ORT Ukraine Relief Campaign Report
World ORT launched its Ukraine Relief Campaign as soon as the conflict began on February 24, 2022, with relief efforts as its top priority. The goal was to ensure that all the beneficiaries of ORT schools and ORT-affiliated schools in Ukraine would receive adequate humanitarian and financial support. By the end of July, ORT had raised nearly $2.1 million for this critical effort to support ORT families and members of the wider community in these extremely challenging times.
Funds were allocated to the following:
Emergency Operational Costs: meals, transport, medication, medical supplies and essential items
During the first weeks of the conflict, the ORT Ukraine staff team assessed the whereabouts of ORT Ukraine families and their most pressing needs. The conflict in Ukraine triggered widespread and rapid displacement within and outside the country. On March 16, the results of the first round of the IOM (UN Agency-International Organization for Migration) survey indicated that 6.48 million people out of a total population of approximately 40 million were considered internally displaced persons within Ukraine. Many people moved to western Ukraine, that is considered safer than the eastern part of the country, while others attempted to leave the country. Transportation was extremely difficult within the country because of the introduction of martial law, curfews and ever-changing laws in different regions. With a rapid increase of the price of essentials and fuel shortages, it became apparent that the situation in some regions was much worse than others in terms of accessibility to medicines and even basic household items. Additionally, due to the large influx of people fleeing to western Ukraine, it was impossible to purchase medicines from pharmacies there.
In response, World ORT and its partners arranged the purchase of vital medicines in Switzerland and Bulgaria. This included antipyretic drugs such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen to treat fever, blood pressure medication, antibiotics, antihistamines, antiseptics, antivirals, anti-inflammatory drugs, hormonal drugs, and medications to treat gastrointestinal issues, cardiac disease, and cancer. Medications were delivered to the ORT School in Chernivtsi and then dispensed to families of students and teachers in need. The emergency and first aid medications were provided to first-aid stations.
437 teachers and approximately 3,500 ORT students and family members still in Ukraine benefitted from this effort. This endeavor required a significant level of coordination on the ground on the part of school administrators, teachers and staff, and drivers.
In addition to medical needs, essential items provided included power banks for charging devices, flashlights, and bedding. Some ORT schools opened up their gyms and auditoriums to house refugees seeking shelter. Other schools became centers for information or food distribution.
Provision of Meals
World ORT provided a large supply of humanitarian aid including dry food packages and meals. Hot meals were served at the ORT School 141 and the Simcha School, both in Kyiv. As Ukrainians began to return to the country in May, the Simcha School provided two hot meals daily to 90 Jewish community members and continues to do so at this time. From May through June, the ORT Kyiv Educational Complex 141 provided two hot meals a day to 400 Jewish community members.
Financial Aid for ORT Teachers and Families
All ORT Ukraine schools closed once the conflict began. Due to the uncertainty of the situation, it was important for ORT to ensure that the teachers felt protected, confident that they would continue to receive their salaries. A decision was made to provide salary subsidies to all of the teachers.
A total of 399 teachers received financial aid. ORT families also received financial and humanitarian help.
“I have been working as a teacher of World History and the History of the Jewish people at the Zaporizhzhia Jewish Gymnasium “ORT-Alef” for more than 20 years. I have stayed in Zaporizhzhia since the beginning of the war. My grandmother lives with me, she was born in 1926, is a veteran of World War II, and has many age-related illnesses. It is clear that in a state of constant anxiety, all symptoms have worsened. In March, with the start of the war, there was a lack of primary medicines in the city’s pharmacies. In such a difficult situation the financial help and medicine I received from World ORT, was a real gift for me. I am sincerely grateful to World ORT for support and assistance in difficult times. I wish you further prosperity and success in the implementation of projects!”
ORT Zaporizhzhia Teacher
Supporting ORT Schools that Received Refugees
Once the conflict in Ukraine began, many Ukrainians were forced to flee their homes to seek safety and protection. Although many families relocated within the country, many found ways to cross the border into neighboring countries and other locations further away. In early March, the ORT Ukraine office was actively tracking the relocation of ORT families. They distributed a questionnaire to all seven ORT Ukraine Schools to ascertain the whereabouts of the families. The main goal was to assess the needs and to provide financial, humanitarian and general advice about settling in foreign countries. During March and April, a similar assessment was carried out by World ORT head office in London. All ORT schools in Europe and Israel were asked about the types of assistance needed on the ground to support refugees arriving to their communities. Schools were invited to request grants of up to $50,000 to address the needs of Ukrainian refugees who arrived in the Jewish communities and schools of the ORT network including Rome, Sofia, Barcelona, Madrid, Prague, Vilnius, Tallinn and Kfar Silver Youth Village in Israel.
