New reality: volunteering in a humanitarian hub during war

“I have to be here because I’m needed. We are fighting, too. But in the rear, supplying our military with necessities and supporting our injured civilians.” Volunteer Humanitarian Center: How do Ukrainians fight for their freedom without guns or tanks?

At the very beginning of the war in Ukraine, Zaporizhzhya Regional Youth Center, in cooperation with SVOI NGO, organized a large-scale humanitarian aid center for refugees, the Territorial Defense units, the National Guard, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and the civilians stranded by the Russian invasion.

Working from morning to night every day, the team achieved remarkable results:

– processed 700+ requests and 1,500+ calls;

– prepared 6,500+ meals;

– recruited 400+ volunteers;

– conducted seven training sessions for volunteers;

– connected 15 new partners;

– collected 80,000 UAH, 68,000 of which have already been spent on the needs of the army and civilians (report);

– arranged a meeting with Sviatoslav Vakarchuk, the leader of the “Okean Elzy” band and prominent public and political figure;

– enhanced the kitchen up to the capacity of 350 portions per day (and began to produce our own canned meat!);

– created a sewing manufacture department;

– started production of turnstiles.

Let’s dive a little bit into the backstage of the work done.

There are currently seven areas of focus:

– Call-center (collecting requests for assistance);
– Logistics (delivering humanitarian aid around the city and the region);
– Kitchen (everything related to food);
– Medical (assistance with medical supplies);
– Goods (clothing/personal hygiene products/etc.)
– Sewing (sewing outfits for our soldiers);
– Military (weaving camouflage nets for the military).

The team consists of over 40 people. Moreover, at least 60 more volunteers are helping out at the Center everyday. The Center’s coordinators conduct regular training for volunteers (domestic healthcare, self-defense, International Women’s Day training, rhetoric, and psychology seminars), invite speakers to maintain the team spirit, and shuffle the spheres of activity.

What kind of assistance does the Center provide?

Representatives of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the Territorial Defense, refugees, and people stranded by war can receive assistance as follows:

– food and dry rations;
– medicines;
– personal hygiene items;
– clothing;
– equipment;
– camouflage nets;
– informational assistance;
– volunteer support with the delivery of the items.

The call center, working from 10:00 to 17:00, accepts requests for assistance.

You can contact it by phone: 080 033 61 35 or via Telegram-bot @poruch_svoi_bot

What can I do to help the Center?

Without the support of volunteers and donors, the Center’s work wouldn’t be possible.

📍 If you can help physically – all current volunteering opportunities are posted on the platform under the “Events” tab. If you have a car and want to volunteer as a driver, send a message to the Telegram bot @avto_svoi_bot.

📍If you can bring clothes/food/medications or other humanitarian aid – get them to the Zaporizhzhya Regional Youth Center (vul. Patriotychna, 49) every day, from 10 to 17 o’clock. The list of needed items is updated every day.

📍 If you can help informationally – spread awareness about the organization, share the contacts of other local and international NGOs that provide humanitarian aid with the Center coordinators through the call center.

📍 If you can support the Center financially:

The official account of the NGO SVOI here;

Information for international donations here

The Center uses funds to purchase humanitarian aid for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the Territorial Defense Forces, people in need, refugees, and the maintenance of the Center.

So far, we have been supported by:

– International partners and organizations;

– Ukrainian and local businesses, such as Comfy, Nestle, McDonald’s, RybaRys restaurants, Sedoy restaurant, Integral jiu-jitsu, Hop-hey stores;

– Partner volunteer organizations and charity funds, such as “Plast,” Zaporizhzhya Red Cross Society, Charitable Organization “100% of life”, NGO “SpilnoHub.”

What is it like to be a volunteer during the war?

The humanitarian Center is called a volunteering Center for a reason. The number of people working pro bono to provide their help here is more than 100 people, with even more applications for volunteering being processed. When anxiety levels grow high after a minute of reading news, volunteering in the new reality is deeply tied with intense emotions.

“I am at the Center every morning to evening, doing a large amount of work that I would do for money at other times,” said Anastasia Klimenko, a staff volunteer and member of SVOI NGO. I can not stay aside as our military defends our lands and protects my safety from the Russian occupants’ wholly unfair and brutal invasion. I have to be here because I’m needed. We are fighting, too. But in the rear, supplying our military with necessities and supporting injured civilians.”

Anastasia joined the team on the first day of the war, teaming up with other volunteers in the line at the Blood Transfusion Center. Her story is curious – having failed to join the blood donors, she became an essential part of the Center’s media team. Every day the pro bono volunteer in the media team designs from 10 to 15 illustrations for the messages of the NGO and the youth center so that Zaporizhzhya’s audience knows about the activities of the Humanitarian Center and everyone gets a chance to help in the rear.

“I want to say to all the volunteers – you are incredible! I talk to every volunteer every day, and I know that each has its struggles and fears, but despite that, we keep providing our support and help to others. Colleagues and friends, keep doing what it takes until we reclaim our right to be free!”

Volunteering at a humanitarian center like ours is morally rewarding because a community of people who share values and common goals is comforting and helps keep us going. One of the volunteers of the NGO, ZNU student Daria Voloshchuk, joined her work in search for community:

“On the first day of the war, I realized I couldn’t go home as a student from another region. That night I held my phone and kept up with all the news. The informational noise was horrible. A friend told me that a newly-formed Humanitarian Center searches for volunteers the next day. “Hmm, there might be people I know and maybe even some I’ve volunteered with before. I want to go!” And that’s it. I’m working with many motivated people trying to do their best for the long-awaited victory.”

The volunteer coordinator of the SVOI NGO, Olga Poltoratskaya, decided to help the headquarters remotely with her fighting tools, a phone, and a laptop. Olga shared her thoughts about her participation in the work here:

“Being an online volunteer during the war is surely difficult, but easier than physically being in the CenterCenter or going to the guys from the Armed Forces. Volunteering online is important because we search for new volunteers and new members. We seek opportunities to help not only our army but also ordinary people stranded by war. So many young people are now online and don’t even know what to do, so our work is to give them a chance to help others and to express themselves. We publish posts for them to see what they can do. We also gather the volunteer base for those working at the Center so that they can assign the tasks they have to new volunteers easily.”

The humanitarian headquarters in Zaporizhzhya, which began its work on February 24, is an example of the unity of Ukrainians who have chosen their way to fight for freedom. After all, it is possible to join such work both offline and online – each of the volunteers contributes. Everyone takes a step towards a solid independent country for a fulfilled life in which we fight.

Everything will be Ukraine! 🇺🇦

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