Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24, more than 6.5 million Ukrainians have been forced to leave their homes and find safety within Ukraine, and millions more have crossed the border to become refugees. The massive migration is one of the largest forced displacement crises since the Second World War.
Anglicans in Canada have responded quickly and generously. More than $1 million has been donated to PWRDF (Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund) for Ukraine relief. This is the second largest emergency response in its history, after the Haiti earthquake in 2010. Canada is home to the second largest population of Ukrainians or people of Ukrainian descent outside of Ukraine.
PWRDF is working with two international partners and four local partners to support Ukrainians during the war with the funds that have been donated.
PWRDF is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global faith-based coalition of more than 140 churches and related agencies working in humanitarian assistance, long-term development and advocacy. Hungarian Interchurch Aid (HIA) is also a member. Working through ACT, PWRDF provided $100,000 to HIA’s response in the first two weeks of the war.
HIA is one of the largest charitable organizations in Hungary and it has had a permanent presence in Ukraine for more than 20 years. The organization is working closely with local governments and more than 20 local first-responder groups in Ukraine. It has been shipping food and distributing other relief goods to internally displaced people who have not crossed into Hungary. With connections to the local authorities on both sides of the border, HIA is able to ship food and other essentials and life-saving medical equipment and supplies from Hungary into Ukraine.
HIA has established two 24-hour refugee support points (one in Hungary and one in Ukraine), and is providing safe transportation to railway hubs, food and hygiene kits for new arrivals. In the first two weeks of the war, PWRDF allocated $100,000 to this response. In April, through a grant with the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation, an additional $70,000 was forwarded to ACT.
Irina, 34, is a nurse living with her two children in an HIA shelter near the Hungarian border. Her husband teaches history but joined the territorial defence in the first days of the conflict. At first, she and her children lived with her parents, but they were in the middle of active fighting and bombing. “We tried to tell the children it was thunder. But when the active bombing started and the missiles fell near the house, the children started screaming. They were really very, very scared. That is why I realized there was no time to wait and it was time to evacuate somewhere.” At the shelter, they receive three meals a day. “When we ask for something, people try to give us what we need,” she says. “I understand that it is difficult to feed 100 people, so we try to buy fruit, yoghurt, some dairy products with our own money, our savings.”
HelpAge International supports vulnerable seniors globally and has assisted seniors living in eastern Ukraine since the Russian invasion in 2014. It has provided food, medical assistance and sometimes even wheelbarrows of coal to help them heat their homes. As a result, they were well positioned to provide assistance from the beginning of the war in 2022.
HelpAge International is helping Ukrainians of all ages who have fled to Moldova, where one in four Ukrainians fleeing are seniors. Because men between 18 and 60 are not able to leave the country, many elderly people are accompanying children and other family members. HelpAge International is supporting 5,620 Ukrainian refugees through 80 emergency accommodation centres in Moldova with food, hygiene kits and other essentials.
“I’m not going to leave here,” says Alexander, 81, from his home in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. “I hide in the basement from shelling. Now I sometimes spend the night there, or in the bathroom, which I secured after a shell hit the house. I’m afraid that everything I have can be destroyed in a second. But I hope for a speedy peace. A HelpAge volunteer brings me food and we speak together. After talking with her, I want to live. God give her strength.”
Patricia Maruschak joined PWRDF as the director of partnerships and programs just four days before the war began. Her Ukrainian-Canadian heritage and experience working in Ukraine has helped PWRDF establish strong ties with local organizations as well. “Because Ukraine has had a vibrant volunteer and civil society for years, there are many very capable local organizations that have transitioned to supporting their fellow Ukrainians,” she says. “PWRDF is making a concerted effort to partner with these organizations because we believe Ukrainians are best positioned to understand local needs. They are invested in helping their fellow citizens and rebuilding Ukraine once the war ends.”
So far, PWRDF has partnered with four Ukrainian organizations:
Initiative E+ is based in Kyiv and was established in 2014 to help medics and first responders provide relief to families affected by the 2014 invasion. Over the last two years, it has supported hospitals and medical centres in treating COVID-19 patients. When the invasion began at the end of February, it was able to ramp up its operations and partner with the country’s ministry of health. It is now providing medical equipment such as tourniquets, dressings for serious wounds and external braces and supports for broken bones. These supplies are being delivered to hospitals, medical centres and first responders in the cities that were subjected to the most serious attacks by Russian forces. PWRDF funds have also allowed for the purchase of two much-needed ambulances.
“PWRDF’s help with purchasing ambulances is very needed,” says Valentyna Varava, executive director of Initiative E+. “There is a catastrophic lack of ambulances in the de-occupied territories of the country. We currently have requests for ambulances from over 50 hospitals and medical centres as their vehicles were destroyed or seriously damaged by Russian forces.”
Fight for Right was established and led by Ukrainian women with disabilities. Its core mission is promoting the rights of persons with disabilities in Ukraine. To date, the organization has already evacuated or assisted 645 people with disabilities, with more than 2,000 additional evacuations requested. After evacuation, most people face psychological difficulties and legal issues that need to be addressed in their EU destination. PWRDF is contributing to this work by supporting a 24-hour hotline, accommodations, wheelchairs, and medical, legal, psychological and evacuation support. “Thanks to these funds from PWRDF, and support from other partners, we will be able to operate a hotline for people with disabilities during wartime,” says Anya Zaremba of Fight for Right. “The hotline will be used for various requests, including evacuation, psychological and legal assistance and provision of medication.”
The Dzherelo Children’s Rehabilitation Centre, based in the city of Lviv in western Ukraine, has been providing physical rehabilitation services and social support for patients and their families since 1992. When the war started, Lviv became a major hub for housing internally displaced people and a transit point for Ukrainians leaving the country. The municipal government has been referring displaced families who have children with disabilities to Dzherelo. The centre provides these families with a place to stay, food, medications and rehab services. The centre’s adapted bus is also able to take families to the Polish border.
PWRDF funds will allow Dzherelo to upgrade the heating system in its facilities so it can keep heating costs down and deliver its programs in a safe and comfortable building. On Aug. 10, Dzherelo posted photos on Facebook of the work already in progress: “With the support of the Canadian Foundation and Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, we purchased an electric boiler, a diesel generator and a voltage stabilizer,” wrote a staff member.
Voices of Children is providing round-the-clock assistance to affected children and families from all over the country. It is providing emergency psychological assistance and assisting in the relocation process and humanitarian response. PWRDF’s support will be used to launch mobile psychological supports for children and their parents in the Kyiv region, accessing the most vulnerable people in small, de-occupied cities and villages. Psychologists will carry out a minimum of two field visits every week. Funds will also be used to communicate the stories of children through videos. “We are convinced that it is very important to speak about children’s rights, their mental health and disseminate best practices on how to work with war trauma,” says Valentyna Kyrychenko, the organization’s grant management coordinator.