Projects Since Last Update
It's been another non-stop period since my update 10 days ago. Some of these projects are not new but rather just the first time I'm mentioning them.
Here are just a few of the things I've been busy with:
Kharkov Street Kitchen
The term "street kitchen" has been used pretty liberally these past few years but our intervention in Kharkov is the real deal. Nadya ran a restaurant in Kharkov (aka Kharkiv) until her city quickly became one of the most-hardest hit in all of Ukraine. Ukraine's 2nd most populous city is only 30 km from the Russian border and they have been living through hell, with constant bombing, no electricity or gas, and in some cases no water. Nadya got going and started organizing to literally keep the population alive, running a kitchen in the middle of the street while bombs land around them.
So far we've bought $5,500 of staple foods, doing nothing to dispel Ukrainian stereotypes about potatoes. Here are some pictures of our grub:
Hardware for the Territorial Defense Force
The boys in yellow and blue are getting help from NATO etc. but shortages remain. I shuttled a member of Territorial Defense Force today from Hungary to Austria and he told me that, in his town, there is a waiting list of 2,000 volunteers for rifles. While I can't help with those, I've been able to organize some other stuff:
Vans: we now have a good system to buy cheap vans across Poland for Ruslan, a former Kyiv police officer. Together with Ivey grad and my main man in Toronto for all this Tommy P, we're picking up every 7-seater we can find for about $1,000. Ruslan picks them up, they paint them camo, and get them into the field. We bought this beauty last night: a 1994 VW T4 with just 396,000 km. Contact me after the war for availability for weddings and proms. 😂
Thermal imaging scopes: a bit on the pointier end of the spear, we got hold of a very specific request for thermal imaging scopes as part of the mission to take back a town from the Russians. After a few conversations through interpreters and some extra verification via my sources, I green-lighted this order of three thermal scopes for $6,000 through Aleksandra. These are used to detect the enemy but also, crucially, to detect survivors in rubble.
Aleksandra sent us this message:
Here are their happy new owners:
And is one of them very helpfully demonstrating how they work together with 1st Lieutenant Captain Whiskers.
Actually these tests are critical as many of these devices are designed for big game hunting and won't detect "smaller" mammals like humans.
I am a core founding member of Alliance4Ukraine, with my good friend Philipp von der Wippel, through his charity. We launched this across Germany on February 25, the day after the invasion started. One of "Ryan's donors" to this effort, Jeff Love, is a professor of Russian literature and has joined Alliance4Ukraine to build its on-demand translation service for all the non-profits connected to this. He has been a great partner in this and his extended family in Canada, including my former Ivey classmate Christie, have been great supporters of our efforts.
Alliance4Ukraine now has over 600 individual, corporate, and non-profit members including these:
...as well as a dedicated fund to move cash quickly to match needs -- basically what I am doing here in Austria as an individual through your support, but on a bigger scale.
We are in contact with each other through twice-weekly group calls specifically to match "need" to "offer" and are active in our 580-member Slack group.
An hour ago I posted this heavily discounted price I got from drugs manufacturers for a shipment I pick up tomorrow and already someone in Germany has written back with better prices, so the system works.
Medicine & Medical Supplies
After Tommy P's successful and customs-evading personal delivery of $5,000 of meds (see last update), he has now doubled the amount again through his own Toronto fundraising.
My sister's friend Clint, a donor to these efforts, works in logistics and is going to get these shipped and cleared to Poland to Ruslan (the same Ruslan from above ☝️). Tomorrow I will pick up meds we bought through a pharmacist's connections here in Vienna, as well as lots of stuff I've bought and had shipped through Germany from Christian in Potsdam. All of this will go to Territorial Defense Force contacts Victor and Lusia, who get them through to places most needed. Here is Tommy P's 1st delivery arriving in Kharkiv. I've been told people love "unboxing videos". 📦
This elite squad is composed of Ivey grads and close friends Tommy P and Lisa E and Christian. We organize meds and other tough stuff through our aptly-named WhatsApp group:
Ternopil Evacuation Buses
Here's a biggie we are funding. Alberto, a former police officer from Italy now living in Vienna, went to go pick up his Ukrainian wife's family in Ukraine. As people begged him to take them too, somehow this little family matter became an at-scale evacuation. Here are some impressions--gathering in relatively-safe Ternopil and pictures from their phones of what they were leaving (Alberto is in the blue flack vest in 1st picture):
Together with my pals at Vienna Mission For Ukraine (we are also financial supporters of the back office), we are currently funding the 2nd evacuation, which is in progress. We just got 50 people to safety in Warsaw, where our money is putting them up in a hotel overnight before the next bus arrives to take them to Italy where accommodation for everyone is provided. Warsaw was an unexpected layover as a bus driver is out with Covid and as I write this I am also working to figure out replacement buses and/or further accommodation. That this is all happening during the pandemic that never goes away is also an issue and lots of people are knocked out right now with Covid, which is really screwing up our driver pool.
First picture of our arrivals in Warsaw:
We are just starting to build this as an evacuation route and seed funding it. The next mission launches in the days ahead and we are sending a potential large-ticket donor (€50k) from Vienna with the mission, all the way through to Ukraine, to check it out. If you speak Russian/Ukrainian and want to accompany one of the evacuations (or just on the EU side), please contact me.
I never like to drive "empty" these days. As this week I had nothing specific to bring on my drive to Hungary, I challenged my friends with kids to get donations from their school classes and made this dropoff at the Red Cross Hungary Ukrainain Shelter yesterday. Kids stay 2-3 days there and will get to take a toy with them. Brag alert: when I introduced myself to a staff member, someone said: "Ryan from Canada? We've heard about you". For once, that's a good thing!
Thanks to my dear sweet friend the incredibly-talented Florentine (@floss.world) for editing this into a video
Money & Next Steps
All figures 🇨🇦. To-date $97,000 received of which $77,000 spent and $20,000 committed on projects that will be fulfilled in the coming week so currently flat for new interventions.
We are on the home stretch before professional organizations can take this over. The kind of guerilla interventions I am doing are still sorely needed until NGOs can get fully resourced and operational.
Please keep your support coming by interac e-transfer or paypal to rglittle -at- gmail.com. I will keep going full steam ahead through April and then "retire" from active full-time volunteering and fundraising, and join as an advisor to some of the organizations I've helped start. A special thank you to those of you who have contributed now twice, and a few even triple-headers! 🙌
To all of you at Black Diamond, in Collingwood, in Toronto and Mississauga, and through Ivey and Appleby, you have made all of this happen ☝️. Slava Ukraini. 🇺🇦
Bonus Material :)
Always time for a beer with Steve who runs the shelter for Ukraine's many Africans when I am passing through Budapest.
Here is a stack of the Romanian lei we provided to this volunteer-run LGBTQ refugee center in Bucharest. With our $4,000 we basically bankrolled the whole thing.
And of course, still behind the wheel a lot.