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Small but Active: How a Tiny New York Organization Raised $57 Million for Ukraine

'24.08.2022'

Nadezhda Verbitskaya

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The U.S.-based charity Razom for Ukraine, run by Ukrainian and Ukrainian-American volunteers, has raised about $150 in a year to help Ukraine, reports ABC News.

Ekaterina Terekhova proudly shows off the new shelter she created in an abandoned school building in Transcarpathia, Ukraine. It is close to the border with Slovakia, Romania and Hungary. By video link, she showed separate rooms for men, women and families. Dozens of beds have brand new mattresses and linens. The bathrooms and showers are also new. She likes the kitchen, which prepares three free meals a day for residents.

People lie on beds. The girl curled up on a bench in the dining room, staring at her phone. Outside, this countryside is quiet. This is a relatively safe respite for people fleeing the horror of the Russian invasion.

Terekhova herself fled here with her family from Kyiv in the first days of the war

And almost immediately began to look for ways to help. As soon as she saw the school building, she knew that it would make the perfect hideout. But it took work. It had been empty for four years, with no running water or central heating.

She was part of a chat group with IT troops, a group of Ukrainian technologists and entrepreneurs who help deliver supplies to troops and fund humanitarian work. They put Terekhova in charge of their humanitarian work. The group has been in contact with the United States-based charity "Razom for Ukraine".

On the subject: New York hosts Ukrainian film festival: where, when and what to see

During a video call with some Razom board members, Terekhova explained the project. And she named the expected costs for materials - she has already raised funds to cover labor and operating expenses, such as food. Three days later, she received a message from Razom for Ukraine, congratulating her on receiving a grant of $28. This amount is enough to cover all the materials.

“I was in shock,” says Terekhova. - It happened so fast. And it’s easy because we absolutely understand each other.”

Razom has committed more than $3 million to 98 small humanitarian projects since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February

The non-profit organization's connections to Ukraine have helped it connect to grassroots efforts. The tiny group, led by volunteers, is now working at a furious pace. Every day its leaders and volunteers know that the work they do can mean the difference between life and death for someone in Ukraine.

For most of its eight-year history, Razom has raised about $150 a year to help promote a free and prosperous Ukraine. Before the war, it had about 000 sponsors. But in the months since the invasion, Razom has raised $4000 million from more than 57 backers. She has already spent $150 million on humanitarian aid efforts. One of his major projects: the purchase of consumables for the assembly and delivery of tactical first aid kits to Ukraine. The group has sent 000 kits so far, with more to come.

Razom has sparked outrage from some major humanitarian aid groups. Project Hope, an international non-profit organization that trains healthcare professionals in Ukraine in trauma care, has received more than $21 million for the crisis.

“Raising $57 million for Ukraine is truly fantastic,” says Project Hope CEO Rabih Torbey.

While Russian troops were amassing on the Ukrainian border, the Razom board decided that in the event of an invasion, it would focus on medical assistance.

The group began purchasing materials to create tactical first aid kits.

Medical workers volunteered to check supplies to make sure they were of the right type and quality. Volunteer teams assembled kits at a warehouse in New Jersey. The software developers have set up a system to keep track of the kits so the team knows where they are in transit and when they will arrive at their destination in Ukraine. The corporations helped them find space on cargo planes for their supplies. And the shipping company helped with the logistics.

Shipments that could have taken months took only a few days. Slow deliveries could be deadly, and volunteers worked around the clock.

“This is our country and our people,” says Dora Khomyak, president of Razom. We want to make sure they're alive. And that there is a country to return to, and there is a country for our children and our grandchildren.”

Dealing with the wave of donations was as difficult as delivering supplies. When the group was founded, it tracked donations on an online spreadsheet. But the company soon upgraded and implemented systems to process donations made online and through social media channels. It mattered a lot when Russia invaded and money poured in.

Maria Genkin, a member of the board, who until this year had mainly organized cultural events, took charge of the fundraising. She worked in investment banking technology at Goldman Sachs. In late February, the group began receiving hundreds of emails a day asking how to donate. Much more than one person could handle.

The group also received requests every day from people wanting to volunteer.

Genkin checked the backgrounds of some of the volunteers to build a solid team.

Razom has received some high-profile donations: Tipper Gore, Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings, and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey donated $1 million each. The New York Jets donated $100.

This summer, 27-year-old Razom board member Marina Prikhodko traveled to Kharkiv. She decided to evacuate her aunt and uncle. And bring them to the United States. Every night, when rockets fell from the sky, they hid in a closet.

“I saw the destruction with my own eyes. In the morning you crawl out of your hiding place. You go outside and see that the new building has been destroyed,” says Prikhodko. “I experienced what the Ukrainians experienced.”

She visited the warehouse where Razom stores goods when they arrive in Ukraine. There, volunteers accept applications from hospitals, first responders and military units. Then about 20 drivers deliver supplies around the country.

While there, she traveled with one of the foundation's teams to deliver aid to small towns close to the Russian border. The locals were those who had a hard time escaping: the elderly, the disabled, or those with small children. According to Prikhodko, they did not even flinch from the close shelling. Some lived in houses that were destroyed except for one room.

“A rocket is sticking out of their house. And they don't have a roof over their heads, but that's all they have left,” she says. “They are all injured.”

Khomyak, president of Razom, says the organization is already making plans for the future. “Once the bombing stops, there is still a lot of work to be done.”

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