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Outpouring from donors for Ukraine fuels PWRDF’s wide-ranging relief responses

May 24, 2022

By Janice Biehn

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(This story was update May 30.)

Today marks the three-month anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It’s not the sort of milestone one likes to note, yet we must. Since February 24, more than 8 million Ukrainians – women, children and elderly – have been forced to leave their homes and find safety within Ukraine, and 6.5 million people have left the country, some living in crowded refugee camps or in cities, vulnerable to other stressors. According to the United Nations, 3,778 civilians have been killed and 4,186 wounded. The Ukrainian government estimates 2,500 to 3,000 soldiers have been killed, and 10,000 wounded. The Russian government has recorded 1,351 soldier deaths, and 3,825 wounded.  

Canada is home to the third largest population of Ukrainians in the world (second only to Ukraine and Russia). One of those Ukrainian Canadians is Patricia Maruschak, PWRDF’s Director of Partnerships and Programs, who started with us four days after the invasion began. 

“The first weeks of the war were so upsetting,” Maruschak told the Winnipeg Free Press. Besides having Ukrainian heritage, Maruschak has also lived and worked in Ukraine for many years. “I still have friends and former colleagues in that country, and some relatives. It’s heartbreaking to hear how their lives have been shattered.” 

The response from Canadians grew quickly.

Anglican churches have launched fundraising campaigns, held countless events and organized benefit concerts to show their solidarity. To date, PWRDF has received more than $800,000 in donations from individuals and parishes.  

Maruschak has been working closely with PWRDF’s Humanitarian Relief Coordinator, Naba Gurung, to effectively disburse these funds. So far, we are supporting responses of two international organizations and three local organizations. PWRDF is making a concerted effort to partner with local organizations because we believe Ukrainians are best positioned to understand local needs. They are invested in helping their fellow citizens and rebuilding Ukraine once the war ends.   

Hungarian Interchurch Aid, $170,000  

HIA photo

“During the first days [of the war] we tried to tell the children it was thunder. But when the active bombing started and the missiles fell near the house, the children started screaming. They didn’t want to leave the shelter [of furniture] so they ate there, they went to the toilet there. They were really very, very scared. That is why I realized that there was no time to wait and it was time to evacuate somewhere.” Irina, 31, on the difficult decision to leave Ukraine  

PWRDF is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global faith-based coalition of more than 140 churches and related agencies working in humanitarian assistance, long-term development, and advocacy. HIA is also a member of the ACT Alliance. This allowed us to quickly provide much needed funds. HIA is one of the largest charitable organizations in Hungary and it has had a permanent presence in Ukraine for more than 20 years.  

HIA is working closely with the local governments and more than 20 local first-responder groups in Ukraine. It has been shipping food and distributing other relief goods to internally displaced people who have not crossed into Hungary. With connections to the local authorities on both sides of the border, HIA is able to ship food and other essentials, and life-saving medical equipment and supplies from Hungary into Ukraine. 

HIA has established two 24-hour refugee support points (one in Hungary and one in Ukraine), and is providing safe transportation to railway hubs, and food and hygiene kits for new arrivals. In the first two weeks of the war we allocated $100,000 to this response. In mid-May, we received a 2.5 to 1 matching fund from the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation, turning $20,000 from our designated donations into $70,000. 

HelpAge International, $50,000 

“I’m not going to leave here. I hide in the basement from shelling. Now I sometimes spend the night there, or in the bathroom, which I secured after a shell hit the house. I’m afraid that everything I have can be destroyed in a second. But I hope for a speedy peace. A HelpAge volunteer brings me food and we speak together. After talking with her, I want to live. God give her strength.” Alexander, 81, from his home in the Donetsk region of Eastern Ukraine. 

HelpAge supports vulnerable seniors globally and has assisted seniors living in Eastern Ukraine since the Russian invasion in 2014. It has provided food, medical assistance and sometimes even wheelbarrows of coal to help them heat their homes. They were well positioned to provide assistance from the beginning of the war in 2022.  

