Fletcher Students Organize Another Humanitarian Aid Drive for Ukraine 

By Alexander Thomas, MALD 2023 Candidate, The Fletcher School

In November 2022, as the harsh Eastern European winter began to set in throughout Ukraine, The Fletcher School’s Eurasia Club undertook a second humanitarian aid drive for children affected by the conflict. Partnering with The Fletcher School’s Humanitarian Action Society, the aid drive sought to provide essential supplies such as medical kits, clothing, and other necessities to alleviate the civilian suffering brought on by the war. The war, triggered by Russia’s invasion in February of 2022, has resulted in Europe’s largest refugee crisis since WWII, with over eight million Ukrainians fleeing their homeland and another five million displaced internally.

Many in the Fletcher community have a direct stake in this humanitarian crisis, with numerous alumni and students hailing from the region, many of whom have experienced the brutalities of the war and displacement firsthand. The humanitarian drive demonstrates not only an institutional commitment to the humanitarian ideals of Fletcher’s students but also stems from a deeply personal connection to the millions of individuals affected by the conflict throughout the world.

Following the first humanitarian aid drive, which the Fletcher community organized for Ukraine, the second drive partnered with the Help Ukraine Center USA, a non-governmental organization based in New Jersey and a partner of the global volunteer network Help Ukraine Center, one of the largest hubs of humanitarian aid in Eastern Europe.

One of the co-leaders of the Fletcher Humanitarian Action Society, Maria Burakovsky, partnered with Eurasia Club co-leader Sarah Baughn to make the aid drive happen. Detailing the process, Burakovsky said, “Through our efforts, we were able to gather donations from approximately 90 individuals, including Tufts students, faculty, staff, and members of the Medford and Somerville community. We collected an array of essential items, including warm clothes, thermal wear, blankets, pillows, flashlights, thermoses, shoes, and medical supplies, and packed around three dozen boxes. To distribute these donations, we coordinated with local partners, including churches and synagogues throughout Boston, to ship these boxes to orphanages across Ukraine.” 

Despite the collective and monumental efforts from international organizations and local communities like Fletcher, the sheer scale of the humanitarian crisis continues to be staggering. “Refugee fatigue” often sets in protracted conflicts, straining the resources of neighboring countries like Poland, which have continued to house and care for Ukrainian refugees. The Eurasia Club’s drive helped underscore the importance of local, community-based efforts in providing relief to those in global crises. While the global community grapples with the geopolitical complexities brought on by the war, local initiatives like those of Fletcher’s students can make a real, tangible difference for civilians on the ground. 

Reflecting on the experience of organizing the aid drive, Burakovsky said, “I gained a truly invaluable insight into organizing charitable events and a deeper understanding of the needs and challenges faced by individuals and communities affected by humanitarian crises. Working with other Fletcher students, we collaborated with other volunteers in the community to determine the types of humanitarian aid needed, the permissible donations, and how to gather them effectively.”

“This heartwarming initiative brought together people from different nationalities–American, Indian, Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, and others–who were prepared to lend a helping hand to the civilians impacted by the war. Our efforts were a resounding success and demonstrated the power of a small group of people who want to make a positive impact on the world. These events not only gathered much-needed donations but also fostered a sense of community involvement and empathy for children affected by the war,” Burakovsky further stated.

The war between Russia and Ukraine continues to serve as a stark reminder of the human cost of armed conflict and reinforces the need for continued commitment to diplomatic resolution, the rule of law, and the principles of humanity. As we reflect on the humanitarian drive of the Eurasia Club and Fletcher Humanitarian Action Society, the work of providing aid and support to the affected populations must continue. The Fletcher School, through initiatives such as the Eurasia Club’s humanitarian drive, remains committed to these efforts by embodying its core values of service, understanding, and compassion for those caught in the crossfire of a bloody, brutal, and protracted conflict.

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