By Arnold R. Grahl, Senior Editor for Rotary International
Just a few months before Russian forces invaded Ukraine, Rotary members raised glasses in toasts and kindled friendships in Lviv as they welcomed a group of Ukrainians to the International Fellowship of Flying Rotarians. On that trip, Ukrainian members showed visitors former Eastern Bloc aircraft at a military base that had become a general aviation field. The new friendships formed on that visit in November 2021 became critical connections for support and supplies to Ukrainians.
Rotary’s global network has sent millions of dollars’ worth of relief and medical supplies to help the people of Ukraine. Rotary Fellowships, which bring together members who have a shared interest or hobby, have amplified the impact of these efforts.
Members of the flying fellowship leapt into action to help their fellow pilots as soon as the war began. George Chaffey, then-world president of the fellowship, says he and other members quickly contacted the Ukrainian members, who have been instrumental in identifying the most effective ways to channel the assistance.
One of them has been Olha Paliychuk, a member of the Rotary Club of Cherkasy, Ukraine. Paliychuk, who is a doctor and working toward her pilot’s license, has helped coordinate response plans through both the flying fellowship and the International Fellowship of Healthcare Professionals.
John Philip, chair of the International Fellowship of Healthcare Professionals, says he and the group’s other leaders also acted swiftly to connect with its Ukrainian members, including Paliychuk. The group quickly developed an effective approach to aid and holds weekly meetings with medical workers in Ukraine about the supplies they need.
“We only respond to the requests of medics in Ukraine, and only source and fund things through Rotary,” Philip says. “Items we purchase are sent to a warehouse in Poland managed by Rotarians, who take it over the border and hand it to volunteers, who take it to the precise hospitals we specify.”
One effort they’ve been involved with included Rotary districts in North America and Argentina that are working with a U.S.-based association of Ukrainian health care workers to ship hundreds of tons of critical medical supplies from Chicago to Ukraine.
Read other stories from Rotary Fellowships to learn more about their activities. You can contact these groups directly to get involved, or review our full list of Rotary Fellowships to find ones that match your skills and interests.
The full version of this article originally appeared on Rotary.org