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Rotary’s Ukraine response one year on

24 February will mark one year since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a major escalation of the conflict which has been ongoing since 2014.

The war has triggered a vast, complex humanitarian crisis. In Ukraine, tens of thousands have lost their lives, millions have been displaced and the repercussions have been felt across the world. The anniversary is a chance to show solidarity, strengthen our support and reflect on the way volunteers have helped over the past year.

For Rotary, when a need arises or an event occurs, big or small, our members and volunteers always tend to ask the same question: “how can we help?”

In February 2022, Rotary GB&I formed a Ukraine Taskforce, made up of Rotary volunteers with key areas of expertise, to co-ordinate Rotary’s national response, which has remained volunteer-driven throughout.

The Taskforce has been in constant contact with our network of 1,600 Rotary clubs nationwide. Data we have collected from clubs shows that since the war began 12 months ago, Rotary has donated in excess of £6 million in cash and kind, and given more than 100,000 volunteer hours to support Ukraine and its people.

To ensure funds, time and efforts have been directed where they’re needed most, Rotary members have worked closely with fellow members in Ukraine. Sometimes the Taskforce’s Zoom meetings have been conducted by candlelight or have even interrupted by bombing, bringing into sharp focus the urgency of humanitarian need.

Rotary has seven Areas of Focus, which encompass the volunteering service we deliver in local communities and around the world. They are:

  • Promoting peace
  • Fighting disease
  • Providing clean water
  • Saving mothers and children
  • Supporting education
  • Growing local economies
  • Protecting the environment

Rotary’s response has touched all of those areas. From buying Ukrainian storybooks for children resettling in the UK to rebuilding villages destroyed by Russian bombing, or funding drones used to de-mine agricultural land to allow farmers to begin growing crops.

This has been built on the bedrock of dedicated and passionate Rotary members, who volunteer to make these projects happen.

Although there are dozens of examples of life-changing projects from Rotary, one in particular captures the way we work; collaborating across borders to address serious issues in an impactful, targeted and sustainable way.

Dr John Philip is Chair of the Rotary International Fellowship of Healthcare Professionals and a member of Rotary in Newbury. Fellowships are part of the Rotary experience and connect people across the world with shared skills, interests and expertise, often to implement humanitarian projects.

Since the war broke out, John, a surgeon by profession, has been coordinating large scale fundraising and humanitarian efforts totalling over £500,000, which has been used to supply a range of emergency medical aid and equipment.

The latest programme came after John discovered that the percentage of new-born babies suffering from oxygen deprivation during birth in Ukraine was 10-times the level that you’d expect in developed countries. The incidence in developed countries is typically 0.2% of births, whereas in Ukraine, it was 2.6% during the first six months of the war.

Rotary has supplied batter-operated scanners, which allow mothers to monitor their baby’s heartrate and detect irregularities earlier. This programme, the first of its kind in the country, will help 30,000 expectant mothers over the next 12 months.

Not content with coordinating efforts and fundraising, John was also part of a three-person convoy who recently travelled 1,350 miles from the UK to the Poland-Ukrainian border to deliver the 120 boxes of medical equipment.

Peace is a cornerstone of our mission, and as we lament the ongoing conflict, Rotary members and volunteers remain committed to meeting the needs of the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

James Bolton
Communications Manager, Rotary GB&I
13 February 2023