The sunflower network is made up of many college-aged students or recent graduates.
After Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Dustin Ross, a former University of Michigan student, spent a month trying to figure out how to help Ukrainians in need.
Most organizations, however, only wanted monetary donations. Desiring to find a way to help directly, Ross traveled to Eastern Europe to see the situation for himself.
He spent several weeks in Romania, Poland and Ukraine, talking to refugees and learning how to build an emergency supply of food, hygiene, medical and other items in the besieged territories – where some 40 million people are affected. by war.
Ross learned about an international network ready to help and how much Ukraine needed critical supplies to save lives. In a country with a destroyed and disrupted supply chain, even basic necessities like deodorant and feminine products were essential to secure.
[Read the latest coverage from Ukraine]
To get directly involved, Ross launched Sunflower Network, a pending 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that includes an ever-expanding network of people in the United States and abroad who bring in essential supplies. to Ukraine.
The network is made up of many college-age students or recent graduates, including Eve Wasvary of Franklin, a 20-year-old student at the University of Michigan, who is currently doing internships in Tel Aviv and is affiliated with the University of Michigan. Hillel.
“I saw pictures [of the network’s work] through a mutual friend,” says Wasvary, who recently joined Sunflower Network and is now involved in fundraising efforts. In these photos, she saw Ross handing out gym bags filled with medicine and basic necessities to Ukrainians. Water purification systems and civil protection equipment were also delivered.
Inspired, she wanted to find a way to help. “They go directly to them,” she says of the supplies. “Sunflower Network has an Amazon Wishlist so you can purchase merchandise directly.” This helps donors know where their donations are going, she explains.
As a symbol of Ukrainian national identity and pride, the sunflower has a deeper meaning than just a clever name for a network. With several members based in the Detroit metro area, the work spans international waters and includes three partners in Ukraine.
These Ukraine-based partners are making deliveries, helping find homes for displaced people, and even securing and distributing medical supplies, among other vital services.
“Sunflower Network has partners who understand what supplies are needed, and they get them around the world to different regions,” Wasvary explains. “Then they distribute them in the worst regions of Ukraine.”
This includes hard-hit cities like Mariupol, Kharkiv, Odessa and the Donbass region.
Recently, Sunflower Network distributed $25,000 worth of supplies to partners in Kyiv, Lviv and Zakarpattia. Now they are looking to acquire medical equipment for trauma victims, such as haemostatic bandages and tourniquets.
They also double their goals. The network’s third mission to Ukraine, on July 12, aims to raise $52,250. A private donor also matches all dollar donations through July 8.
As well as purchasing vital supplies, the aim is to transport a fully equipped ambulance from Ireland to Ukraine. Sunflower Network also plans to buy five drones with the funds, which help locate injured people in dangerous areas.
Maintain War Consciousness
Wasvary says Ukraine needs help more than ever.
“I tried to raise awareness of the plight of these areas,” she says of towns like Mariupol, where up to 95% of the city is estimated to have been destroyed and people have hard to find drinking water or basic medicines. like antibiotics.
It is important for people to remember that the war continues, she explains, and that some regions continue to fall into a worse and more dangerous state.
“Now that I’m out of school, we hear a little about it, but not enough,” Wasvary says of the dwindling media coverage of the war. “I want people to know what’s going on.”
Together, she explains, “we can make such a difference.”
Even if people aren’t in a position to donate financially or send supplies, just being aware of the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian crisis helps propel the mission further. It’s a chain of events, Wasvary says, that sends the message from one person to another.
“Staying informed and understanding what’s going on, learning about what’s going on in the world…that’s the most important thing.”
To learn more about Sunflower Network and its mission, visit sunflowernetwork.io.