Opinion: Frigid temps remind us to keep helping Ukraine

Our most urgent task here in Atlanta is to give people supplies to keep them from freezing.

As this year ends, I look back on the last 10 months with absolute wonder at how the people in Ukraine have graciously accepted our friendship, along with medical supplies, blankets and generators. This tumultuous period of Ukraine’s history has caught the attention of so many here in Atlanta and beyond.

I’ve had the opportunity to play a small part in this painful saga for the people of Ukraine by creating a charitable relief effort called HelpingUkraine.us, that – with the help of Rotary International – has provided much-needed supplies to those affected by the war. Our effort was conceived to channel global attention into tangible action, through supply procurement and distribution, community outreach and publicity.

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

Contributions have been coming into our website, allowing us to secure much-needed medical and shelter supplies. Our close coordination with Dr. Olha Puliychuk in Ukraine has ensured that all our efforts have been strategic – this has culminated in our work serving the needs of the 14 main hospitals in the country that perform surgeries to save lives and limbs.

Our work has gained momentum and inspired other individuals to join the cause, including Ken Ward from the greater Atlanta area.

Ken volunteered to go back to Ukraine, specifically the Odessa area, to help provide blankets, generators and wood-burning stoves to the homes and warming centers in the villages. It’s in Odessa and Kherson where our humanitarian work is being done -- with bombs blasting in the background.

Ken has been a hero, learning how to move goods into these villages with the funds that HelpingUkraine.us has provided. He’s proved himself a team leader on the ground and will continue to be so when he returns to Ukraine on January 4 equipped, once again, with our financial support. Our most urgent task right now is to provide everyday people with the supplies to keep them from freezing to death.

Millions of Americans have just recently been granted a glimpse into the arctic conditions afflicting Ukrainians daily. Americans have seen how deadly the bite of subzero temperatures can be.

Our online platform has supplied hospitals with more than $800,000 worth of equipment and supplies throughout Ukraine, including three located at the current front of the fighting. We have delivered battery-operated Stryker surgical drills which have allowed surgeons across Ukraine to re-attach limbs that would have otherwise been amputated. Newborn incubators with battery backups have given medical personnel there the ability to transfer babies from regular hospital space into bomb shelters located in hospital basements each time air raid sirens sound and the power goes out, dramatically reducing the risk of injury or death.

Unfortunately, the need for hospital supplies and equipment is growing as a result of intensified Russian bombing throughout Ukraine.

Our strategy involves purchasing equipment and supplies in the U.S. when they cannot be purchased for less in Europe. Our purchasing, warehousing and shipping done through Tucker-based FODAC (Friends of Disabled Adults and Children) receives free or heavily discounted shipping to Baia Mare, Romania. From there, shipments are escorted by Rotarians and other volunteers, like Ken, across the border to the Rotary warehouse in Uzhhorod, Ukraine and then distributed by Ukrainian Rotarians to hospitals throughout the country.

Requests from our contacts on the ground, who coordinate centers for the five million refugees still in Ukraine, are for those blankets, generators and heaters like those Ken has delivered in the past few weeks. Our mission is to keep vulnerable children and citizens without power warm against the freezing temperatures.

I have received pictures of our equipment in use at a maternity hospital in Cherkasy, Ukraine. In Dnipro, friends have emailed me asking, on behalf of emergency room doctors, for basic aid like saline for wound irrigation and on to defibrillators and surgical equipment. We need funding now to ensure the survival of Ukrainians in shelters and in their homes as a harsh winter combines with vicious attacks to threaten their spirits and lives.

The local Ukrainian community greatly appreciates all that we are doing for their homeland. They are an inspiration to me and others involved in the effort as we continue to build community for this movement.

At some point – hopefully soon - the war in Ukraine will end, leaving a huge need for replacement infrastructure and economic development. When the bombing ceases, there will still be work to be done - but we need to raise more money immediately to accommodate daily requests for resources.

As the giving season ends, we hope this effort, HelpingUkraine.us, will come to mind. I only hope more and more people will join our movement. The people of Ukraine still need our help. The courage of their people carries their fight for freedom and democracy forward – not only for themselves, but for the entire world.

Emory Morsberger is CEO of the Morsberger Group and founder of HelpingUkraine.us.