The vivid images are ones that aren’t easily erased. The buildings, or what’s left of them, are charred, hollow shells. Piles of concrete rubble are amassed in desolate streets. Trees are empty stalks, no longer showing any sign of life. Everything looks barren.
But these images on the screen aren’t from a movie. They’re real cities in Ukraine — Mariupol, Kharkiv, Kyiv — marked by devastation in the past couple of months.
On February 24, Russian tanks crossed the Ukrainian border, launching a large-scale invasion of the country, an invasion that sent millions of women and children fleeing from their homes and the lives that they knew.
What to do
Thousands of miles away, from the comfort of their home in Toledo, Craig Burns and his wife Tatyana, who grew up in Ukraine, watched in horror as they saw news footage of Russian tanks crossing the border.
Tatyana has family and friends still living there. Like so many people in Ukraine, Craig and Tatyana couldn’t believe the Russians would actually invade a country where Russians had so many relatives, friends and such a deep cultural kinship.
“We were fearful for all of the children whose lives were disrupted by the invasion,” Burns said. “My wife and I knew we had to do something. We knew we had to try to help.”
About 10 million Ukrainians have been displaced by this war.
“Many people were welcomed into neighboring countries, but more are sheltering in place in safer areas of Ukraine,” Burns explained. “I say “safer”, not “safe” because even in the safer areas they are awakened nightly by alerts of missile attacks and spend hours in cold, damp cellars.”
This led Craig and Tatyana to create America Cares for Ukrainian Children, a charity with the mission to help Ukrainian children affected by the invasion. America Cares for Ukrainian Children is a subordinate organization of The Anastasia Fund, which Craig helped create nearly 25 years ago.
Help where it’s needed most
America Cares for Ukrainian Children has focused its efforts in the Transcarpathia region, which has been flooded with displaced Ukrainian women and children. The Burnses also have friends and family there who have volunteered to help, and they’ve noticed a ripple effect when it comes to volunteering.
“Our purpose is really to bring together ordinary Americans and ordinary Ukrainians to help children. And we’ve noticed whenever we work on a project in Ukraine,more Ukrainians come out to help. Everyone wants to step up.”
America Care for Ukrainian Children has been able to purchase humanitarian supplies for kids. It has provided shipments of staple food supplies, and care packages for displaced children and orphans on Ukrainian Easter.
And, just recently, the charity worked with local Ukrainian businesses and volunteers to construct two shower cabins with a water heater at a transient camp, which serves 100 women and children daily.
Small acts, big impact
“This is certainly a grassroots effort — ordinary Americans and Ukrainians helping Ukrainian children survive this war,” Burns said.
Burns says this charity will always be small, with no paid staff, and every dollar donated will go straight to aid. But even a small charity can have a big impact.
“There are a lot of organizations out there doing different things to help. If each of us pick something small and do it well, we can accomplish a lot together.”
Interested in helping out?
Here are a few simple ways to make an impact: