Metro Bethesda Rotary has recently been the catalyst for a major humanitarian assistance project in Ukraine. Club members have spearheaded the purchase and delivery of more than $1 million of medical supplies and equipment to the front lines of the war and wherever else it’s needed. We’ve been partnering with United Help Ukraine, a nonprofit run by local Ukrainian ex-pats who themselves have raised $40 million this year, along with the Lviv International Rotary Club, who are our eyes and ears on the ground in Ukraine. MBR Club leaders Barton Goldenberg and Daniel Fischer are leading the effort, on behalf of District 7620, to execute the project utilizing a special Rotary International fund dedicated to Ukraine aid. Importantly, they have made it turnkey for club members to participate in funding the purchase of supplies, packing boxes of materials, and cheering on the drive.
Barton and Daniel have each dedicated more than 400 hours to the project, working around the clock with international time differences, but feeling amazingly gratified at what’s been accomplished. “This is the epitome and power of Rotary,” said Barton, a former Rotary District Governor who has been instrumental in procuring international support. Added Daniel, “It’s been gratifying bringing together Rotarians from around the world, all unified to help Ukraine in its time of need. Our skilled team, including partners from Lviv International Club, UHU and District 6970 in Florida, have made this challenging initiative possible.”
Our club’s participation has transpired in several stages. Not surprisingly for a project this size, it has involved detailed requests for multiple Rotary Disaster Response grants, funds for which are donated to Rotary International by Rotarians, Clubs, and Districts.
- Initially, in May/June 2022, our Club jump-started the project by collecting $25K in donations. We combined that with a Rotary Disaster Response grant for a total of $57K. With this funding, life-saving aid such as tourniquets, medicated gauze bandages, and other items for individual combat-like first aid were purchased and packed by Rotarians, shipped by UHU to Warsaw, and delivered to Lviv Rotarians.
- For the second round in August/September, we brought together seven US Rotary Districts and received a $175K Disaster Response grant. With Rotary International allowing grantees to purchase outside the US, we included both ‘tactical’ items like those purchased earlier and sustainable hospital equipment. In high demand were portable wound closure machines costing over $3K each. We supplied ten of these machines to a hospital near the warfront.
- In October, a $375K Rotary Disaster Response grant allowed us to expand the breadth and amount of goods purchased. About a third of the budget focused on sustainable equipment including portable x-ray equipment ($30K each), an anesthesia machine ($26K) and 15 wound closure machines. The majority of funds continue to go towards helping those wounded at the warfront survive long enough to receive full medical attention.
- Most recently, working with 20 Rotary Districts from Florida to Finland, from Los Angeles to Norway, and from Iceland to India, the project was awarded $500K in funding. These 20 Districts represent over 40,000 Rotarians around the world. Beyond sending over additional medical supplies and equipment, our upcoming deliverables will include sub zero winter gear and water filtration systems providing potable water in areas where the water table has been polluted by petroleum and other heavy elements.
Our ongoing experience demonstrates what Rotary is all about: actively living “service above self” with expanding national and international collaboration.
We’d like to offer our gratitude to the many Rotarians who have supplied the project with funding, time, and know-how. It has made a significant difference to those in Ukraine who are the victims of unspeakable violence. We plan to continue the project as long as it is needed.
The project is still actively accepting donations. Click on the green Donate Now button at the top of the page. Thank you for your support!