Partnerships Broaden Tzu Chi’s Aid for Ukrainians Suffering Due to War

National Headquarters  |  July 14, 2022
Po Wen Yen, CEO of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Charity Foundation, outlines Tzu Chi’s ongoing relief initiatives during the online signing ceremony with a consortium of four new partners on June 2, 2022. Photo/Courtesy of Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation

Written by Ida Eva Zielinska

The Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, 2022, and has created a humanitarian crisis of people fleeing the ensuing war in their homeland, seeking refuge in neighboring nations and beyond. The Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation’s aid mobilized without delay, beginning in Poland with distributions of supermarket shopping cards that enable the purchase of groceries and other immediate needs for several months.

Tzu Chi also determined that partnering with international and national organizations in Europe would expand the Foundation’s capacity to help Ukrainians who escaped to other countries and those who stayed put and are enduring the war. With that in mind, in April, Tzu Chi began establishing partnerships with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), promising a certain level of financial support for their activities aiding Ukrainians.

A Powerful and Historic Alliance

Debra Boudreaux, Tzu Chi USA CEO, joins the Memorandum of Understanding with UNICEF signing ceremony by Zoom from Poland. Photo/Tzu Chi Team

On April 22, 2022, Tzu Chi signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). As part of the MoU between them, Tzu Chi’s large-scale contribution to UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children Appeal will boost resources to provide humanitarian and developmental aid to children suffering due to the war between Russia and Ukraine. 

The war in Ukraine is a child crisis. Every day more children are fleeing their homes, leaving everything they know behind in a desperate search for safety. As the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate, the support from the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation will enable us to reach many more children and families who need our assistance

According to a June 1, 2022, UNICEF press release, “Nearly 100 days of war in Ukraine have wrought devastating consequences for children at a scale and speed not seen since World War II […]. Three million children inside Ukraine and over 2.2 million children in refugee-hosting countries are now in need of humanitarian assistance. Almost two out of every three children have been displaced by fighting.”

Our Foundation is committed to supporting the health and well-being of children and families at this critical time. Therefore, the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation is proud to support UNICEF to provide necessary services to the most vulnerable children and families displaced by the Ukrainian crisis.

Joining Hands for Ukrainians Who Fled to Poland

In April, Tzu Chi also partnered with the Polish Red Cross, and Polish Women Can Foundation  (Fundacja Polki Mogą Wszystko). For the Polish Red Cross, the collaboration with Tzu Chi can help transform the type of assistance they currently provide to the arriving Ukrainians.

We’re really looking forward to the partnership with you. It’ll be really nice to switch from the in-kind support that we mostly provide at the moment to cash assistance programs like this one.

The international Tzu Chi team in Poland meets with Arkadiusz Kus (middle) and another representative of the Polish Red Cross to discuss collaboration. Photo/Tzu Chi Team

The agreement with the Polish Women Can Foundation, whose mission is to help make childhood as good as possible, is significant since most Ukrainians arriving in Poland are women and children. Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60 stayed behind because the Ukraine State Border Guard Service had barred them from leaving the day after the invasion began. Tzu Chi will help support the various needs of displaced mothers and children.

We’ll be able to realize a fantastic project to help those who came to us from Ukraine. The first part will be pediatric and gynecological help. And the second part will be psychological as well as [support] to learn a foreign language and activities for children and their moms. Thanks to this, women and children in Poland will be able to feel safe and regain control over their life.

Tzu Chi also established contact with Camillian Mission of Social Welfare (Kamiliańska Misja Pomocy Społecznej), which aids those experiencing homelessness or housing exclusion, and has been tirelessly providing 10,000 hot meals daily at its Ukrainian refugee assistance post in Warsaw Central Station.

We’re working 24/7 and actually that’s being done by just a handful of people. We’d like to have the means to employ people that will help us. Also, during the first days of the war a lot of Poles were helping and now we’re seeing that supplies diminished and capacities weakened.

The partnership with Tzu Chi will offer invaluable support in Poland, and led to the signing of an MoU with the Camillian Mission of Social Welfare’s global leadership, the Camillian Disaster Service International (CADIS), which serves “the victims of disasters and emergencies (wars, epidemics, and pestilences).” The joint goal is to provide basic necessities, food, medical services, temporary accommodation, and psychological counseling for more than 40,000 people over the next five months.

Buddha's mercy and God's love exist to save people who suffer and our fundamental values are the same. The Russian-Ukrainian war is an unprecedented man-made catastrophe. The most innocent people are the ones who suffer. We must face and cooperate for the sake of Ukrainians who are experiencing difficulties. Ours is a great responsibility, as well as a mission, and we want to offer respect and assistance to Ukrainian refugees with gratitude and love.

The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between Tzu Chi and the Camillian Disaster Service International (CADIS) on April 30, 2022. Photo/Courtesy of Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation

The Circle of Care Extends to Ukraine’s Other Neighbors

In May, Tzu Chi signed an MoU with IsraAID, an Israel-based NGO, whose mission is to support people affected by humanitarian crises through partnering with local communities worldwide to provide urgent aid, assist in recovery, and reduce the risk of future disasters. 

The collaboration will focus on long-term recovery, taking a holistic and integrative approach as many of those displaced face numerous challenges that include psychological trauma, gaps in education, linguistic barriers, and securing a livelihood. And, the MoU pledges two years of assistance from Tzu Chi to support the long-term needs of Ukrainians who have fled to Romania or Moldova.

