Common Help Ukraine: ultramarathon to victory continues

With the outbreak of a full-scale war, we have united to win and are fighting back against the enemy with a united front: the military is on the battlefield with weapons in hand, and the rear is held by everyone who has Ukraine in their hearts.

This story about common help is a humanitarian project of Common Help UA, which was formed through the cooperation of businesses, NGOs, and thousands of caring Ukrainians who have the desire and strength of mind to envelop others with warmth and care.

Common Help UA: the beginning

"We were not expecting a full-scale war, but we were mentally prepared for it. We had action plans and developed various scenarios for our business and many of our people working in seven regions of Ukraine. Of course, no one could have predicted that all the territories would be attacked. Still, thanks to the unity of the team, we acted quickly and kept in touch with everyone," says Svitlana Mozgova, Director of Human Resources, Corporate Partnerships, and Communications at Astarta-Kyiv, describing the interaction in the first hours of the invasion. Those who needed to be evacuated from Kyiv and Kyiv region to safer regions - to our own enterprises in the west of the country. We paid salaries in advance for several months so that employees had a financial cushion, could provide themselves with everything they needed, and travel abroad if necessary. We used all communication channels and kept in touch without interruption. Production processes did not stop either, and we continued preparations for the spring sowing season - we kept our people and did not stop working.

And in the process, we realized that we have the resources and capabilities to help more people than our employees and their families. Together with the team of the Believe in Yourself Charitable Foundation, we were among the first to join the SpivDiya project and became co-founders. We organized humanitarian hubs at Astarta's regional enterprises, thus covering the regions where the company operates. Employees of the company and the foundation became the first volunteers of SpivDiya: they received thousands of calls on the hotline around the clock, formed applications, and delivered the necessary things to those in need.

Meanwhile, the number of Ukrainians affected by the war, who had lost everything, was growing. Every day, more and more volunteers were going to the front, and they needed to be provided with ammunition, clothing, and protective equipment such as helmets and body armor, as well as specialized equipment such as drones, radios, thermal imagers... It became too crowded within SpivDiyA, so the Believe in Yourself Foundation, Astarta, and several partners who wanted to join in created the Common Help UA humanitarian project. It was March 2022.

The project has grown from a small initiative with an ambitious desire to help everyone who needs support into a sustainable initiative that is still being successfully implemented. Dozens of partners in Ukraine and abroad transparently and targetedly deliver aid to the hottest spots of our country's military and civilians, help people with disabilities, create jobs, produce canned food and food packages... Are you tired? No, we recharge each other, motivate each other, and realize that the marathon to victory continues. We are learning to be resilient, despite everything, and move on, continuing to do what we have to do."
Common Help UA partners: together we are strong

The project now unites 30 partners with whom the foundation and the company had been cooperating before the full-scale war, as well as those with whom they began working during the invasion. These are the Omriana Kraina charitable foundation, Astarta Organic Business Center, the Swiss Embassy in Ukraine, Caritas, Raiffeisen Bank, Glovo, Ukrposhta, SkyUP, the Portuguese volunteer organization UAPT, and Carlsberg, Federation of Employers of Ukraine, Vodafone, Anna Kyivska Center, Kyiv School of Economics, German bank DEG, Canadian investment fund Fairfax, ED&F Man, UN World Food Program, SpilDiya platform, digital platform Creatio, Espreso. TV, Cleveland Maidan Association, humanitarian organization Samaritan's Purse, boxing company K2 Promotions, World Boxing Council, bloggers Alex007, Artem Bykovets, and hundreds of thousands of concerned people.

How Common Helps UA unites the world

The geography of donors and partners of the Common Help UA platform is very extensive. Humanitarian supplies and financial aid are sent from the United States, Georgia, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Spain.

How does it work?

It is based on trust and transparency, which are supported by modern digital tools that allow the project to provide operational reporting for each humanitarian cargo received.

The project team ensures that the aid reaches those who need it. Reports are sent to donors and partners, who can see what exactly is being distributed, to whom, and where. Regular reports help to strengthen cooperation and trust on the part of partners.

