At least 12 million people have fled their homes since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. More than five million have left for neighboring countries, while seven million people are still thought to be displaced inside Ukraine itself. Poland has the most refugees at approximately 2 million according to BBC news.
Many organizations like Doctors without borders, Save the children and CARE international are supporting Ukraine.
My son Matt wanted to help out personally so looked for a volunteer opportunity and found one with a charity called A Drop in the Ocean. This organization accepts volunteers for one or two weeks to assist refugees. Many left their war torn country with nothing but the clothes on their back. This charity opened a free store in a shopping mall in Krakow, Poland where they sort donations of clothes, shoes and essentials.
Each day 500-1000 refugees line up to enter the store and take approximately 10,000 needed items. Volunteers are placed to help with the crowd, care for young children and restock the shelves.
Matt noticed that shoes and underwear were items that were most in need. He started a fundraiser on Snapchat and Facebook asking friends and family to Venmo him money to purchase shoes for the store. I shared the fundraiser and made it possible for people to donate with credit cards or pay pal.
In just two days he was excited to announce he had raised over $700 for this effort. He is using the money to purchase shoes at a much better exchange rate right there in Krakow and bring them into the empty boxes and shelves in the shop.
Shoe shopping in Poland
Sometimes it is nice to know exactly where your donation is going. You always hear about these charities that take so much from the top for their expenses or something. Matt bought his own plane ticket, found a hostel to stay in for two weeks, buys his own food and is using the money just to shop for items that Ukrainian refugees in Poland actually need.
Yes, I am a proud mama.
Below I have attached his posts that he put on Facebook regarding the fundraiser as well as the information for donations if you are interested. Thanks for taking the time to read all of this.
Hello Facebook friends,
I am currently in Krakow, Poland with a group called A Drop in the Ocean. I have been working this past week at the Szafa Dobra, a free shop in Krakow where myself and other volunteers gather donations and give out clothing to refugees from Ukraine who have had to flee their country. Around 500 people have come each day in the last two days while I was working, and in that time we have handed out over 10,000 articles to refugees.
Some of the things we give away at the store we still have huge stocks of. Winter clothes, baby clothes, and toys we have in excess. We also have enough shirts, pants, and most other things, but there are things that the refugees here desperately need and that there are not enough of. We quickly run out of shoes and underwear at the Szafa Dobra which can only hand out what gets donated to it, because that’s most of what it has. There is a budget that the NGO I work with has to supply the free shop as well, but for example when it comes to socks, we have a $4,000 budget per month, and after 3 weeks the socks are all gone. Some generous donors have stepped up when that happens in order to make sure people can get what they need, but that does not always happen. I have seen a few things that the store is running out of and talked to the coordinators of the project to see if I could help. That is why I’m posting this. Today many refugees were asking for shoes, and we could not meet the demand. I am starting a fundraiser here to collect money to buy the needed essentials to bring to the Szafa Dobra where I’ll be working until next Saturday, July 23. All donations I receive before then I’ll use to purchase shoes and underwear, then send out the receipts too to show exactly what they were used for.
Many refugees arrived in Poland without much baggage as they had to flee from the war. Some left their things behind while others lost everything they had. A lot of refugees are showing up in heels or old shoes and ask us for new pairs only to be turned away when there are none left in their size. Entire racks that need to be full are empty. Other things that are in low supply include underwear, socks, and larger-sized bras. Any amount you donate can really help a lot. The conversion rate of USD to Polish zloty is really good too, and the dollar buys more here in Krakow than in the US. Below I’ll post some photos of the Szafa Dobra, (In order to protect people’s privacy there are not many faces in these pictures).
Yesterday I worked on the shop floor where I restocked hangars with clothes that we sorted and sized in the back warehouse over the previous days. I was also working to restock shoes which is how I knew we were low already yesterday, before running out of many sizes completely today. Today I worked at the front door letting people in and then checking them out at the end of the day. Lots of people had gathered at the entrance before opening and waited for hours to be the first ones inside because they know that some of our items do run out. The line to get inside was also hours long all day both of the last two days. At the end when they were leaving, we handed the kids backpacks with school supplies inside, and drawstring bags for the teenagers also with school supplies in them.
I’ll post again soon with more pictures of the Szafa Dobra and talk more about my work with A Drop in the Ocean. If you want to help out in the meantime and make a difference here in Poland where the most Ukrainian refugees have fled to, you can send $5, $10, $20 or any amount you can give. “A pair of socks costs about 1/2 Euro,” I was told by my coordinator, which is also like $0.50, which is around 2.37 Poland Zloty. So $5 could be 10 pairs of socks for some kid who only has one right now. Just an example, but I hope it gets across just how much you can help by sending any amount.
Thank you if you do wish to donate. You can transfer $ for the items using the app Venmo to the account @Matthew-Divers which I’ll be using for this fundraiser. After receiving donations, purchasing the items, and bringing them to the free shop for the beneficiaries over the next few days, I’ll post again on Facebook with updates on how things are going. If you would like to keep your donation private I can do that. I may also post the receipts on my feed with explanations on what money was given and how it helped which I think can help get us more donations, and I could leave your name on or remove it. Message me directly and we can personalize your donation to best meet the needs of the refugees here and your preferences too.
I want to thank everyone just for reading all this. You do not need to donate if you cannot. I don’t want to pressure anyone to send money. I am just hoping by posting this I can help out a bit more. Hopefully it makes a difference!
EDIT 7/16/22: The last four digits of my phone number are 3710. Venmo sometimes asks for that for verification and some people have asked. For those of you who cannot use Venmo, my mom set up a DropBox which accepts PayPal or credit cards if that is easier for you. She has offered to Venmo the money to me here in Krakow, so if you would find it easier to give to the Dropbox then feel free! Here is the link: https://donorbox.org/shoes-for-ukrainian-refugees-in-poland
To learn more about voluntourism and this opportunity, you can read the article from the New York Times about A Drop in the Ocean charity here:
or check out their website here:
Let’s all just hope and pray this war ends soon.