As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine presses on, Canadians are continuing to provide support by way of donations. This includes efforts by the Mennonite Central Committee of Ontario, which has raised a total of $2.3 million from donors and sent one container of supplies so far.
That’s part of the larger effort from the MCC in Canada and the United States, which have received $9.7 million in donations and sent five containers of supplies.
“Since we put out the request the support that we’ve received has been unbelievable,” said Jon Lebold, material resources program coordinator for MCC Ontario.
“A lot of people think because of our thrift shops and stuff, we’re sending used clothes and things like that, but everything we’re shipping is brand new. So the main requests for this load were for relief kits, hygiene kits, infant care kits, and comforters,” Lebold explained.
The relief kits can support up to four, while the hygiene kits are for one person. The infant-care kits include items such as sleepers, baby blankets, socks, a hat and soap. The comforters are all handmade by volunteers, Lebold said.
“There are hundreds – actually it’s safe to say thousands –of people across Ontario that are making the comforters for us and donating the comforters. They’re all beautiful comforters,” he said.
An MCC worker in Ukraine explained the importance of the supply shipment in a release from the organization.
“So many people in Ukraine are still suffering and they feel helpless in the face of circumstances they cannot control. The fighting has been going on for months, people get tired and discouraged. Ukrainians need to know that they’re not alone in this and that they’re supported, that there are people around the world who are not indifferent to the suffering,” said Nadiya T, whose last name was withheld for safety reasons.
Both the volunteers and donors went above and beyond to make the shipment of supplies happen while still allowing MCC to honor previous commitments, Lebold explained.
“A lot of our partners, when the war started in Ukraine, were really worried because typically when there’s a war in a part of the world, relief organizations kind of focus on that and sometimes forget about some of the other areas that still have great need. We committed to our other partners that we were planning to ship so that we would continue with those shipments. Our donors have really stepped up and donated kind of above and beyond to make sure that the Ukraine load could happen. So it’s been truly amazing to see the outpouring of support for Ukraine and for our other partners,” he said.
There were a lot of challenges in shipping the container given that it was going into an active war zone, Lebold said.
“The main one was setting up safe distribution and making sure that the staff that are going to be distributing the things will be able to do it in a safe way. But another one was actually just even getting the container into the country,” he explained.
The container of supplies had a long journey starting in New Hamburg, with stops that included Montreal, and Rotterdam, Netherlands. The supplies were then put onto trucks and driven through Poland to Ukraine.
The entire process is very emotional, Lebold explained.
“Even loading the container and when we close the container door knowing that it’s on its way to people who truly need it is a very emotional time for all of us, for our volunteers. For everyone here to see the container go and then to be able to see the pictures of people receiving it and hear the stories of the impact that it’s having. It makes me feel so blessed to be able to be involved.”
MCC Ontario is planning to ship another container of supplies in November.