Introduction from Friends of Ukraine RI’s Meet and Greet with our Ukrainian grassroots partner organizations, May 21, 2022:

Hello, my name is Maya DeHart and I am welcoming you to this Meet and Greet from Providence, Rhode Island, the smallest of the United States. Until February 24th, one thing Rhode Island and Ukraine had in common was that few Americans could pinpoint either one on a map. Well, it’s safe to say that more Americans than ever before now know where Ukraine is. They at least know that it borders Russia - border being the key word. That’s a great thing. I know the “silver linings” of this war do not make the horrors any less horrific or heartbreaking. The image of my 14 year-old daughter urgently waking me up to the news that Russia had invaded Ukraine is seared into my memory. I can only imagine what it was like on that day for all of you, our partners living in Ukraine. My daughter was struck so deeply by the news because she traveled with me to Lviv when she was six to be a flower girl in the wedding of my Ukrainian exchange sister, Mika. Mika wrote to me and the other Friends of Ukraine RI founders with a vision of what we could do to support Ukraine during Russia’s attack, and I thank her for helping us feel a little less helpless. We teamed up with others, including former Peace Corps volunteers, to find all of you – our donors here in the US, and our partners in Ukraine. I want to acknowledge the Friends of Ukraine team who did so much work to crowdsource, track and distribute our funds. We are no longer collecting new donations ourselves, but as we all know, the war is not over, and the work continues. So, today we wanted to gather to let you hear from some of the organizations we’ve supported (click here for more information).

Update May 22nd, 2022:

Dear Supporters, Please visit our website, www.friendsukraineri.org, for the slides and video recording of today’s impactful Meet and Greet with some of our Ukrainian grassroots partner organizations, as well as instructions on how to donate directly to these groups. Below we share today’s moving closing remarks from Mika, our catalyst for Friends of Ukraine RI, as well as photos from one of our latest medical supply deliveries. From Mika:February 24th split the lives of all Ukrainians into “before the war“ and “during the war.” Despite all the talk and publications about the inevitability of Russian invasion, the morning of February 24th was still a shock. There is no manual for living once someone invades your country.
For me, the first few hours were occupied with the most mundane of worries: Do I send my son to school? Do we have enough cash? Do we even need cash? Do we need to buy dried goods? Are the stores still working?
But after the initial shock wore off, all Ukrainians kicked into their usual mode of mobilizing networks, reaching out to friends and family, taking care of those close by. That morning, I received a message from our Kyiv neighbors who were looking to escape the capital to safety. Because my family moved to our summer house outside of Lviv, in western Ukraine, to escape COVID, we became a destination for many families fleeing hot zones.
In total, since February, we have hosted 7 families, or 26 people, with 17 people living simultaneously in our 3-bedroom house at our peak occupancy. Every spare corner and all floors were occupied with mattresses and sleeping cots, all beds taken.
We have seen it all - families that were helplessly lost and thinking only about safety for their children, people that lost their livelihoods right before their eyes. One family saw through security cameras how Russian soldiers occupied their large furniture showroom in Kherson. But that did not deter them from losing hope - they used that moment of despair to turn their other showroom in Dnipro into hosting refugees.
We also saw terrible loss and inexplainable pain. My coworker escaped with her 8-month old daughter and 14-year old niece from Chernihiv region and came to stay with us. After two weeks in safety, she received the heartbreaking news that her husband was killed while fighting outside Mykolayiv with Russian invaders. Little Sophia lost her father.
Despite the heartbreak and difficulties, we continue to go through daily life. We have bad days, but we also have days filled with hope and cautious laughter. Our guests have to occasionally endure my husband’s guitar playing and have to pretend to like it. Sometimes my son wants privacy and so he goes to our bedroom’s corner and sits under my winter jacket calling it his room.
But our days would have been much darker without knowing that our friends in Rhode Island and all over the world have our backs. It gives us the space to be hopeful, to plan how we will be rebuilding our lives and our country, to everyday help those around us.
We know that there are more difficult days ahead. Even though some families have returned to their battered but liberated cities and towns, we are not putting the mattresses away. Ukraine is still going through hell and our lives will not return to normal for a long time. But we ask you to continue to have our backs. Without your support the darkness will be harder to overcome.
Thank you all for being with us. Slava Ukraini!
This just in: Photos of wound vacuum systems and supplies delivered to Mykolaiv Children’s Hospital, in collaboration with a group of Ukrainian refugee volunteers now based in Germany.

