent these supplies to Ukraine. Our community and organizations have grown stronger and we have learned much from those efforts over the past 2 years and I continue to be inspired by the dedication and commitment of our community’s volunteers throughout Canada. Those efforts have resulted in tremendous assistance to Ukraine. Regrettably after 2 years the conflict continues and the full impact of war and the resultant Humanitarian crisis is being realized. The Ukraine Appeal is trying to build on the many learnings over the past several years and offer our support,experience and expertise to better coordinate our efforts, lessen the burden on our community, help ensure or efforts are more effective as we meet the tremendous challenges ahead. Working together we can succeed in helping Ukraine overcome these challenges and become a strong, free and prosperous country.”
You can learn more about the Ukraine Appeal by visiting the Ukraine Appeal on the UCC website http://www.ucc.ca/ or directly at the following URL http://ukraineappeal.ucc.ca/