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We Can Do It - Humanitarian Aid for Ukraine

Updated: Apr 7, 2022

Hello ducky friends. First, let me say thank you for the outpouring of support and encouragement I have received since I first started writing about my aid trip to Poland. Without your kind words, encouragement, and support, I don’t think I could be out here in Krakow feeling confident that I am making a difference and spreading the word about how others can help too. So THANK YOU!

Anna and Ewa with Soroptimist International - Krakow; two of the loveliest women I’ve met in Krakow (March 2022)

I am now halfway through my stay in Krakow, Poland. I have already met with some amazing people like the ladies of Soroptimist International - Kraków, a group of women committed to the idea of women helping women. This sentiment is so important right now because approximately 54% of those impacted by Putin’s War are women.

First round of donations, kids care packs (March 2022)

Now men, its fantastic that you are helping too, but when there is a crisis that effects women and children in a different way then men, we need to make sure women’s voices and efforts are at the forefront of the solution. Why? Because when women are not able to step up and help other women in need, certain feminine needs and family necessities just get forgotten about. Like when I showed up with boxes and boxes of tampons to donate on Thursday and: (1) The man helping unload them kept asking what they were and what they were for, and (2) When he was told what they were and what they were for, he immediately said, “Oh yeah, ladies have been asking for these for weeks now.” Ducky ladies, can I get a collective eye-roll please?

Tuesday, I made my first in-person supply donation from the goods I brought with me from the States. The volunteers who accepted the donations were beyond grateful. One man, a volunteer from Arizona, who has been in Krakow volunteering for almost two weeks, broke down in tears overwhelmed by the generosity and efforts of individuals from “home” who had donated to make my drop-off of supplies possible. He provided me with a list of items his distribution station needed for displaced Ukrainians.

Right now, the biggest challenge being faced by aid workers (other than finding semi-permanent housing and jobs for the Ukrainians who have fled their homes) is consistently receiving the specific items needed each day. Part of this challenge is that the needs change daily so when one charity is told the distribution center needs diapers, that organization will spend a week collecting diapers, but then by the time those diapers are turned in, the distribution center has just spent a week receiving diapers and is now overwhelmed with too many diapers. Today what they need is bottled water because at 7 a.m. it appeared they would have enough for a few days but by noon it had all been handed out. How does this problem get solved? With Gophers.

Polish volunteers sort through our donations while Ukrainian women and children wait to receive aid (March 2022)

A Gopher (go-for this, go-for that, go-for whatever is needed), in this case, is an individual, group, or organization who shows up at the distribution center, money in hand, and takes the list of needed supplies for the day, goes for supply purchases, then brings the supplies back within a couple of hours. Rinse-repeat-rinse-repeat until their allotted monetary donations for the day are spent.

Without Gophers, charity and volunteer organizations have to use the precious time of some of their most senior staff (the ones with access to organization banking and able to make purchase decisions) to make supply runs. This is not efficient, let alone practical when those higher-ups are needed for other logistical work on the ground. Right now, what is needed most is a network of Gophers who are being funded through private donations.

The Impact of Your Donations

All of you who donated before I left for Poland are helping to support my efforts as a Gopher here in Krakow. And I want to extend an additional thank you to everyone who has donated since I started sharing my on-the-ground experiences. As of writing this post, you all have contributed over $3700! That means Travel for a Cause will be able to purchase upwards of $9,000 worth of goods and supplies because the exchange rate right now is in the US dollar's favor.

My post-dinner coffee at Restauracja Europejska (March 2022)

Fat Mama Tip: Exchange rates and purchasing power can be difficult to calculate... for example, as of today, 1 US dollar = 4.2 zlotys (Polish currency), but a dollar doesn't buy you 4.2 times as much stuff in Poland. However, a favorable exchange rate along with things costing less in Poland helps make our US dollars go further in Poland. So $3700 USD will purchase close to 8,000 zlotys worth of stuff.

A great example of this is a nice dinner I had in Krakow. I ordered a hot tea, a fantastic goat cheese, arugula, pear, and beetroot salad with raspberry dressing to start, roasted duck breast with black currant sauce and lentils for my main, and had an after diner coffee with Baily’s. Now in the states I would expect to pay between $45-$75 for a meal like this depending on the restaurant. In Krakow I could pay in either zlotys or USD. So either $140 zt or $40 USD.

What I have noticed is that my purchasing power, the difference between zlotys and dollars, is between 2 - 3.5 times better in Poland. It all depends on what I’m buying. My dollar doesn’t go as far for physical items, like toys I have bought for Itsy Bitsy, which tend to be priced about double the zlotys than the same item would cost in dollars in the States. While food and consumables seem to be priced more favorably with a purchasing power closer to 2.5 or 3.5 zlotys per dollar.

So a nice meal in a tourist-centric Polish restaurant may only set you back about 140 zlotys while a Polish doll will be 70 zlotys. Either way, you look at it, exchange rate vs. purchasing power, your money will go much farther in Poland than it does in the States.

A volunteer hands out the packs that your donations allowe