Donor Update, Wk. 8: Into the Fire We Go
Sent 22 Jan 2023
Dear donors and friends,
The subject line is taken of course from the great ballad “Into the Fire,” from the musical ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’, sung by pampered British aristocrats before they cross the Channel for their humanitarian mission in Revolutionary France. And before any of you worry, I am not joining the army or heading to the front lines. I promise indeed that I’m taking care of myself and not operating in any areas with significant risk. But I am headed toward Kherson region this week, to a village which the Russians occupied for more than 6 months and where distant explosions can occasionally be heard, and I will be staying several days this time. It’s called Muzykivka. Many of you will remember it from my picture from last week: it’s the village which raised the American flag for our arrival and which was extremely generous with their offers of support (volunteers, free space for operations in a school classroom, etc.). So I’m headed back there for a few days to hold further meetings and make some plans. With me I will be taking hygiene items requested by the local volunteer coordinator, items which would have been impossible to purchase without your generous donations.
Of $4,618 collected so far (big thanks to a handful of new donors this week!), we’ve spent $2,174.52, receipts for which can be found on our website at the following link:
The two main purchases we made this week were fruit and cookies for the Odesa Psychiatric Hospital and hygiene supplies for the village of Muzykivka in Kherson region (direct requests from residents there, thanks to Google Translate!). Many thanks to everyone for your generosity.
Monday was my friend Sean’s last day in Odesa, so we made the most of the time holding brainstorming sessions for potential collaborations, possible roadblocks, and potential solutions in coming weeks. I so appreciate his willingness to take the time to come to Ukraine, for his invaluable perspective on the NGO sector, and his good company. Oh, and that evening, we met two German volunteers for dinner: Ben and Oliver, excellent men both. Ben is from Switzerland and has been in Ukraine for like 6 of the 11 months since the start of the war, providing incredible support for the people of the country and fundraising on his own, and Oliver has been fundraising as well as using profits from a business he owns, driving trucks of humanitarian aid (from hospital equipment to army helmets) from Germany to Odesa. I am constantly amazed by the people I meet here.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were spent updating the website, answering emails, cleaning the house, doing laundry, and holding meetings with local partners (like the great folks at Plich-o-Plich, or “Shoulder-to-Shoulder,” who provided the original connection to Muzykivka). I was able to see the operation of several distribution centers in the middle of the city, get lunch at the Red Cross volunteer cafeteria, and learn much.
Friday was lovely. It started with a visit to Plich-o-Plich again, who are thinking of renting office space in an abandoned cafe:
There they hope to create not only an office but a distribution center similar to those in which I worked in Moldova and Greece and which I hope to re-create in Ukraine. It has been so fun to share my vision with people in this country and see it catching on in unique ways. They are seeking funding for the project now, but if all goes as planned, they will be opening their doors within a few weeks or months to distribute clothing from this beautiful space to people who had to leave everything behind when they left Kherson or other cities.
Friday I was also privileged to bear witness to several sweet people from the Kherson region who told us their stories, as translated by head of Plich-o-Plich, Oleg. It was Ben, the German volunteer, who prompted the whole experience, thanks to his project of distributing small amounts of cash for people displaced by war. Three times in a row, recipients of the aid broke down in tears during the experience. One had a disabled child and was struggling to adjust to a new city. One was disabled herself and had a daughter who had been threatened with torture and rape by Russian soldiers. And one was from Azerbaijan, had moved to Armenia to escape war in the region, had escaped from Armenia to Kherson because of Russian pressure during continued war there, and now had fled Kherson after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It was heartbreaking and powerful to hear these strong women describe their experiences and give their thanks to the good volunteers providing small but valuable help in their difficult situations.
Then on Friday evening I attended my standing appointment with dear friend Gary Campbell for our “Philosophy Club,” which consists of getting dinner together and then discussing politics, religion, and YouTube videos late into the evening. We have been doing it for several weeks now, and it is absolutely one of the highlights of each week, providing a moment of normalcy (normalcy for Abe, that is… ha) in these crazy times. Gary is a manager for the International Medical Corps here in Odesa, from the UK, and an absolute stand-up person. Again, just can’t believe the quality of people I’ve met here.
Saturday I planned for hospital distribution and trip to Kherson region. And Sunday we had our weekly distribution of cookies and fruits in the Odesa Psychiatric Hospital. This week we were lucky to also have a distribution of slippers and socks from Pavers Shoes in the UK, obtained for us by the fearless Elena Oiberman, a local volunteer who helps coordinate the weekly hospital visit. The ladies seemed excited for the wardrobe update:
Then shopping for hygiene items for Muzykivka, and writing this update, and now bed. Another good week.
Dignity Aid Blog: More Donor Updates Online
The updates from weeks 6 and 7 have been added to our blog at the following link. Feel free to share the website with friends and family or to forward any of these emails.
And just the biggest thanks to everyone. I love you all. Slava Ukraini. Slava Humanity. We shall overcome.