Zonta Club of Fort Collins gathers supplies for refugee shelters in Ukraine

The Zonta Club of Fort Collins, Colorado, USA, organized a service project to gather specific necessities for refugee shelters in Ukraine, run by Zontian Luba Maksymovych from the Zonta Club of Lviv-Zamok. As a result of the bombings, refugees, predominantly women and children, were displaced and forced to leave their communities, often with only the clothes on their backs and their homes reduced to rubble. They were also very vulnerable to human trafficking. Club President Julie Trone organized the effort after meeting Luba at the Zonta International convention in Hamburg, Germany, in June 2022.

The media reported increased human trafficking due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Julie had received a brochure from Zonta USA Caucus member Lee Fogarty that detailed the dangers of and warned women how to identify human trafficking due to forced displacement. The flyer, written in Ukrainian, was sent to Luba electronically, and she distributed copies to the women arriving at the Lviv shelters. The club heard from Luba that the flyer had a positive impact.

The shelters in Lviv are a waystation for refugees as they travel to Poland seeking asylum. To provide comfort, the women desperately needed items such as; bras, underwear, feminine hygiene pads, and warm clothing. The club, in collaboration with nearby Zonta clubs - Cheyenne, Wyoming, North Forty and the Greely - plus the local Days for Girls chapter and many community members from Colorado collected almost 400 pounds of women's undergarments, warm jackets and clothing, feminine hygiene pads (over 7000 pads and 50 reusable menstrual kits) and cash donations to cover shipping costs. It took three months of working with an international shipper, a Polish nonprofit organization that provides relief in Ukraine (Historia Vida), and a second Polish relief organization (Via Vitae - who took over the project in November) to deliver the boxes to Luba.

The shelters are thankful for the club's support and help. Although the effort was impactful, Ukrainian women and children refugees continue to need support.