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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.