On February 24, 2022, Ukraine was invaded by Russia and immediately a large-scale humanitarian crisis had developed as millions fled their homes to escape the war.
Within 2 weeks, we had fundraised over $225,000 to provide aid. Shortly after, our partner Greater Good Charities had teams inside Ukraine helping provide meals for hungry families, working with animal shelters to protect pets, and much more.
Your amazing financial support to help the people and animals of Ukraine has been unwavering the past year, and we are just as dedicated to seeing that your contributions are put to use in meaningful ways.
I recently completed my third trip to Ukraine, where I was able to participate in Greater Good Charities’ blanket and food distributions, as well as volunteer at the amazing pizza parties that Siobhan’s Trust organizes across eastern Ukraine.
There are millions of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Ukraine. Some of these men, women, and children have spent months living in basements, worrying that each day could be their last. In this difficult reality, supplies and a hot meal – like those currently being provided in towns and villages near the war’s frontline thanks to your donations – have an immensely positive impact on a community’s morale.
During the Siobhan’s Trust pizza parties, I experienced an atmosphere of real joy facilitated by hot pizza and a community celebration with music, dancing, singing, and nutritious meals served to the hundreds of friends and neighbors who gathered to participate.
Siobhan’s Trust has multiple pizza trucks (some funded by your donations) and has now served pizzas in hundreds of towns and villages across Ukraine since last March. A small group of volunteers cooked and served over 1,500 pizzas and hot drinks in a village 1.5 hours from Kharkiv on the day I left, and after Kharkiv the same group served hot pizzas in Western Donetsk Oblast and Zaphorizhzhia.
These events provide nutritious meals, but they also occasionally become a kind of portal to the times before the war, and a hopeful glimpse of the life that can resume afterwards. This seems particularly important to children, many of whom volunteer to help make and distribute the pizzas. Some even take selfies of themselves with the volunteers.
It is more than a meal, because the dance music and communal pizza party reminds people that, while war is their current reality, it is not their life.
One day, with below-freezing temperatures, we were met by a 20-ton tractor trailer at a rendez-vous point on the side of a highway in Kharkiv Oblast (region) Ukraine. The truck was fully loaded with blankets, winter meal kits, and pet food supplied by Greater Good Charities; and funded through your donations and purchases.
We proceeded to four villages and a larger town near Kharkiv to distribute these critical supplies. As we traveled, I witnessed immense damage – buildings destroyed by bombing from Russian planes, artillery and missiles. Many homes had no electricity at all, and if they did, it was spotty and unpredictable. Some had no heat.
Many of these families had relocated from larger cities for safety or left Russian controlled areas. The Ukrainian people that I met throughout the day demonstrated heroic resolve in these conditions, and we provided each internally displaced family with a month’s supply of high-quality meals and 2 blankets. We distributed 1,000 bulk meal boxes, 2,000 blankets and a pallet of pet food in a single day!
In addition to food insecurity and utility disruptions, Ukraine suffers from tremendous unemployment related to the war. This is why it was a priority for me to source products that are actually being made within Ukraine, including the blankets that we are distributing. During this trip I toured the factory in Kharkiv where our order of 25,000 high-quality wool-blend blankets are being manufactured. Additionally, we purchased 10,000 made-in-Ukraine baby blankets for distribution along with baby formula in a new program we expect to launch this spring.
GreaterGood is a small company, but has a broad mission to help people and pets around the world. To help heal the world.
Your donations have helped us do immense good for Ukrainians, but Ukraine is far from being healed. The need for aid is as pressing now as it was at the start of the invasion last year. There are more internally displaced people as Ukrainians have returned to be reunited with their families. At the same time, there are more Russian soldiers in Ukraine or on the border than at any point in the war and some of the biggest battles have been waged in the month of February.
Thankfully, GreaterGood has amazing supporters who are determined to join us in making a difference. Impact is our yardstick, and is the reason we exist. Our sustained focus on impact for over 20 years is the reason we will have given over $80 million to charity since 1999. I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished but know we need to do even more.