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Ukrainian clubs help others in need in their country

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Rotary members in Ukraine are helping neighbors return to their homes, distributing supplies from other countries, and organizing long-term aid — all despite being affected by the war themselves.

Rotary responds to the war
in Ukraine.

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Since Russian military forces entered the country in late February, Rotary members have been holding regular video calls to coordinate relief work. Mykola Stebljanko, a member of the Rotary E-Club of Ukraine and the editor of Rotary's Ukrainian magazine, Rotariets, says they are focused on three main activities: supplying medicines and electricity to hospitals where wounded civilians are seeking care, finding shelter for displaced families, and managing the flow of incoming humanitarian aid.

Recent efforts by members in District 2232, where Stebljanko is the public image coordinator and a past governor, have focused on cities that residents are now returning to after fleeing Russian attacks earlier this spring.

"Ukrainians are coming back home to their towns and cities in ruins," says Stebljanko, who in a March interview had told Rotary magazine about being awakened by air raid sirens at night and taking shelter with his family in the bathroom of their home in Odesa. In early May, news reports said that city had been struck by missiles.

"It's hard to describe how much destruction there is in some cities and the work that needs to be done to bring them back," he says.

The district has acquired and distributed dozens of high-powered generators to help restore power to hospitals, businesses, and some homes. Clubs have also organized the transportation of several donated firetrucks from other countries in Europe. In addition to being used to respond to fires and other emergencies, Stebljanko says, the trucks have ladders that allow utility workers reach power lines that need repair.

District 2232 has received four disaster response grants of $50,000 each from The Rotary Foundation, which together will fund nearly 50 relief projects across Ukraine. The district has also received more than $400,000 in donations from clubs around the world, which it has used to address urgent needs such as providing people with medical supplies, food, clothing, and shelter.

Borys Bodnar, who lives in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, has been coordinating humanitarian supplies coming into the country and directing aid where it's needed. Lviv has seen an influx of refugees as Ukrainians have fled from the east. More than 12 million people have been displaced by the war, according to the UN.

Bodnar, a member of the Rotary Club of Ukraine Unity Passport, says many of the financial contributions are being routed to countries that border Ukraine, primarily Poland, where clubs have set up hubs to obtain and dispatch supplies.

"It's complicated to provide supplies from countries outside of Europe, so providing financial aid into a hub in Europe where supplies can be purchased and distributed to Ukraine very quickly is a simple and effective model," Bodnar says. He
credits clubs in Munich, Germany, with leading the effort to rally financial support.

Support has also come thanks to bonds forged by shared interests. Sergii Zavadskyi, a member of the Rotary Club of Kyiv-City, says that relationships among members, especially those cultivated through Rotary Fellowships, have facilitated the flow of aid.

Zavadskyi, who now lives in Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine, cited in particular the International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians, the International Fellowship of Flying Rotarians, and the International Fellowship of Healthcare Professionals.

"We have many, many friends, Rotary friends, all over the world who are helping us every day," Zavadskyi says. "We feel this support, and their hands and hearts are with us."

As members in Ukraine receive and distribute the supplies that are needed today, Bodnar says, they're also planning for the days ahead.

"Humanitarian problems are going to continue long after the war itself is finished," Bodnar says. "The more we're able to establish concrete structures and routes for receiving and distributing humanitarian aid now, the better position we'll be in for the future."