Women in Dubno, Ukraine, show off the thermal winter clothing they received from a Rotary relief effort.

By Janet Kolepp, past governor of District 7430 and assistant Rotary public image coordinator in Zone 32

A beacon of hope arose from an unexpected collaboration between Rotary districts interested in responding to the crisis in Ukraine. Two years ago, as I sat with three of my district governor classmates at the Zone 28/32 Conference in Toronto, we began a dialogue that would set the stage for a remarkable journey.

Aware of the opportunity provided by The Rotary Foundation’s Disaster Response Fund, we began to form the idea of pooling resources to maximize our impact. With the enthusiastic support of the district governors and Rotary Foundation chairs from Districts 6310, 6290, 7430, and 7980 we secured a grant of $100,000. 

Tangible results came quickly. With the grant, we purchased a mobile water filtration system, AQUASET-RO 1000, medical and dental supplies, and essential winter clothing, transporting it to Ukraine to help thousands in need.

The thermal clothing, in particular, proved invaluable in the harsh winter, providing comfort and protection to those enduring the bitter cold. Meanwhile, the water purification unit brought safe drinking water to villages between Mykolaiv and Kherson, benefiting thousands.

Borys Bodnar, a member of the Ukraine Unity Passport Club, attested to the significance of these efforts, emphasizing how the thermal clothing and water purification system were instrumental in sustaining communities through ongoing hardships.

Tony Preston, the project coordinator, echoed this sentiment, acknowledging the undeniable success of the project, evidenced by the overwhelming demand for aid. While the exact number of lives touched may never be fully quantified, the impact undoubtedly spans tens of thousands, with countless individuals receiving crucial medical care and comfort during their time of need.

Through collaboration and unwavering dedication, our four Rotary districts came together to make a tangible difference in the lives of those affected by the crisis in Ukraine. As a public image champion for Rotary,  I am excited to share this story of my small part because it testifies to the impact each of us can make through our connections in Rotary and the power of taking collective action.