The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) has received more than $1 million to aid the people of Ukraine, with even more donations yet to be counted, says Patricia Maruschak, the agency’s director of partnerships and programs.
That puts it among PWRDF’s top three fundraising responses to date, second to the campaign following the 2010 Haiti earthquake and slightly more than that which followed the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.
“Anglicans, like everybody else across country and around the world, have been so moved by the situation that’s facing the people of Ukraine. A lot of people feel this is an unjust war—they see millions having their lives destroyed, disrupted, turned upside down overnight, making dramatic and life-changing decisions,” says Maruschak. Anyone with a sense of empathy, she adds, can’t help but be moved and feel like helping in some way.
So far, PWRDF has dispensed between $500,000 and $600,000 to programming aimed at helping refugees and residents of Ukraine, through six partner charities, four of them based in Ukraine itself: Fight For Right, Voices of Children, Initiative E+ and Dzherelo Children’s Rehabilitation Centre.
“We’ve made a conscious effort to take the lead from Ukrainian organizations in terms of what the greatest needs are,” says Maruschak. The charities they’ve chosen have been operating in Ukraine since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 or before, she says, which means they have nearly a decade’s worth of experience getting services to vulnerable people while operating under the threat of violence from Russian forces.
The charities are using PWRDF’s funding to provide emergency relief to the vulnerable people they normally serve. Fight for Right, for example, is a charity that cares for Ukrainians with disabilities. It has put PWRDF’s contributions toward a 24-hour hotline providing support for those in active combat areas, helping evacuate those who face the added complications of a disability as they escape the dangers of shelling and shooting. In the west of Ukraine, PWRDF is providing funding for Voices of Children to operate mobile clinics which travel to areas abandoned by Russian troops. Their clinics help children who lived through the occupation and fighting cope with the trauma they’ve faced. PWRDF’s funding to Initiative E+ went toward purchasing medical supplies to care for civilians wounded in the fighting, including two ambulances.
In Lviv, near the border with Poland, the Dzherelo Children’s Rehabilitation Centre has been helping refugees cross the border to escape the fighting. Meanwhile, its regular work and the maintenance of its headquarters have taken a back seat. As a result, Maruschak says, the help the centre really needed was funding for a new electric heating system for its headquarters. By helping the centre pay for this system, PWRDF saved it from having to pay extra for upkeep and fuel, allowing it to spend money on programming instead.
Another advantage of working with long-established charities is that they have been established in the community long enough to prove a record of effective service—a key piece in PWRDF’s strategy to avoid corruption, Maruschak says. The fund checks partner charities’ financial records, gets confirmation of deposit in banks when it sends them money and asks for proof of how the recipients used the funds to ensure the money goes toward the causes it’s meant for. Maruschak says her personal connections in Ukraine also help her pinpoint trustworthy charities that need the help.
The granddaughter of Ukrainian immigrants to Canada, Maruschak also lived there herself with her husband and children for four years beginning in 2006. She says the experience and connections she built then have made her work finding opportunities to aid Ukrainians particularly meaningful.
“I’m really pleased that my role at PWRDF gives me the opportunity to help with some sort of a response,” she says. “Because Anglicans are generous, the work that we’re able to support is substantial.”
Maruschak says she also appreciates the opportunity to support Ukrainian organizations.
“Having lived and worked in the country myself, I know there’s a lot of local capacity and I really want to try and follow that lead as much as possible.”