I'm taking a breath this weekend to catch up with an update for all of you and do all the fun stuff like transfer a glove box of receipts to Excel hahaha.
Fundraising & "The Books"
Surplus now of $17,500 on $86,000 received and $68,500 spent or committed. Since my last update, donations have been allocated to sustain key logistical pieces, like petrol and temporary accommodation. This is in large part because I am managing to get lots of volunteers and donations organized and so cash goes further. Biggest expense this week was $8,200 to WarHelp to buy a 9-seater van (this moved from "committed" to "funded") and a soft commitment on an armoured van. I am so grateful for your support -- individual contributions last week ranged from $50 - $6,000 and every bit of it I can use, and having this surplus--actually a literal war chest--is of huge value. Please keep it coming via interac e-transfer or paypal to rglittle -at- gmail.com As the numbers grow and we approach the $100,000 mark, I'd also like to offer to walk anyone who contributed through the numbers on a video call for transparency and good governance. This is a guerilla effort but even guerillas can keep receipts!
Last Week in Budapest
Austria borders on eight countries. During the Cold War, it was the gateway between the East and West. In this war, Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary are buffer countries between Ukraine and Austria. I'm working on projects in all of these countries and these past few days I was on the ground in Budapest. It's also a place where a buck goes a little farther, generally but especially as the Hungarian Florint has lost value since the war began.
Here are two projects I'm working on. You'll note a theme to some of the direct intervention work I am doing personally: marginalized refugees. People of Colour, Roma, and disabled refugees have an especially tough time and so need a little extra attention to not fall through the cracks. In my next update, I'll write a note about the politics of race and religion in refugee crises as I have some thoughts about it, as someone who was active in the 2015 refugee crisis as well.
Futurestars Football Club, aka Steve's Shelter
Steve is a soccer coach from Ghana who moved to Budapest 21 years ago for love. He is the coach of my friend Zsolt's two kids. Zsolt told me that Steve has become a bit of a one-man community organizer for Africans fleeing Ukraine.
With so many images every day in the news of Ukrainians fleeing, it's easy to forget that there are also lots of non-Ukrainians who live and study in the country. You might be surprised to hear that Ukraine has (had?) a large African community; far larger than eastern EU countries like Poland and Hungary. Most are students; many are athletes.
When I got in touch with Steve a couple weeks ago, he was feeding and housing African refugees solely from his own pocket. Since then I have committed to fund the whole operation, at about $4,500, which has been enough to process, house and feed more than 1,000 people. We are getting folks from there farther abroad into Europe and in some cases back to Africa, though most want to stay. We are funded through the next couple of weeks still with this amount and the number of people is dwindling, averaging now a few arrivals per day. This is good news as people have made it through!
Here's a video and a picture with some impressions -- Steve also organized some soccer games for everyone.
On Friday as I was doing a check-in meeting with Steve and Zsolt I decided to do a little side mission to a refugee shelter on the outskirts of town in an old army barracks. This place houses almost exclusively Roma refugees. It was a desperate sight -- there are 30 kids there and literally the only toy was one single ball and a newly-built sandbox. This is not ok. We have toy drives going on in Berlin and Vienna but I wanted to do something right away here and so, as an exception, spent just short of $1,000 at Tesco and bought everything from Connect Four to a swingset and brought it over. I've never seen such pure joy as the kids saw what was in the car and of course I stuck around for an hour to play too. After a few weeks of pretty intense moments, I think I needed this as much as they did. :)
Mind the gut: I have put on 10lbs in the last month :(
Unloading took about 30 seconds with a pretty motivated crew.
Back in Austria & Germany
I have an army of now more than 50 volunteers in Austria and Germany focused 100% on housing and integration. They are tapping their networks to get both short-term and long-term apartments set up with tons of donated furniture/clothes/toys, moms and kids settled, registered for benefits and school, learning how to do basic things like banking and grocery shopping, etc. This is really time-intensive and I'm happy to be a little more hands-off with it. I can barely manage my own household of me, a cat, and a dog!
