Love in Action — Ukraine, November 2023 Update
Fri, December 1 – Tue, December 31
Fri, December 1, –
We would like to update you on the continuing efforts of the Love in Action (LIA) volunteer team to help those harmed by the war in Ukraine. LIA was formed in June 2022 in response to the humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine. Three Washington DC area mindfulness communities practicing in the Plum Village tradition (Still Water Mindfulness Practice Center, Washington Mindfulness Community, Opening Heart Mindfulness Community) came together to establish Love in Action, a project that is a concrete manifestation of their engaged practice.
The initial decision to focus on the Czech Republic was heavily influenced by the personal initiative of Order of Interbeing member Jindra Čekan/ová, who has been an active member of the Washington DC area mindfulness communities for over 28 years. At the war’s start, Jindra, now living in Prague, used her own resources to offer assistance to those forced to flee from Ukraine. As friends in the United States learned of the open-hearted efforts of Jindra and others, they came together to create LIA as a way of offering financial and moral support.
In the beginning, LIA’s prime concern was assisting refugees from Ukraine who had fled to the Czech Republic, including many African students who had been studying at Ukrainian universities. Since September 2022, the focus has expanded to include Ukrainian civilians in the Czech Republic but primarily those still in Ukraine who are receiving medical, food, and other assistance from organizations based in the Czech Republic.
In the Czech Republic, during the winter of 2022-23, the team provided warm sleeping bags, coveralls, and winter clothing for Ukrainian refugee babies, buying as much as possible second-hand in local markets. The team has also continued to help Nigerian students in the Czech Republic with food and rent, when funds permit. Many of these students fled or were deported from Ukraine at the beginning of the war and are now stranded in the Czech Republic. Some have had their asylum requests denied and are currently appealing. One Nigerian student was denied asylum, in spite of evidence of the physical torture which had led him to flee to Ukraine. The project team provided him with funds for driving lessons that allow him to work for a ride-hailing company. Another was deported from the Czech Republic, leaving his pregnant Ukrainian girlfriend and her daughter behind. The LIA team is assisting the mother, daughter, and new baby boy.
In Ukraine, the team focused support last winter on keeping people alive and warm. The team bought and collected donations of second-hand winter clothes for children and adults and arranged for them to be driven roughly 1500 miles into Ukraine. The winter clothes were distributed in hospitals and to community groups in Balta, Cherson, Kharkov, Kurakhove, and Zhytomyr.
In addition to clothes, LIA provided Ukrainian households with food, hygiene products, cookstoves, and heating pads. In response to many requests, LIA was able to provide some families with candles, power banks, and rechargeable lanterns, as well as small generators which turn individual households into “stations of steadfastness” for that family and their neighbors. LIA has received requests from hospitals in Zhytomyr for adult incontinence diapers, and for infant diapers and formula. It is expected that the needs will be even greater this winter.
LIA is collaborating with Cesta Naděje Života (The Way of Hope and Life) that, along with many other assistance projects, is converting buses into mobile laundries with washing machines and dryers, which are then transported to Ukraine. We would like to further support the expansion of their work.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Education reported in January that over 2,600 schools across the country had been damaged and over 400 destroyed. Constant bombing has meant that schools have been intermittently closed in many parts of Ukraine. The team has successfully experimented with providing tablet computers for children to use for their online schooling.
Going forward, the LIA team would like to deepen their focus on child protection and educational projects, both in the Czech Republic and in Ukraine. LIA will collaborate with local organizations to provide educational materials, school bags, and small gifts with personalized messages to children in orphanages and other shelters. There are also plans to distribute Pexeso, an educational card game that teaches children about the dangers of touching unexploded ammunition.
The first snows of winter are now expected soon. While the news media will focus on the conflict and on territorial gains or losses, the Love in Action team will keep our focus firmly on the basic humanitarian needs of the vulnerable. We ask you to contribute to this effort, and we thank you in advance for whatever you are able to offer.
LIA received $30,000 in 2022 and our goal is to raise an additional $30,000 in 2023.
(Donations are tax-deductible for US taxpayers to the fullest extent allowed by law.)
The Love in Action Team
Volunteers: Annie Mahon, Jindra Cekan/ova, Katerina Stiebitz, Mitchell Ratner, and Nigel Twose
Founding Sanghas: Still Water Mindfulness Practice Center, Washington Mindfulness Community, Opening Heart Mindfulness Community
Supporting Sanghas: Ottawa Pagoda Sangha, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Lakeside Buddha Sangha, Evanston, Illinois; River Valley Sangha, Northampton, Massachusetts; Charlotte Community of Mindfulness, Charlotte, North Carolina; Inter-Sangha des Cistes, Montpellier, France.
For more information, contact us at LoveInActionUkraineTeam@gmail.com