UPDATE May 11th, 2022:

Dear Supporters, When we launched on 2/26/22, we knew our mission was to get immediate aid to those on the frontlines of Russia’s war in Ukraine. We did not know what amount of financial support to expect. You have blown us away. To date, Friends of Ukraine RI has crowdsourced over $120,000 in funding for medical supplies and cash assistance for Ukrainians. As we wind down our operations, we would like to invite you to a Zoom Meet Up on Saturday, May 21 at 9am EST to hear from some of the groups we have funded. Please RSVP by responding to this email by Thursday, May 19 and we will send you the zoom link. Friends of Ukraine RI will continue to accept donations through Sunday, May 22 (via Paypal – see QR code below or donation link on our website). We will support these groups and the delivery of medical supplies to the frontlines while funds last. In solidarity with Ukraine,Maya, Natasha, Rachel, Tony and Michael

UPDATE April 25th, 2022:

Dear Supporters,
To date, Friends of Ukraine RI (FOU) has financially contributed towards transporting 82 large bags to the frontlines in Ukraine, each bag carrying a minimum of $1500 worth of donated or FOU-purchased medical supplies (emergency medical kits, emergency wound care, tourniquets, compression needles, burn gels, power banks, solar flashlights and more). In this update, we share just a few of the many photos of thanks we have received.
- Maya, Natasha, Rachel, Tony and Michaelwww.friendsukraineri.org

UPDATE April 4th, 2022:

Dear Friends of Ukraine RI Supporters,
Five and a half weeks ago, Russia expanded its invasion into Ukraine. The next day, my Ukrainian host sister sent the email to her network in Providence that catalyzed Friends of Ukraine RI into existence. That Ukrainians would fight this hard and effectively wasn’t Putin’s only miscalculation; he also wasn’t prepared for the coordination and severity of the economic sanctions and outpouring of international support. Putin thought Ukraine would fall quickly, but Ukrainians are successfully preventing Russia from robbing them of independence. As their fight continues, so do we. Slavik (the volunteer whose journey was featured in a previous update) just returned from his second successful delivery to the Ukrainian territorial defense – 24 bags filled with individual first aid kits, tourniquets, compression needles, burn gels, solar banks, flashlights and more. He also delivered supplies for an organization serving kids with diabetes. Another volunteer is heading from Providence to Ukraine this week. Below are photos from a youth organization in the northeastern city of Kharkiv delivering baby food, diapers and medicine to families, thanks to your support. -Maya on behalf of Friends of Ukraine RIhttps://fundly.com/friends-of-ukraine-ri

UPDATE March 24th, 2022:

Dear Friends of Ukraine Supporters,
This week, NPR’s State of Ukraine podcast reported what we already knew: humanitarian supply chains inside Ukraine are moving slowly and targeted cash assistance is a better way to get aid to Ukrainians now. Larger organizations, including the UN Refugee Agency, are pivoting to cash grants, but most haven’t started distributing funds yet.
Friends of Ukraine RI started disbursing cash relief to Ukrainians in early March with a focus on local groups and volunteers who can source and distribute items. A dedicated team of former Peace Corp Ukraine volunteers and staff – Andriy, Laurel, Alia and Natasha B. – solicits requests from direct contacts and vets each one. We’ve distributed aid to several regions, and below is one such snapshot from the southeastern city of Kryvyy Rih.
You can read more about the work you’re supporting in this Brown Daily Herald article:https://www.browndailyherald.com/article/2022/03/friends-of-ukraine-ri-raises-over-100000-in-light-of-russia-ukraine-conflict