Here is a busload of 45 people my friend Polina drove in from the border; incredibly, everyone was set up with a place to go before it even arrived.
I focus on the harder cases: especially refugees coming in to Vienna or Berlin with severe disabilities where a bus isn't the best solution and a little extra help is needed on arrival.
When I drive to the border, I fill the car with whatever is needed at the crossing I am going to (lately often canned goods and baby stuff), and sometimes bring people from who are travelling for specific reasons: e.g. a Ukrainian man who went back to join the Territorial Defense Force.
Tomorrow I will drive to the Polish border, sleep over, and drive Irina and her two daughters back and put them in an airbnb until I can find something suitable for them. Her older daughter has cerebral palsy and so getting somewhere for the long-term that is barrier-free and close to a hospital is key.
Here is our conversation from earlier this week -- this is what so many of my conversations look like right now and thank heavens for Google Translate!
Over the next weeks I will be spending time in Berlin and Munich working with my networks there as, over my 11 years in Germany working in the social innovation sector, my ties are very strong there. I am also still waiting for my Austrian residence permit and so need to watch my days until I myself have proper legal standing!
-Medicines & Medical Supplies
-Armoured Vans (like Brinks)
-Logistics North America-Europe
Medicines & Medical Supplies
This note from Lusia, one of my military contacts, speaks volumes. Hours before a hospital in Kharkov was bombed, killing at least 4.
One of my best friends in the world, Tommy P, together with friends and family bought $5,000 worth of meds in Canada and smuggled them to me in a suitcase to Austria. This arrived last week in Kharkov.
As we pass the one-month mark of battle, the need for medicine and medical supplies of all kinds are needed. Please don't assume that aid organizations are taking care of this -- they are doing their best but the gaps are huge.
The good news is there is a very clear path for you to help with this:
Think of anyone you know who works in the medical or pharmaceutical profession
Contact them and tell them you want any and all surplus, worn or expired medicines or medical equipment and that you will take it "off the books" and remove all branding. Veterinary materials too--this is a hugely valuable workaround.
Get in touch with me at rglittle -at- gmail.com and I will manage the logistics based on type and volume of materials
Armoured Vans (like Brinks)
As Western Ukraine starts to take missile hits in the past week, we are looking for ways to stay safe especially transporting really valuable things like medication. I am supporting the purchase of an armoured van like this for operations headquartered in these two places:
If you know anyone in North America who has connections to Brinks etc and can get us their old vans cheap or donated, please reach out. No concerns about street legality and any condition is fine.
Check your LinkedIn and write to any connections at:
Through one of you in the USA (👋 Richard) we are also working on paratransit vans to be donated. Anything that can be used as an ambulance is sorely needed right now.
Logistics North-America Europe
I have got some good lines now on this but nothing yet confirmed. Need containers and possibly even air freight donated or subsidized for (you guessed it!) meds and vans North America-Europe (preferably Poland).
Since some of you are asking about my safety, I'll address it here. The biggest risks to my health this past month are by far the risk of getting scurvy from living on frozen marguerita pizzas and the 10lbs I've put on from that and from not exercising. Beyond that, there is very little risk to life and limb in what I'm doing. I am for the most part not crossing the border into Ukraine, and when I do, it's just for convenience of picking up or dropping off.
Here's what the front line looks like for me much of the time when I'm not on the road
Nevertheless, thanks to my old classmate and Canadian Forces vet Russ for sending through a flack vest.
Leaving you with dark humour: if the Russians don't kill me in Ukraine, the roaming charges will. €1.00 per MB, €1.50 per minute!
Next Steps & How to Help
I am going to keep going flat out until April 30 at which time I hope to work primarily on a strategic level (many new orgs sprouting up that need strategy and governance experience). Until then, please keep the money flowing via interac e-transfer or paypal at rglittle -at- gmail.com and THANK YOU! Slava ukraini 🇺🇦