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Rotary members, Ukraine Friends deliver ambulances to Ukrainian officials

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A convoy of nearly 40 ambulances wound its way from Slovakia, around mountains and through roadblocks, military checkpoints, and torrential rain to arrive in Kyiv, bringing the critically needed vehicles to Ukrainian government officials.

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The US$600,000 initiative was the first joint project between Rotary and Ukraine Friends, which agreed in July to collaborate to provide resources, organize logistics, and distribute funds for high-impact projects that help Ukrainians affected by the war with Russia. Each organization donated US$300,000 to get the ambulances, and Rotary districts in Ukraine and Slovakia coordinated the delivery. Rotary's funding came from a Rotary Foundation disaster response grant.  

After a journey of about 870 kilometers (540 miles) that took more than twice as long as it would have in normal circumstances, the convoy arrived on 27 September at Mariinsky Park in Kiev.

Brock Bierman, the CEO of Ukraine Friends and a member of the Rotary Club of Staunton, Virginia, USA, says the logistics of moving that many vehicles to another country would always be difficult, and doing it across a border into a war zone was especially complex. Yet the ambulances were delivered without any major incidents.

“I don’t think the trip could’ve gone any better,” says Bierman, who was at Mariinsky Park for the arrival. “The way people worked together to get this done was spectacular.”

Ukraine Friends secured the ambulance drivers, while Rotary District 2232 in Ukraine and Belarus bought the fuel. The ambulances are equipped with oxygen tanks, defibrillators, electrocardiogram machines, mechanical ventilators, and other medical equipment.

Twenty-two of the ambulances were procured by Rotary District 2240 in Czech Republic and Slovakia and went to the Department of Health for civilian use. Ihor Kuzin, Ukraine’s deputy minister of health, was there to see the transfer of ambulances.

“Updating the fleet of fast vehicles (ambulances) is one of the most urgent tasks on the agenda for Ukraine,” Kuzin says. “We are very grateful to our international donors and partners for joining such an extremely important cause.”

The 18 ambulances supplied by Ukraine Friends were given to military personnel, Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces. 

Rotary members and Ukraine Friends are also working together to rehabilitate two schools in the Bucha region that were damaged by shelling. Ukraine Friends is organizing the logistics involved to rebuild the school’s infrastructure, while Rotary clubs are buying and providing books, school supplies, and computers.

Mykola Stebljanko, a member of the Rotary E-club of Ukraine and past governor of District 2232, said the ambulance project is part of comprehensive program under which clubs in the region provide specialized equipment for emergency vehicles, including firefighting trucks. “When good deeds are done in partnership,” he says, you can have a greater effect and find more opportunities to plan effectively in crisis situations.

“By combining the connections of both Ukraine Friends and Rotary, tremendous strides can be made to alleviate and mitigate the suffering endured by the people of Ukraine,” Bierman says.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, more than 13 million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes, the United Nations refugee agency says, which created a humanitarian crisis. Rotary, so far, has awarded more than 353 disaster response grants totaling more than US$11.7 million since the war began. These grants, for club projects in 29 countries, support people in and around Ukraine who have been affected by the war. Rotary and Rotaract clubs have donated millions more directly to Ukrainian clubs that are providing people with food, shelter, medicine, and clothing.

Photo above by Chantal Mistral