The grant funding was used to address the following:
- Medical and humanitarian aid for the refugees: provision of food, medicines, clothes, books
- Partial coverage of the accommodation cost for the arriving families
- Provision of technology needed for study
- Capital investments to set up additional classrooms to accommodate an influx of new children into the schools
- Employment of additional teachers and coordinators who speak Ukrainian and who facilitated a smooth integration for the families in their new community
- Provision of additional classes and adaptation groups, as well as extra-curricular classes
- Provision of additional local language lessons
Distance learning was implemented with the first school to initiate distance learning was the ORT Chernivtsi School in mid-March; some students from other ORT Ukraine schools joined online. The other ORT schools began online classes by the end of the month. Maintaining remote teaching is a priority to ensure that students can continue their education.
Provision of Security and Looking to the Future
Although the school buildings were closed from February through May, ORT needed to maintain a basic level of security for them as they contain expensive equipment. For example security guards were employed for ORT Zaporizhzhia and ORT Kyiv School 141.
Additionally, funds were needed to address security in advance of the new school year for in-person learning. World ORT acted quickly to provide funding to enable schools to prepare and refurbish their basements and secure their buildings.
Currently, World ORT is addressing the governmental requirements that the schools must follow in order to open for in-person learning. Special inspectors have been deployed to assess the state of the buildings, provide security recommendations, and determine whether the schools can open. As of the end of August, the ORT Schools in Zaporizhzhia and Odesa will not be opening for in-person learning in September due to the lack of a basement that can be used as bomb shelters. The remaining schools can reopen pending suitable shelters, adequate security and safety procedures in place. With the funds provided, security reinforcement work has taken place in Kyiv at ORT 141 and the two Simcha School buildings. For these school buildings the cost to refurbish the basements is over $600,000. Generous funding from JFNA and other donors made this possible.
In the ORT Chernivtsi School, doors and windows were reinforced and video surveillance systems were modernized.
The Ukraine Relief allocations have made ORT resilient and flexible to address the constantly changing humanitarian, financial and security needs of thousands of ORT beneficiaries on the ground. Thanks to your support, ORT teachers, students and their families have a sense of relief despite the devastation and uncertainty of the situation, and the knowledge that help will be available as they move forward.
“I arrived in Sofia with my daughter and two of my grandchildren in March, very soon after the war started. For someone my age, it was a complete shock. Very soon after that, another one of my grandchildren arrived in Sofia from Odesa, as his parents decided the city is no more a safe place. I was very worried and could not sleep for a very long period. Thanks to the support and warm attitude towards us, I started to adapt. Instead of a visit to a psychologist, the people from ORT Bulgaria introduced us to other families from Odesa and took us to nice places. One of the things I will never forget is visiting the cherry festival in the town of Kyustendil – the hometown of one of the saviors of the Bulgarian Jews. Besides enjoying the delicious cherries, we had a great lunch and witnessed wonderful sights there. In the mountains near the city, we saw centuries-old sequoias and unique beauties. Everything was so beautiful that for me it was like in a fairy tale. I felt so good that the next morning I woke up at 11 o’clock. I usually woke up at 5 o’clock. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to ORT and all the people who make this help possible.”
Raisa, a grandmother of ORT Odesa students
“We have always had a very good life with my family. We have lived in different countries in Europe and travelled a lot. I am a mother of two boys and for the last year, the older one was a student in the first grade at the ORT school in Odesa. However, things turned out so that Bulgaria became our second home.
The war started while we were out of Ukraine and we could not go back to get even basic things we need. We are not used to someone taking care of us and we never thought that such a day would ever come. We are so happy to have ORT Bulgaria and World ORT with us – in fact, it turned out that we needed many things – documents, translations, medical assistance, transportation, assistance in working with state and local authorities.
What impressed me the most is that despite the stress and uncertainties ahead, things worked out seamlessly. We met other people from Ukraine as well as Israelis, which gave us the opportunity to share thoughts and make new friends. Bulgarian language and dance teachers were provided for the children, and outings in nature were of great importance in relieving stress.
I would like to thank very much the ORT School N 134 in Sofia, ORT Bulgaria and World ORT for the incredible support we have been receiving in the last two months.”
Svetlana, a mother of two children