There are times in our lives when watching an event unfold where we know that we have to do something. Moving on to the next thing on our daily To Do list is just not enough.
In March of this year, I received a strong message that I needed to help the victims of the war in Ukraine. And it’s a confusing feeling, as what I can I do, other than donating money, from 6,000 miles away from the conflict?
Enter John P. Lynch, my friend (introduced by Stephen O’Connor) who is originally from the East Coast of the USA, and the Founder and Director of the Corporate Aid for Ukraine John created CAU to help the Ukrainians who were pouring into Poland to escape the conflict. He has lived near Krakow for a long time with his family and sent ideas on where I could go to volunteer in June.
The Multicultural Centre in Krakow (here is a sign-up sheet if you want to volunteer: https://ib-polska.pl ) was the organization that I chose, a group that established a clothes collection and distribution center in Krakow. On arrival to the group, I was given a Health and Safety briefing, an introduction to other volunteers for the shifts, and put to work in the warehouse.
Initially, I worked at the front door of the facility to greet the refugees who were coming to get donated clothing. My counterpart was a young Ukrainian woman who spoke Polish, English, and Ukrainian. We managed the headcount of the beneficiaries, made small talk and smiled, and kept the line moving in an orderly capacity.
Some people seemed fine, while others had a faraway look that reflected the grief they were enduring having walked away from their homes with just the clothes on their backs. One woman, with tears in her eyes, showed us a picture of her 19-year-old son who was still in Ukraine. Over 400 people went through the lines each day, mostly women and children, as men above 16 and younger than 60 were required to stay in Ukraine.
During the afternoons of my shifts with the volunteer team, we unpacked boxes of donated clothes into the various categories for women, men, and children by size, function, etc. This was a great opportunity to meet and speak with the other volunteers, many of them who had a direct connection with a Ukrainian family member or loved one. Their stories of how and why they arrived to help were beautiful and inspirational.
If you can, sign up to help these organizations who are combating the atrocity of this war. The perspective I gained is hard to put into written words or when sharing the stories with others. In my opinion, we are all one and have to help each other while standing up to those who would harm others. Until next time, peace to the victims of the war and the wonderful volunteers I met in Krakow.