• Pantemeinolivs’ka, 76, Odesa, Ukraine, 65000

Donor Email, Wk 1: You Gotta Know the Territory

Sent 5 December 2022

Hello donors and friends,

This email is going out to the few and the proud who have donated to our organization so far. Hopefully it’s just the beginning of something great—Dignity Aid International, I’m thinking of calling it. It’s a big name for a small organization, so I’d love your thoughts if you have a moment to reply.

Many of you will recognize the subtitle of this email from the great show “Music Man”—you gotta know the territory. It’s been a wild week of learning the territory for this little American. I arrived in Odesa seven days ago today, feeling somewhat prepared by my visit in October but still knowing very little of the humanitarian landscape in the city. I’ve worked as a coordinator in a camp in Greece, as well as volunteering with refugees in Bangladesh, Lebanon, and Moldova, so I feel comfortable managing day-to-day interactions with folks in the field. But raising funds, networking with local actors, and coordinating distribution with other NGOs, all at the same time? That’s a new ballgame for me. An adventure. A challenge. And a joy, every day, because of the amazing people I meet.

Chatting with my new friend Cristina at New Dawn UA, which distributes all across Odesa region

I’ve been blessed so far. Along with New Dawn UA (above), which has put me in contact with a local village administrator who will hopefully help us do a distribution of food or blankets this week, I’ve also connected with Manifest Mira (“Manifest Peace”), whose donors include Lifting Hands International, a medium-sized org with links to my own state, Utah. A soup kitchen, a medical charity, and an evangelical church round out the list of formal connections I’ve made, all of whom have offered to help in any way they can.

Three American volunteers and Roman, the youth pastor at Odessa Peoples’ Church and now full-time coordinator for humanitarian aid

Equally impactful, however, are the non-work-related human connections I’ve made this week. Though I am committed to making this project work by hook or by crook, I am even more committed to sharing love and listening closely wherever I go. There’s Andrey, a potential local volunteer from Odesa who’s been around the world as a shipbuilder but now can’t leave the country for a new contract in South Korea because of the ban on military-age men leaving (he’s 62!). There’s Valeriy, a 38-year-old hoste mate who lost everything when the Russians leveled his house in Donetsk eight years ago and then lost everything again when Russians invaded Mariupol and destroyed his new home there. “I loved Russians,” he told me, “but now I want to kill Russians.” War is hell.

More than anything, that’s why I’m here. I was on a phone call this evening with a group of friends from the organization I volunteered with in Moldova (Refugee Support Europe). And we were discussing what the real impact of this work is—how, more than anything, our purpose may be to show kindness to people affected by the trauma of war and displacement. We, who have been given much, can share a little of our blessings with others, whether that be money, time, or love. Thank you for choosing to do that through this new organization. For your trust.

Andrey Kim: sailor, shipbuilder, generous soul

So what’s coming this week? Well, I’ve got a lawyer working on a 501(c)(3) org in the USA and a dear friend working on a website for us, so I’ll be coordinating with them. And it looks like I’ll be setting up a small distribution in the Odesa region to help meet some basic needs in a local village. Probably some blankets and/or food, nothing fancy. Whatever happens, we’ll get those dollars you’ve donated working for the Ukrainian people. And I’ll keep you updated!

With gratitude and love,

Abe Collier

PS You can follow our official Instagram page, where I’ll be trying to post more permanent updates! FB coming soon…