Currently, HelpAge International is helping Ukrainians of all ages who have fled to Moldova, where 1 in 4 Ukrainians fleeing are seniors. Because men between 18 and 60 are not able to leave the country, many elderly people are accompanying children and other family members. HelpAge International is supporting 5,620 Ukrainian refugees through 80 Emergency Accommodation Centres in Moldova with food, hygiene kits and other essentials. 

Initiative E+, $114,000 

“PWRDF’s help with purchasing ambulances is very needed – thank you! There is a catastrophic lack of ambulances in the deoccupied territories of the country. We currently have requests for ambulances from over 50 hospitals and medical centres as their vehicles were destroyed or seriously damaged by Russian forces.” Valentyna Varava, Executive Director  

This Kyiv-based organization was established in 2014 to help medics and first responders provide relief to families impacted by the 2014 invasion. Over the last two years they’ve supported hospitals and medical centres in treating COVID patients. When the invasion began at the end of February, they were able to ramp up their operations and partner with the Ministry of Health. With PWRDF funds they are providing tactical medical equipment, such as tourniquets, dressings for serious wounds and external braces and supports for broken bones. These supplies are being delivered to hospitals, medical centres and first responders in Kyiv, Kyiv Oblast, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Mykolaiv. These areas are the ones subjected to the most serious attacks by Russian forces. 

PWRDF also funded the purchase of two ambulances which were desperately needed.

Fight for Right, $64,000 

“Thanks to these funds from PWRDF, and support from other partners, we will be able to operate a hotline for people with disabilities during wartime. The hotline will be used for various requests, including evacuation, psychological and legal assistance, provision of medication, etc. … This support will allow us to improve the way we work to provide our hotline services,” Anya Zaremba, Fight for Right coordinator 

Established and led by Ukrainian women with disabilities, Fight for Right’s core mission is promoting the rights of Persons with Disabilities in Ukraine.  

To date the organization has already evacuated or assisted 645 people with disabilities, with more than 2,000 additional evacuations requested. After evacuation, most people face psychological difficulties and legal issues that need to be addressed in their EU destination.  

The overarching objective of FFR’s emergency response is to promote and support the rights of people with disabilities during the war in Ukraine. PWRDF is contributing to this work by supporting a hotline launched with a focus on:   

  • evacuation   
  • medical supplies and support   
  • assistive technologies and durable equipment (wheelchairs, white canes, hearing devices)  
  • financial support  
  • accommodations in Ukraine and abroad (including hospitals, rehabilitation institutions)   
  • food, water, basic goods for daily living (hygiene kits, personal care items, special dietary needs) 

Dzherelo Children’s Rehabilitation Centre, $71,000 

Based in Lviv in Western Ukraine, Dzherelo has been providing physical rehabilitation services and social support for patients and their families since 1992. Since the war started in February, the city of Lviv became a major hub for housing of Internally Displaced People and a transit point for Ukrainians leaving the country.  

Dzherelo has been running a 24-hour Assistance Post at the railway station helping people with disabilities. Dzherelo’s six handicap-friendly minibuses have been used to transport IDPs within Lviv and to the Polish border. The centre has provided accommodation for more than 350 people with disabilities and their relatives or companions. Dzherelo staff have provided accommodation assistance, assistance descending into bomb shelters during air raid alarms, and more than 2,000 hot meals, along with many other services.  

The demands on Dzherelo’s services will continue as the number of people with disabilities in Lviv has increased dramatically. PWRDF will be funding the centre’s heating system, which will in turn decrease maintenance and heating costs, resulting in a larger percentage of donations to be used for programming. 

It is sometimes challenging to connect with local organizations that are working in a war zone or engaged in a lot of high pressure, time-sensitive evacuations. Nevertheless, PWRDF is committed to supporting these responses. These challenges are the small price of supporting the people and organizations best positioned to help Ukraine.  

How you can help 

Please continue to keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers. To make a donation to this response, click here or go to and click on Ukraine Relief. You may also donate by phone at 416-822-9083 or leave a voicemail toll-free at 1-866-308-7973 and we will return your call, or mail your cheque to PWRDF, 80 Hayden, 3rd floor, Toronto, Ontario, M4Y 3G2.

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