P.E.I. donors watch their dollars make a difference for families in Ukraine

·5 min read
Ukrainians working with refugees in the eastern city of Dnipro hold up a sign thanking Lori Jaworski of Charlottetown for her contributions.  (Artem Pidhorniy - image credit)
Ukrainians working with refugees in the eastern city of Dnipro hold up a sign thanking Lori Jaworski of Charlottetown for her contributions. (Artem Pidhorniy - image credit)

Volunteers in Ukraine are making sure that donors on Prince Edward Island are seeing the difference their dollars are making in the war-torn country.

The P.E.I. Stand with Ukraine Facebook group is filled with photos of local fundraisers, but also of donations being received in Ukraine, and Ukrainians grateful for the support sent from a small island halfway around the world.

Lori Jaworski, owner of Grandma Jaworski's Foods, raised more than $6,800 selling 5,000 perogies at the Charlottetown Farmers Market in mid-March, and has continued to collect donations since then.

The total now tops $10,000, and another perogy fundraiser is already in the works for the end of May.

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

"I don't want to take the credit for it because it's all the customers that dropped off the money," Jaworski said.

"But it does feel nice to be able to be the person to collect the money and then decide where it's going to go."

'Gives people hope'

Jaworski said it has been meaningful for her and her customers to see the photos of the donations purchased with the money she has sent.

"It makes me cry to think about it. I think it gives people hope, because most people don't have a lot of money to give," Jaworski said.

"Their $5 and $10 doesn't seem significant to them. But at the end of the day, when it all adds up, it becomes very significant."

Artem Pidhorniy
Artem Pidhorniy

There are also people holding signs, thanking Jaworski personally.

"It's embarrassing, but it's also nice. I think that it makes it more personal, when a person gives money instead of an organization, they feel more connected to a person," Jaworski said.

Their $5 and $10 doesn't seem significant to them. But at the end of the day, when it all adds up, it becomes very significant
—Lori Jaworski, Grandma Jaworski's Foods

Jaworski has been sending the money to a contact in Ukraine who she met through the Stand with Ukraine Facebook group.

"Most of the money has gone to a town called Dnipro, and it is a place where they are receiving refugees more and more every day," Jaworski said.

"They are feeding them, and they're providing some medical care. They're giving blankets. Things like that, the necessary quick needs of the people."

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

Jaworski said she plans to visit Ukraine, and hopes to meet some of the people she has seen in the photos.

"It's lovely. And most of them are smiling, which is kind of nice. They still have hope, and it's nice for them to know that people care."

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

Need to help

Alla Lebedeva grew up in Ukraine, and still has family there, mainly in the Lviv area in western Ukraine. She's been part of P.E.I.'s Stand with Ukraine group since it started.

"All my family is in Ukraine right now, and for me it was disaster to hear this war has started," Lebedeva said.

"I'm here and safe. But I feel like I need to do something to help people in Ukraine, so I just try to do something to be helpful for them."

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

The group's first fundraiser was a yard sale that was a huge success, raising $18,000.

"We sent the money to people in Ukraine we know, and they buy a lot of food for families who don't have any food, buy some toys for kids because they were from Kharkov and from Kyiv. They don't have nothing," Lebedeva said.

"When I saw those how people people cry to get some help from us. I was, like, it was very important."

Artem Pidhorniy
Artem Pidhorniy

Lebedeva said she's received lots of support from Islanders since the war began.

"I love the people here. I think here the people are very kind and they really want to help. And I feel very thankful for these people," Lebedeva said.

The Stand with Ukraine group raised another $2,920 through an Etsy sale, and is now planning another yard sale, Saturday, April 23, in Summerside.

"We don't have was a plan to stop before the war stops. But after that I think the Ukrainian people will need help to organize everything," Lebedeva said.

"Of course, we will do as much as we can."

Insulin for Ukraine

Daniel Gorbachev moved to P.E.I. six years ago from Russia, because of the fighting in Crimea.

He is part of a group on P.E.I. that collected a boxful of insulin that was shipped to Ukraine early in the war, when the supply chain was cut off.

Julia Nikolenko
Julia Nikolenko

Now Gorbachev is encouraging Islanders to donate directly to trusted volunteers in Ukraine, information that is shared in the Stand with Ukraine group.

"It became more efficient to get donations here, send it to volunteers in Europe, particularly in Germany," Gorbachev said.

"Buy med supplies locally in German pharmacies, and then bring these meds to volunteers in Ukraine to distribute there."

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

Gorbachev said it has been gratifying to see supplies from P.E.I. arriving to help in Ukraine, including that box of insulin.

"To know that even small initiatives, when people do the small things here on this remote spot of the world, remote from Ukraine," Gorbachev said.

"For example, one pack of insulin would last a person with diabetes for a month. So you can imagine how at least one box donated by somebody here was very important, that's a big difference."

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