You see them everywhere online, in Instagram photos and FaceBook profile pics: shining yellow sunflowers set against a bright blue sky, each symbolizing the struggle for peace and the spirit of resistance in Ukraine, where the resilient and cheerful plant, called soniashnyk in Ukrainian, is the national flower.
Sunflower of Peace Foundation, a Boston-based non-profit first created in 2014 to help people affected by violence in Ukraine following the Russian annexation of Crimea, is sending a hopeful message of support to the people of that country, which once again is being bombarded by a Russian military invasion.
Founder Kateryna Malakhova’s organization has provided medical workers with the equipment and supplies they lacked and has also offered assistance to orphans, internally displaced persons, and those most affected by COVID-19 in Ukraine, her native country.
Now, with devastating violence occurring in various cities across Ukraine, Sunflower of Peace has been, since late February, laser-focused on providing medical aid to doctors on the frontlines of this war. They are actively fundraising to compile and deliver hundreds of first aid tactical backpacks for paramedics and doctors. Each backpack can service up to ten people and includes bandages, medical instruments, anti-hemorrhagic medicine, and other first-aid supplies.
“We mobilized our community in Boston and the United States, energized our existing Europe-based and Ukraine-local partnerships and created new ones,” says Malakhova.”We developed new routes of deliveries and have been in constant touch with our on-the-ground contacts to gauge the needs and urgent gaps.”
For Ms. Malakhova and other Ukrainians working for the organization, the dire situation is very personal, as most still have friends and family in the country. “The extent of devastation and despair varies depending on where people are in relation to active military action, but the fear and the outrage are shared everywhere,” says Malakhova.
“Even though people are frightened about what this war will do to their families, nation, and country, they are determined to see Ukraine prevail,” she says. “Having families in a war-torn country undeniably adds tremendous stress, but we must stay strong for them and carry on in spite of all that’s happening.”
She applauds the Sunflower of Peace team, which has been working tirelessly to set up every piece of the operation. Volunteers are kept very busy preparing the first-aid medical backpacks, while, at the same time, the non-profit continues to secure much-needed donations, including a recent million-dollar grant from #StartSmall, Twitter’s co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey’s philanthropic initiative.
Sunflower of Peace is immensely grateful to be chosen as a recipient of such a generous grant, which will enable the organization to increase the number of shipments to the regions in Ukraine in dire need of medical aid. “Grants like these are critical for our work to help Ukrainians fighting and suffering on the frontlines of this war,” says Malakhova. “The new procurements made possible by this generous donation will enable Ukrainian medics to provide emergency assistance and save lives.”
High-profile gifts notwithstanding, Sunflower of Peace can still use help from people and organizations in Massachusetts and beyond. “Our Greater Boston community has been amazing,” says Malakhova. “From the very first days of this war, we have received an outpouring of support and donations, and volunteers lined up to offer help.”
Interested individuals can donate time, money, or supplies, and Malakhova encourages purchasing from the Sunflower of Peace Amazon wishlist to deliver precisely what they need for the backpacks. She also welcomes organizational donations of large quantities of supplies from businesses and corporations, especially if they have the capacity to collect and ship medical aid.
“Everyone at Sunflower of Peace feels very supported, and we appreciate the many ways that people in our local communities continue to show up to help,” says Malakhova. “We will make sure that all of the people’s donations, efforts, and commitment save many, many lives.”
The frontline medical teams in Ukraine are also profoundly grateful for the supplies, for how they are packaged in easy-to-transport backpacks, and for how on point these items are for their practical and urgent needs. A recent message to Sunflower of Peace from a doctor in Kharkiv, a city that has been under relentless Russian bombardment, reads: ” A huge thank you for your help. We received it and distributed it.”
“They are our heroes; they are our saviors!” Malakhova says about these selfless doctors and paramedics. “They are saving lives.”
As fearful as she and the other Boston-based Ukrainians are, she finds hope in the groundswell of action from everyone involved with Sunflower of Peace’s efforts. “Everyone, from young to old, looks for ways to help our country survive this invasion,” she says. “ Glory to Ukraine!”
You can donate and learn more about other ways to help Sunflower of Peace here:
Text by Lisa Cavanaugh