Rotarians in District 5020 have responded to the Ukraine refugee crisis with their hearts and wallets.
First, District 5020 challenged clubs and individuals to match $25,000 of District Designated Funds (DDF) to go to the Rotary Disaster Response Fund in support of Ukraine, which was quickly matched. Then a further $25,000 challenge, which was also quickly matched. Then two clubs, Lakewood and Gig Harbor, put up a total of $22,000 and challenged clubs and individuals to match.
The response has highlighted both the intense desire to help amongst district Rotarians and also the importance of continuing and increasing donations to the Rotary Disaster Response Fund.
Immediately after it became apparent that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was causing one of the largest displacements in modern times, the Rotary Foundation (TRF) created an official channel for donors to contribute funds to Ukraine relief through TRF’s Disaster Response Fund. Districts were also allowed to make use of unused DDF and donations for the disaster response.
DDF comes from Annual Fund donations made by Rotarians in District 5020. TRF uses the Annual Fund donations to match Global Grant applications from club. TRF also returns a portion to the District for use in matching Global Grants. A similar amount is returned for use in District Grants. While the funds for the District Grants in District 5020 were all allocated, there was money not yet designated for use in Global Grants.
District Governor Lorna Curtis and District Rotary Foundation Chair Howard Svigals quickly made the decision to make use of that unused DDF. Then the clubs and individuals stepped up.
In the Lakewood club, past president Rose Stevens was already working closely with affected people in Ukraine and Poland due to her longstanding work with a girl’s home in Lviv and Habitat for Humanity, so they were fully aware of the situation in Ukraine. (See Rose’s story of how she has been involved in Ukraine below)
Club president Jim Rooks gave the opportunity for club members to declare their donations at a club meeting. Over $7,000 was donated immediately and the remainder came from cheques and online donations from the members.
TRF allocates funds from Annual Fund Donations, but also allows donors to designate an area of focus for their donation. One of those is the Rotary Disaster Response Fund. Rotarians can donate by logging into their My Rotary account and clicking on the donate button. They can then choose how you wish to donate. If you choose the Annual Fund, your donation will fund all the good work that Rotarians do around the world, including DDF and the Disaster Relief Fund. If you choose the Disaster Relief Fund, your donation through the end of April will go directly to Rotary relief projects in Poland, Ukraine and the other areas surrounding Ukraine where the refugees have flooded.
As Rose Stevens relates in her report, people in those surrounding areas are rallying to take in the flood of displaced people, but there is a desperate need for food, medical supplies, and other essentials. Rotarians are stepping up to help.
To date District 5020 has donated $140,658 to the RI Disaster Relief Fund.
If you would like to donate, please follow the instructions above, and then don’t limit yourself to a one-time donation. Sign up for a monthly donation to the Annual Fund and make a continuing difference in the lives of people around the world.
I have been working with a Girls Home in Ukraine long before I joined Rotary 12 years ago. I shipped hundreds of pounds of food, clothing, and bedding needed by this newly established home for girls age 7 and up. I travelled annually to Lviv with additional supplies and purchased water slides and swimming pools at the local hardware store. The Ukrainian young women running the Girls Home brought me to visit their parents and the parents of some of the children in the very rural Carpathian Mountains. We traveled by train to Kyiv, Odessa, and Kherson ( sister city of Kent WA ) and other smaller villages. I created “Sponsor a Girl” program which I promoted to friends to help support the monthly expenses of the home. The first group of girls are now married with children and we remain Facebook friends.
At the beginning of the war I immediately contacted the women running the home, Natalia and Olga, to confirm their safety and if there was a need for financial assistance. Since they are in Lviv in western Ukraine they initially felt pretty safe. A month later the situation has changed. They have taken in five (5) girls orphaned from the war. They are working with a soup kitchen and are providing other aid to the refugees pouring across Ukraine. I was advised this week their coffers are becoming depleted and financial assistance is now needed. I will be contacting friends and family requesting help.
At the same time I was working with this Girls Home I was also volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in the Family Selection program. I became a Family Partner for a Ukrainian family here in Tacoma and worked with them for several years. I reached out to them when the war began as I knew they still had an adult son and grandchildren in Ukraine. Fortunately they arrived here in Tacoma shortly after the war started. They requested help with jobs, English and immigration issues and I referred them to the appropriate agencies which would be able to assist them.
I am also working with the Founder of Girls Home (an American woman Theresa Staab) who is returning to Poland to establish support for the refugees with her Polish and Ukrainian contacts. Her first reports are showing a dire need for financing. A boy scout leader has taken between 35-90 people into his secondary home. Providing housing is the easy part as food, medical care and household goods are still needed. It’s rather overwhelming. I will be working on fundraising efforts after I receive an on the ground report from Theresa.
During my Rotary Presidency RC Lakewood hosted a Russian Friendship visit with people from many areas of Russia. Our Club members welcomed the visitors and enjoyed sharing their homes and lives.
I loved being immersed in the Ukrainian and Russian cultures over the years never dreaming I would be able to provide, many years later, expertise in this hour of great need. Its easy to say Our experiences in life provide the foundation for our future endeavors. But, we never know which experiences will be called to the forefront.
I have more stories including the young college student I met today at Pierce College in Lakewood WA. Her family lives over an hour away from Kyiv in Chernov on the Northern Border. She said the city is being bombed like Maripol . Her 19 year old brother has been killed, her father has joined the military to fight and her mother can no longer work because of the bombing. The mother and younger children are just trying to survive. This young woman has had completed one quarter semester at Pierce College and the Spring Semester has been funded. With no funding coming from Ukraine (as both parents with good jobs are no longer working) and not being able to return to her hometown, which is being bombed, she is stuck here. I will be proposing to our Club that we help with her tuition and that we partner with other entities to enable her to continue her education. In spite of all this tragedy she is speaking at schools and other groups about her beloved Ukraine. She is involved in track/cross country and is volunteering in the community. What an inspiration to us all!
If you have questions or would like clarification please feel free to contact me.
Past President 2016-2017
28 disaster response grants totaling $825,000 to support activities in 14 countries have already been awarded from the RI Disaster Relief Fund. The grants are primarily being used to provide food, medicine, hygiene supplies, housing, and transportation for refugees.