Dispatches From Humanitarians On The Front Lines: How 5 Nonprofits Are Responding To The War In Ukraine

As Russia’s war on Ukraine puts millions of civilians in the middle of the conflict, nonprofit leaders are rushing to provide for them and offer protection. These are their stories.


Some of these community leaders have been supporting families displaced by the prolonged conflict in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. One has been working with the elderly in Austria, another creating opportunities for food industry entrepreneurs in Moldova. But when Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, all of them jumped in to serve the people caught up in the fighting.

See how these local and international nonprofits helping Ukraine are serving people fleeing the country and those who are staying amid shelling, missile strikes, and the constant threat to their lives. They share their critical work in their own words.

    1. Odessa Charity Foundation Way Home

    A young woman hugs a man wearing a jacket and motorcycle helmet. Two older women stand near them. One is wiping tears from her eyes. Nonprofits helping Ukraine.

    What they’re doing:

    Providing food packages and hygiene kits, sheltering children and families escaping besieged Ukrainian cities, and coordinating evacuations for those fleeing the violence and seeking safety.

    What they’re saying:

    We never could have imagined the horror our country would face. For weeks now, the war has been going on in Ukraine: incessant shocking terror, massive bombing of cities, killing hundreds of civilians, children, from the most powerful weapons.

    Although our hearts are breaking every day, in these conditions we are directing all our efforts to help those who have been affected by hostilities and to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable people.

    Prices in the city have risen for everything, and many of the families have lost income. We prepare and distribute food packages and hygiene kits for them.

    Odessa is a major transport hub in southern Ukraine and is located close to the border with Moldova and Romania. Despite daily air raids, it is still relatively safe here. Many refugees from the regions where the bombings and active battles take place come here and seek salvation. Mostly they are women with children. They are very scared and confused.

    We provide them with a temporary shelter for 1-2 days in our social hostels, full meals, buy all the goods they need, and then arrange for them to travel abroad. Since the road is long, we cook and give them lunches for a snack.

    Support nonprofits helping Ukraine through the war.

    2. Fondazione La Stampa Specchio dei tempi onlus

    A woman wearing a blue jacket and backpack smiles and puts her hands on the face of a woman wearing a brown jacket and hat. Other people stand in the background. Nonprofits helping Ukraine.

    What they’re doing:

    Running a daily shuttle service on the two main routes between Ukraine and Poland where people wait in long lines and freezing temperatures to cross the border. Their buses take refugees to Italy and bring life-saving supplies back to people who are still in Ukraine.

    What they’re saying:

    On Monday, Feb. 28, the first shuttles financed and supported by Specchio dei tempi, were already on their way to these areas [between Ukraine and Poland]. On Wednesday night, March 2, the first refugees arrived in Italy, reaching first Brescia and then Turin.

    Since then, the shuttle service has been running on a daily basis: 9-seater and 54-seater buses have already left and will be frequently used from now onwards. On their way to the border, the buses also carry basic necessities: foodstuffs with a long shelf life, personal hygiene products, medicines, and medical supplies (syringes, bandages, plasters, disinfectants).

    Our programs include intensified connections with the borders to transport refugees to Italy, but also to send medical supplies and food to those who have decided to stay in Ukraine:

    Some want to fight, some are unable to move for health reasons, some feel simply attached to their homeland.

    3. AO Katalyst

    Two people put together a bed frame with a screwdriver on the floor. Nonprofits helping Ukraine.

    What they’re doing:

    Pivoting from helping small food businesses grow through a shared kitchen incubator in Moldova to hosting and feeding refugees from Ukraine.

    What they’re saying:

    Within hours of hearing the news on Feb. 24, our old work van was half-filled with food, and by the end of the day, there were about 12 extra mattresses squeezed in there, too.

    The team in the village has been working six days a week to get the dorms ready. Once the heating system has been finalized, we’ll start hosting.

    In the meantime, we’ve been working with a Canadian charity to deliver meals to the border, supplies to hospitals and refugee centers, and soon meals to train passengers as they transit Moldova. Fortunately, we’ve been delivering boxes of fresh produce around the city the last few years, so scaling that up isn’t unrealistic.

    4. Caritas Austria

    A woman sits with her three children inside a refugee tent. All three are wearing winter jackets. Nonprofits helping Ukraine.

    What they’re doing:

    Operating “Tents of Hope” at Ukraine’s border crossings to give refugees emergency assistance and the chance to rest safely—if only for a moment.

    What they’re saying:

    Victoria sits uneasily in the Caritas tent in Przemysl, a small town in southeastern Poland near the Ukrainian border. She keeps checking her cell phone. Her three children, Alina, 10, Alisa, 10, and Vladislav, 12, put their hands deep in their pockets and soak up the heat. They are waiting at the border for their father, Wowa, 37, who works in Poland and is on his way from Szczecin to pick them up.

    They left their hometown of Cherkasy in Ukraine. On the first day of the war, the airport near their home was bombed. They heard the explosions. Every day Victoria heard the sirens wailing and helicopters flying over her house.

    Finally, she couldn’t take it anymore. Fearing for the safety of her children, she decided to head to the Polish border. It was a journey into the unknown that would last 30 hours. After an arduous bus and train trip, they finally arrived at the border. The family stood in the cold for several hours before they were allowed to enter Poland.

    In Przemysl, Victoria looked for a safe place for her children. A Caritas employee met them and led them into a warm tent. They were given something to eat and a warm cup of tea. As they wait, the children look for cuddly toys from among the donations.

    “I still have hope that the war will be over soon and we can go home,” Victoria says.

    Support nonprofits helping Ukraine through the war.

    5. International Medical Corps

    Two people sit on a bench near a dying fire at a refugee camp. Blankets cover benches and logs around them, and other refugees are grouped together in the background.

    What they’re doing:

    Providing medical support in southern Ukraine and distributing food, water, blankets, and other life-saving supplies to refugees who are fleeing across Ukraine’s borders.

    What they’re saying:

    It was below freezing at the Ukrainian refugee reception center in Lubycza Królewska, Poland, where an International Medical Corps staff member took the photo above. Through the harsh winter cold stand lines of Ukrainian families who crossed over the border from their home country amid the sound of sirens and explosions.

    The needs of Ukrainian people both in the country and those who have fled across the region are great.

    The statistics surrounding the Ukrainian crisis are staggering… And while statistics tell part of the picture, this is not a statistical crisis.

    This is a human crisis.

    Our staff is racing against the clock to rapidly scale up our health and protection activities inside Ukraine and throughout the region, prepositioning emergency supplies—including food, water, and hygiene kits—to support those fleeing the conflict. Conditions are changing by the minute, but our teams have been working in Ukraine since the conflict first began in 2014 and have the direct experience needed to work amid the tumult.

Support community-led nonprofits helping Ukraine through the war by donating to GlobalGiving’s Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund.


Featured Photo: Emergency aid for people in Ukraine by Caritas Austria

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