[This] is a key strategic partnership, and together with the [Buddhist] Tzu Chi Foundation, the local Moldovan community, the local community in Romania, and, of course our many other Ukrainian partners, we truly believe we can make a long-lasting impact and improve people’s lives.

The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between Tzu Chi and IsraAid on May 17, 2022. Photo/Courtesy of Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation

June would bring another series of vital partnerships, these narrowing in on medical needs in Ukraine and neighboring Moldova, where many Ukrainians have escaped since the Russian invasion and the resulting war on their soil.

It is wonderful to be here today as we sign a landmark collaboration between five international NGOs: Airlink, ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency), Project HOPE, World Hope International, and [Buddhist] Tzu Chi Charity Foundation to assist medical organizations, local hospitals, and foundations in Ukraine and Moldova with medicine, medical supplies, and equipment.

The official signing ceremony was held virtually and executed by Airlink’s President & CEO, Steven J. Smith, ADRA’s Vice President for Programs Imad Madanat, Project HOPE’s Executive Vice President Chris Skopec, and World Hope International’s President & CEO, John Lyon, Esq., and Buddhist Tzu Chi Charity Foundation CEO Po Wen Yen.

Each of Tzu Chi’s latest four partners has its specialty, yet they support one another as an active consortium. They are dedicating three months of essential and medical supplies to healthcare facilities in Ukraine and those supporting Ukrainians seeking refuge in the Republic of Moldova. These aid efforts are vital. 

“Due to the war, it takes about six months for medical supplies from outside to reach Ukrainian hospitals,” Tzu Chi USA CEO, Debra Boudreaux, who was a member of the first international Tzu Chi team in Poland as the aid mission began, explains. Moreover, supplies in Ukraine as the war continues are gravely in short supply.

Ukraine’s neighbor Moldova, geographically the smallest, is one of the poorest countries in Europe. According to the UNHRC, “Despite the challenges for a small country with a population of around 2.7 million and limited resources, Moldova and its people have opened their doors to the refugees. Ukrainians have the right to live and work in the country and access services such as health care and education, while some 95% of the arrivals are being hosted by Moldovan families.” 

President and CEO of Airlink, Steven Smith, adds that “Moldova has been a key focus of concern for many in the NGO community, as the government currently manages the largest population of refugees per capita of any of Ukraine’s neighbors.”

Each Partner Plays a Key Role

Airlink is an NGO working with aviation and logistics partners to transport relief workers and emergency supplies for reputable NGOs responding to rapid-onset disasters and other global humanitarian crises. The collective aid effort with Tzu Chi and the other consortium partners is invaluable.

Responding meaningfully to human suffering on this scale requires a coordinated effort from multiple sectors — public, private, and philanthropic — utilizing the skills, expertise, and resources of each to bring aid and hope to the people of Ukraine. This partnership will supply critically needed medicines and medical supplies to health facilities in Ukraine and Moldova. And doing so will ensure that those trapped or displaced by conflict will have access to medical care. This project will save and improve lives.

Airlink President & CEO, Steven J. Smith. Photo/Courtesy of Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), the global humanitarian arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, delivers relief and development assistance to people in over 118 countries. ADRA has several branches in Ukraine and equally welcomes this joint aid effort.

By working in a consortium, we come together to deliver to our partners the resources and capacity so we can together impact more. Usually in a situation, in an emergency, we address the immediate needs, the life-saving needs of food, water, shelter, and sometimes, we neglect, due to resources, and the complexity of logistics, the need for medical supplies. So, in this case we really appreciate this partnership, because it is much needed.

ADRA Vice President for Programs, Imad Madanat. Photo/Courtesy of Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation

Adding its muscle to the aid effort is Project Hope, which works on the frontlines of the world’s health challenges, partnering hand-in-hand with communities, health care workers, and public health systems to ensure sustainable change.

It’s hard to understate the scale of this crisis, but it’s not just the scale, but the speed with which it developed. And that put a tremendous burden on the Ukrainian health system… [and] frontline healthcare workers, which is what Project HOPE exists to do as its mission, is support frontline healthcare workers around the world and give them [what] they need to be successful and to stand in support of the health needs of their community… This consortium is here to do some really extremely important, critical, time sensitive work.

Chris Skopec, Executive Vice President of Project HOPE. Photo/Courtesy of Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation

On its end, World Hope International is working with partners on the ground in Moldova to ensure that basic needs – clean drinking water, food, and safety – are being met and that those who have fled Ukraine have access to hope and help. 

Early in March, we were able to rapidly deploy about $12 million worth of medical supplies to Moldova in partnership with Airlink and their airline partners to get supplies on the ground. And, as a result of this consortium, I’m very appreciative that we can continue doing this work in Moldova.

John Lyon, Esq., World Hope International President & CEO. Photo/Courtesy of Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation

As of June, Tzu Chi has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with nine international organizations. The circle of partners will grow as this mission of care for Ukrainians displaced or suffering the trauma of war on their ancestral land continues. Perhaps the statement of John Lyon, Esq, on behalf of World Hope International, aptly sums up the sentiments of all those joining forces in this aid venture.

In life, we see these forces constantly pulling us apart, but in times of disaster, we find these common existential threats that bring us together. And that gives me hope for humanity that people like us can come together [and find] a larger solution than any one of us could solve on our own.

The five partners proudly show the Memorandum of Understanding between them signed on June 2, 2022, which will bring critical support to medical facilities in Ukraine and Ukrainians who fled to Moldova. Photo/Courtesy of Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation

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