Anna Blinstein, a middle-school math teacher at Mackintosh Academy Boulder, emigrated from the city of Odesa in southern Ukraine in 1988 at the age of 8.
Her family had lived there for generations and, as she grew older, Blinstein maintained a close network of relatives and friends both in Ukraine and of Ukrainian descent.
So when Russia invaded her former homeland in late February, she took the news personally.
“It just was like a gut punch,” Blinstein said. “This is the country I’m from. These are my people that are suffering.”
Together with her friend Katherine Chabolla, who works as a product manager for Airbnb in Boulder, Blinstein decided to take action to help those suffering in Ukraine by working with a volunteer network that is raising money and providing direct aid overseas.
“It just felt really awful to not be able to help, to just watch it develop on the news,” she said.
Coloradans looking to help the people of war-ravaged Ukraine are finding ways to support relief efforts on the ground there through organizations based in the U.S., including Ukraine TrustChain, Project C.U.R.E. and Ukrainians of Colorado.
Daniil Cherkasskiy, a friend of Blinstein’s in the Chicago area, had begun fundraising efforts to help those still on the ground in Ukraine. After group text discussions, Cherkasskiy, along with the volunteer help of Blinstein, Chabolla and others, founded Ukraine TrustChain, an Illinois-based not-for-profit organization.
In trying to find someone on the ground in Ukraine to bring baby formula to a hospital in Kyiv, Cherkasskiy said he realized the sacrifices people still living in that nation’s capital were willing to make — and he was determined to find ways to fund them to help others.
The money that comes in to Ukraine TrustChain through donations, both small and large, is sent to teams on the ground in Ukraine, led by volunteers who oversee groups of anywhere from a couple volunteers to more than 100.
“You find someone you trust and you give money to them,” Cherkasskiy said.
Responding to “bottomless tragedy”
Other Coloradans are banding together to help Ukraine through Centennial-based Project C.U.R.E., a nonprofit that delivers medical supplies and equipment across the world.
Douglas Jackson, the president and CEO of Project C.U.R.E., said the organization has received support from Coloradans through donations and volunteering, in addition to medical supplies provided by local hospitals and manufacturers. Partnerships with other organizations, like Ukrainians of Colorado, also have been vital in the relief effort, he said.
Mark Dillen, who has been a member of Ukrainians of Colorado for a month, said he and his wife, who is of Ukrainian descent, joined the group after hearing accounts of the war that were “dramatic and compelling.” Dillen and his wife spent time living in Ukraine as diplomats before moving to Denver three years ago.
“To be any part of the solution is critically important,” Dillen said.
How to help
The following organizations based in Colorado or with ties here are accepting donations to help fund humanitarian aid to the people of Ukraine:
Project C.U.R.E.: projectcure.org
Ukrainians of Colorado: ukrainiansofcolorado.org
Ukraine TrustChain: ukrainetrustchain.org
Dillen said the organization has been focusing on humanitarian aid and working with Project C.U.R.E. to bring in emergency medical supplies, but is shifting now to focus on the “bottomless tragedy” of newly orphaned children in Ukraine.
Project C.U.R.E. has worked to get emergency supplies to Ukraine by communicating directly with doctors there to figure out what exactly hospitals in the warzone need. Jackson said the organization has been sending bandages, tourniquets and other emergency medical supplies for gunshot and shrapnel wounds.
The public support for Project C.U.R.E. allowed it to send 10 shipments of medical supplies as of April 7, mostly recently 27 pallets that were headed into an unidentified Ukrainian city.
Both Blinstein and Chabolla were excited to help an organization in which people could see exactly what their money was supporting. Ukraine TrustChain shares weekly updates of how many meals were provided and evacuations were funded as a result of donations sent from the United States.
In a March 28 update, the organization said more than 10,000 people were fed daily and that more than 12,500 evacuations had been funded to date. Cherkasskiy said the organization has become efficient with its funds, with $8,000 paying for nearly 57,000 meals and just $5 could help evacuate a person out of harm’s way.
The organization uses regular small donations, which generally add up to about $9,000 per day, to cover meals, evacuations and other relief. When Ukraine TrustChain receives large donations, they cover the expenses of individual efforts and purchases, including the recent focus on the bombarded city of Mariupol.
With the Russian devastation of Mariupol, the organization has focused both money and volunteer efforts on evacuating residents from the city. As of April 1, the organization had been able to help evacuate a few hundred residents, facing difficulties as a result of dangerous conditions.
Russians have captured cars the organization bought to use for the evacuations while they were en route to Mariupol, Chabolla said, resulting in major funds needed to replace the vehicles.
Long-term focus on Ukraine
Given the changing effects of the war upon Ukrainians, the leaders of Ukraine TrustChain plan to be ready to shift goals at any point, vowing to be dynamic and address new concerns. All that remains certain to Blinstein is that the war is not ending anytime soon.
“This does need to be sustainable, especially because we commit to funding those teams,” Blinstein said.
Project C.U.R.E. is similarly gearing up for long-term funding and projects in Ukraine. While the organization has never been so closely involved in a conflict zone, it has been supplying aid to Ukraine since 1994, spending more than $20 million prior to the Russian invasion this year.
Jackson said that the focus for the next decade after the war ends will be to rebuild the nation’s hospitals.
“You just have to address the triage immediately and then you go back and fix things later,” Jackson said.
Blinstein and Chabolla agree that while donations are vital to Ukriane TrustChain and the work of the Ukrainian volunteer teams on the ground, spreading the word about the organization and its work is even more important, allowing it to reach a much broader audience.
Dillen, of Ukrainians of Colorado, acknowledged the focus on immediate aid will soon turn to other projects, like helping orphanages.
“If we’re trying to help Ukraine in the medium- and long-term, it will be more than emergency supplies,” Dillen said.
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