Common Help UA includes more than a thousand volunteers from among Astarta employees, the Believe in Yourself Charitable Foundation, and partners who support the project. There are eight humanitarian hubs in Poltava, Vinnytsia, and Khmelnytskyi regions where humanitarian supplies are delivered, packaged, accounted for, and handed over to Ukrainians - military and civilians. Each hub has a supervisor who collects requests for assistance. This requires constant involvement in the life of the region where it is located, interaction with authorities and NGOs to coordinate joint actions. The project team is in touch 24/7.

Humanitarian area:

Psychological support: conducting online psychological sessions for employees, community residents and internally displaced persons in the format of group and individual consultations with psychologists and psychotherapists - almost 200 people received help; creating support groups for wives of mobilized Astarta employees; creating a community of emergency psychological assistance agents in regional hubs - training for project volunteers, providing recommendations on how to quickly bring a person into a resourceful psychological state, get them out of the state of emergency.

Relocation of employees and their families from the areas of active hostilities: more than 600 people were evacuated to the western regions where Astarta operates. The families were provided with housing, food and everything necessary for a normal life.

Provision of housing for internally displaced persons - more than 1000 people have temporarily lived or continue to live in group settlements in the areas where the Common Help UA humanitarian project operates. These are Kharkiv, Poltava, Vinnytsia, Khmelnytskyi, Ternopil, and Zhytomyr regions. The project repairs the premises for internally displaced persons, creating comfortable conditions for adults and children. One of the latest projects was the renovation of a former school in the village of Semky, Vinnytsia region, where 50 people now live and receive assistance on a regular basis.

Recovery of the de-occupied territories: the humanitarian project and partners restored housing for the affected families of Velyka Dymerka. After the de-occupation, equipment, generators and food were transferred to the Bucha community, and the Borodyanka inclusive resource center was restored and equipped.

Support for people with disabilities: the project helps the Western Rehabilitation and Sports Center of the National Committee for Sports of the Disabled of Ukraine in Lviv Oblast. The center has become a safe haven for more than 400 IDPs from the most critical regions of Ukraine, including 92 children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Many of them use wheelchairs to get around. Members of the Paralympic team and their families have also found refuge from the war here.

The team of the Common Help UA humanitarian project responded to the needs of the center and systematically delivered food, personal care products, dishes, specialized rehabilitation equipment such as walkers, crutches, wheelchairs, and much-needed spare parts for them.

The project also provides assistance to specialized institutions: Bazaliysk, Kushnyrivka, and Medzhybizh boarding schools, Vynohradiv and Dunayevets neuropsychiatric boarding schools, and the Galushchynets elderly care facility, where patients were evacuated from the area of active hostilities. In particular, patients of the Oskil psychoneurological dispensary from the Kharkiv region moved to these institutions. And thanks to Common Help UA and project partners, including the Donau Soja Association, they are not left alone with the problems that the war has brought.

About participation in the Donau SojaAssociation project

For the Donau Soja Association, participation in humanitarian projects was obvious. Just like for all Ukrainians whose lives have changed since the full-scale invasion on February 24. As soon as the opportunity arose, the company immediately joined humanitarian initiatives, in particular, the Common Help UA project, one of the founders of which is Astarta-Kyiv Agro-Industrial Holding. The agro-industrial holding has been a member and partner of the Donau Soja Association since 2019.

The company was impressed by the fact that together with Common Help UA, among other things, they were able to join in helping particularly vulnerable categories of the population - internally displaced persons and people in psychoneurological boarding schools. These are the people who cannot take care of themselves and therefore need special help and attention.

Last year, in cooperation with Common Help UA, about 2,000 people in 13 territorial communities and residents of 6 psychoneurological institutions received humanitarian food packages, clothes, bedding, dishes, appliances and a generator. The food packages were made up of products from national and regional producers to support national businesses at the same time.

In order to help Ukrainians during the war, the Donau Soja supports, in addition to the Common Help UA initiative, other local humanitarian projects with partners in Ukraine and Moldova to help internally displaced Ukrainians, people with disabilities, and socially sensitive categories of citizens. As part of a joint charitable project with the Organic Initiative, 10,357 tons of products from Ukrainian organic farmers were distributed to 600 internally displaced persons living in eco-settlements run by the Global Ecovillage Network Ukraine and the NGO Permaculture in Ukraine. Thanks to this charitable project, in 2022, the total sales of organic products in the domestic market of Ukraine increased by more than UAH 800 thousand and thus supported the sales of 10 certified organic operators in the most difficult time for the sector. Together with DobraDiya Charity Foundation, we helped to form 400 food packages for further free distribution to Ukrainian citizens with disabilities and elderly people with limited opportunities living in Kyiv and Kyiv region.

