BY NICKI KLEIN, Lincoln South Rotary, for the Neighborhood Extra
Vi See and Jenny Cardwell are longtime friends who built their careers in the nonprofit field. They wanted to help Ukrainian refugees and started donating to Operation Safe Harbor Ukraine (OSHU).
By keeping up with OSHU’s activities, they learned more about the needs and struggles of the people of Ukraine and wondered if they could do more. They learned what was being done through Rotary and Rotarians and found the answer: they would volunteer.
See and Cardwell volunteered at the Best Western Hotel Felix in Warsaw, Poland, through OSHU to help 155 Ukrainian refugees staying at the hotel.
Their volunteer duties consisted primarily of staffing the supply room and providing medicine to women and children. Ukrainians experienced a high level of stress and anxiety, leading to headaches, stomachaches, and cold and flu symptoms. In addition, they were in charge of buying medicines and supplies to make healthy snacks every day.
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The supply room was also filled with donated clothing, toys and books, as well as personal care items such as diapers, baby wipes, dental care items and detergent.
Thanks to the support of members, family and friends of the Lincoln South Rotary Club, See and Cardwell brought throat lozenges, children’s books written in English and Russian, Hot Wheels cars, dolls, personal notes with bracelets and nail polish and items to women and adolescents. , crayons and coloring books, and much more.
They used cash donations to purchase supplies as well as additional toys and games. There was a heat wave while they were in Warsaw, so some cash was used to buy summer shorts, blouses and dresses.
When things were quiet in the supply room, See and Cardwell played with the children and talked to the mothers with the help of Google translate. They also shared meals with the children and their families. They enjoyed meeting volunteers from Lincoln and around the world.
“Even though you don’t share a common language, you can learn and feel a lot during a shared game of Jenga or a shared meal,” See said. “Friendships are united by smiles and tears.”
While in Warsaw, See and Cardwell met via Zoom with the Warsaw Wilanow Rotary Club. That Club has supported Operation Safe Harbor Ukraine and has provided meals through World Central Kitchen.
“This was the experience of a lifetime, and I am so glad I was able to go with Vi and meet such amazing and brave women and men and their children,” said Cardwell. “Although the language was difficult, a hug is universal! My hope is that this unprovoked war will end soon, and that the government and people of Ukraine can rebuild their beautiful country and live in peace.”
It is difficult to fully measure the impact of the kindness and generosity of Rotarians like See and Cardwell and the OSHU organization. Although there is stress and anxiety among the refugees, for a time, tears are replaced by smiles, snacks help fill a hungry stomach, and personal needs are met.
There are Rotary clubs in Ukraine, but due to the current circumstances, they need the help of Rotarians around the world. The Rotary Club of Lincoln South thanks See and Cardwell for sharing their time and treasures to provide some support.
For information about the Lincoln South Rotary Club, connect through www.lincolnsouthrotary.org. From www.rotary.org, “No challenge is too big for Rotary. For more than 110 years, we have united cultures and continents to defend peace, fight illiteracy and poverty, promote clean water and sanitation, and fight disease.”