UPDATE March 19th, 2022:

Dear Supporters,
When I lived in Ukraine in 1993, shortly after the Soviet Union collapsed, the cultural differences between the more Ukrainian-speaking west and more Russian-speaking east were palpable. It’s striking to me how these past eight years of war (since the 2014 Euromaidan protests against a corrupt president, who ultimately fled to Russia, and Russia’s subsequent invasion of Crimea and the eastern region) have unified the country under a shared Ukrainian identity, inclusive of its ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity. And now, Putin has ensured that every last Ukrainian right up to the Russian border will forever despise him. No one knows when he will end his murderous rampage, but he can’t occupy forever a country whose hearts and minds he’ll never win. Ukrainians will continue to organize, mobilize and resist, and you are supporting the civilian network that only gets stronger with each day. This week, Friends of Ukraine partnered with the Second Baptist Church of East Providence, who did an extraordinary amount of legwork to get 27 bags of medical supplies via a civilian network that went from Rhode Island to Warsaw to Lutsk (in western Ukraine) and is being distributed by the territorial defense to eastern parts of Ukraine. In this update, we share photos (with permission) from the journey.
Maya, on behalf of Friends of Ukraine
A Ukrainian-American volunteer from the church loads up his van in Rhode Island.
The volunteer's brother unloads the van at his church in Lutsk, Ukraine.
The volunteer is met in Warsaw, Poland by Ukrainian men with special permission to leave the country in order to transport aid to and from the border.

Ukrainians sort the supplies, which are then picked up by a medic with the territorial defense.

UPDATE March 7th, 2022:

As Putin ratchets up his deadly terror campaign against Ukrainian civilians, Ukrainians’ resolve to defend their country remains amazingly strong. Your donations are helping to sustain them in two ways:1) Providing immediate disaster relief to Ukrainians. We’re working with Returned Peace Corp Volunteers and others with direct contacts on the ground, who are funneling requests for items necessary for survival (such as food and medicine) that can still be purchased in the country with small cash assistance grants.2) Delivering medical supplies to the frontlines. At this time, we are purchasing and collecting in-kind donations of supplies in the US, shipping to Poland, and working with Ukrainian contacts who have transportation at-the-ready to get medical supplies to those defending their cities and towns. We are also working with reputable organizations in Poland and Ukraine who can procure supplies and arrange for their transportation.Being mindful of the larger humanitarian aid efforts, especially for the outpour of refugees, Friends of Ukraine has been focused on how we can best plug the holes. As a small and nimble all-volunteer organization, your donations go directly to supporting Ukrainians in Ukraine as quickly as possible. (Please note that at this time, donations are not tax deductible.)

LAUNCHED February 26, 2022:

We’ve teamed up with our contacts on the ground in Ukraine and Poland to purchase and deliver medical supplies to Ukrainian citizens mobilizing to defend their country. Putin’s military might is no match for the will of the Ukrainian people, but they need our help as they set up makeshift hospital operations and tend to the wounded. Your donations will go towards emergency medical equipment for the front lines, such as paramedic backpacks, tourniquets, bandages and dressings. - Friends of Ukraine RINatasha Rybak, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease; co-founder and co-director of the Brown University Ukraine Collaboration (Rotary Youth Exchange in Lviv, Ukraine 1993-1994)Tony Levitas, Senior Fellow at Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown UniversityMichael Kennedy, Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs, Brown UniversityMaya DeHart, Director of Healthcare Delivery, UNITE HERE HEALTH (Rotary Youth Exchange in Lviv, Ukraine 1993-1994)Rachel Padilla, MD '22 UMass Chan Medical School (former Programs Coordinator, Brown University Ukraine Collaboration)