Together with the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine, Danube Soya, with the support of the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), has been co-organizing Ukrainian national stands at the largest European agricultural exhibitions for the second year in a row and has been pushing Ukrainian agricultural companies to establish business ties and restore supply chains that were destroyed as a result of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The Donau Soja Association is happy to be a partner in social and humanitarian projects such as Common Help UA. It is important to show by example the importance of unity and joint assistance. Everyone can be part of this important initiative to help our country.

"The brutal nature of the war against Ukraine leaves no room for mercy, but it is in these moments that we must show our humanity to the fullest. The efforts of organizations such as Common Help UA demonstrate what people can do when they join forces and put their minds and hearts to it. "Having heeded the call for help, we provided it to socially vulnerable people - those who need it most, those who remained the most vulnerable in this terrible disaster," says Oksana Prosolenko, Executive Director, Regional Director for Eastern Europe at Donau Soja Association. "Every day our team has a question: "What else can we do? Where is our strength that can help ordinary people, agricultural companies, and farmers?" And this is what has been driving us every day for over a year now."

Military: we buy and transfer vehicles, specialized machinery and equipment, a wide variety of ammunition, and provide our defenders with the necessary equipment to protect their health and lives and increase their effectiveness on the battlefield.

One of the first charitable foundations to join the Common Help UA military project was the "Dreamland" charity foundation. Together, we did the impossible: at the beginning of the full-scale war, there was a severe shortage of military equipment and vehicles, but we did not know the word "impossible" and found even what seemed to be missing. We quickly mastered the technique of weaving camouflage nets and kikimor suits: our collections sent to the front included summer, winter, and the steppe. Our "comonhelpers" learned how to weave nets of high quality, watching master classes, selecting good material, and weaving them so that they really camouflaged.

Cars, quadcopters, laptops, tablets, video cameras, TVs, generator stations, gas masks, body armor, military uniforms, and many other essentials are just a small list of what the humanitarian project has provided to about 50,000 soldiers or 10 brigades. Common Help UA has also delivered thousands of units of ammunition, food, and medicines worth almost UAH 150 million to our military. Work in this area continues.

Economic area: the war has left many people without jobs and livelihoods, so it is important to take care of the economic sustainability of communities by providing grants for the development of small and medium-sized businesses, creating new jobs, and supporting local producers.

The global goal of the projects is to create new jobs, support local producers, and indirectly contribute to the economy and development of Ukraine and its territories.

Production of canned food: At four locations in Poltava and Khmelnytskyi regions, project volunteers and active IDPs organized the production of their own canned food. Today, the assortment includes more than three dozen items. Since the initiative's inception, nearly 35,410 units have been produced to send as an aid to thousands of people in all parts of the country. The project team owes such a powerful result to the support of partners who have been helping Ukraine since the first days of the full-scale invasion, including the Embassy of Switzerland in Ukraine.

Smilyvi grants

The project participants are internally displaced persons, families of military personnel, and people from vulnerable groups in the Poltava, Vinnytsia, and Khmelnytskyi regions who have ambitions and a desire to develop Ukrainian production. That is why Raiffeisen Bank, Astarta-Kyiv Agro-Industrial Holding, Believe in Yourself Charitable Foundation, and Light of Hope Charitable Organization are jointly implementing the "Courageous" mini-grants project as part of Common Help UA.

Almost 120 people applied for the project. The commission selected the 60 best. 25 entrepreneurs were trained and received financial support for their business - the necessary materials and equipment.

The course towards Independence

220 participants took a training course, and 60 winners of the grant competition received €720 thousand to purchase equipment for the development and scaling of their own businesses. The project is supported by the German Development Bank DEG, Astarta-Kyiv Agro-Industrial Holding, Light of Hope, and the AMEP Local Economic Development Agency.

The project's business ideas are related to food security - agro-processing enterprises and food businesses. Participants donate 10% of their output to communities every month to create a food bank for those in need.

"We are trying to cover the most important areas, because we understand that for our country to win, the military must have everything they need, there must be economic stability, and citizens who stay in Ukraine must be able to live and work here," emphasizes Svitlana Mozgova.