It is difficult to estimate Rotary’s contributions in providing relief to war-torn Ukrainians, “but in the nine months of war, The Rotary Foundation has disbursed $15 million in a specially created fund to support Rotarians in Ukraine and help the refugees fleeing the war… this is a war between democracy and a totalitarian regime and we will emerge victorious,” said DG Vitalii Lesko,
There are 66 Rotary clubs with 1,400 members across Ukraine; and “volunteers from 10 clubs are providing humanitarian relief to war-hit people. We have set up over 20 shelter camps for internally displaced people,” said Lesko. He was speaking at a zoom meet organised by RID 3054 to mark the handover of a mobile home to 15 orphaned children from Ukraine and their two tutors who were being accommodated by Pastor Gabriel and his wife Dr Anna in Barcelona. The mobile home worth €3,700 (₹3.25 lakh) was funded by seven Rotary clubs in Spain and two Interact clubs from Ahmedabad. Shedding light on the unfolding human tragedy in Ukraine, he said, “now we are into a dark, severe winter and are badly in need of warm clothes, generators, water, light and heat. With a network of clubs, we are trying to deliver essential needs quickly to wherever needed.”
But, he added, “difficult times are ahead of us, as it will be a long, painful journey and at the end of it, together we will win. The contributions of Rotarians may not be decisive, but it will be significant to our victory.” Stating that he is doing a “systematic analysis of funds being given by Rotary,” the DG added, “after the war is over, I will meet RI President Jennifer Jones to brief and thank her for all that Rotary has done for us.”
A model project
The delivery of the mobile home to the war-torn children in Ukraine “is a perfect example of what Rotarians can do when we work together. We are from different countries, speak many languages and have diverse beliefs, but we all share the same values. Here seven Rotary clubs have come together to help out 15 orphaned children aged 4–17 years from Ukraine and their two teachers who are being sheltered by Pastor Gabriel and his wife,” said DG Ingrid Steinhoff from RC de Barcelona, RID 2202, Spain. Bowled over by the participation of Interactors, she said, “we are having a friendship exchange programme with Indian clubs; we will now include Interactors too in this project which I will continue to do even after I demit office.”
Thanks to the local community in Barcelona, the couple is able to provide education, good food and other support to the Ukrainian children, and that will help shape their future, the DG said.
In his brief speech, DG Balwant Singh Chirana, RID 3054, praised the involvement of two newly-formed Interact clubs from the Vishwabharati group of schools, Ahmedabad. “Thumbs up to PDG Lalit Sharma (DRFC) for helping Rtn Arup Sinha to contact DG Ingrid, Spain, whose clubs have taken up this project. This facilitation helped the Interactors to channel their money through the right conduit,” he said. “We will be with the children of Ukraine in their hour of need and extend support to them in whatever way possible and through all means.”
Recalling the phone call from Sinha requesting his help to send the money collected by Interactors to Ukraine beneficiaries, PDG Sharma said, “though the amount may be small €162, around ₹14,000, the Interactors have put in a Himalayan effort.”
When the digital space was thrown open to the Interactors, there was a flurry of Q&As exchanged between Indian students and Ukrainian children. “How are you going to celebrate Christmas,” asked Mihir Vachcheta from India. “We plan to decorate our home with green Xmas trees, and have great supper with special dishes,” replied a child in Barcelona.
Interactors Kavya Dave, Jay Patel, Dev Thakkar, Devansh Vaghela and Rahul Iyer interacted with the children on issues of common interest — New Year celebrations, Ukrainian culture, monuments, statues, their religion, et al.
The answers of the children were translated by Intercountry Committee (ICC) head Dmitry Popov from RC Kharkiv Multinational. His Spanish counterpart Salvador Olivé from RC Tarragona Tarraco August, RID 2202, coordinated and chipped in to ensure a smooth two-way dialogue between Indian students and the beneficiaries in Barcelona. The Ukrainian boys and girls were curious to know about school education in India, the way exams are conducted and marks granted, how Christmas is celebrated here and whether it will snow in India during the festival season.
RID 2232 PDG Mykola Stebljanko, Ukraine, spoke on the two rehab projects being taken up — the rebuilding of a completely damaged school in Buzova village, Kyiv, due to Russian bombardment; and helping farmers to get back to their vocation by demining their land and making it fit for cultivation under Project Mines to Vines.
Project head Luis Pueyo from RC de Castelldefels, Barcelona, RID 2202, the implementing club, said, “it is important for us to stay connected to take up new and more challenging projects.” The mobile home was made possible due to the collective efforts of Interactors from India and Rotarians from the Spanish clubs, he said.
Interact clubs trustee Rtn Kartikey Shukla expressing his solidarity with Ukrainians, said, “Rotary clubs must do everything possible to mitigate the sufferings of war-hit people through joint projects.” Vishwbharati English Medium School principal Dhaval B Solanki and Interact club coordinator Rita Shukla were also present. Around 100 Interactors, Rotarians from Ahmedabad, Spain, Ukraine and other countries took part in the virtual session through zoom and live Facebook streaming. RC Ahmedabad Greater interact chair Arup Sinha moderated the web event with the Spanish clubs. Rtn Harish Khatri from Jaipur provided the web infrastructure for the event.