PART 3 | UKRAINE. Filters & Friends in Ukraine

When I went to Ukraine (May 2-8, 2022) with a team from Water for All, I witnessed first-hand why water is urgently needed in Ukraine and learned about how the war’s displacement of Ukrainians is opening the door for human traffickers. Due to war, infrastructure (including water sources) has been destroyed and people are suffering, especially in occupied areas, places of active conflict, on the front lines, and as first responders. We went to deliver filters to the people of Ukraine and to explore partnerships for deploying many thousands more in the days to come.

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Water for All | Cities in Ukraine (May-June, 2022)

The water droplet icon in the map below marks cities to which Vivoblu Water Filters were deployed as reported by Seeds of Exchange friends and partners. (Isn’t it extraordinary what a community of everyday citizens can do, together?) Click on the images below to enlarge them.

 

Below is PART 3 | Filters & Friends in Ukraine. EnJOY this glimpse of the amazing people we met and the strength, passion, and commitment of the people of Ukraine to care for one another. To check out the first 11 “chapters” of our journey to Ukraine, head here for PART 1 – and for the deployment of filters by Young Life Ukraine, head here FOR PART 2.

 

Chapter 1. IVANO FRANKIVS’K | UKRAINE.

May 5 | Today, we stopped to deliver Vivoblu water filters to civilian-soldiers. We were put in touch with them through a friend of my mom’s in Washington state, Vivianne.

Let me back up a bit and share how this connection happened. (This is one of my favorite stories, because it is simple … the stuff of everyday activism. And oh, so powerful!) A few months before we left for Poland and Ukraine, Vivianne was reading her community newspaper in Port Orchard, Washington. She read a story about Dasha, a young woman and her two children who fled Ukraine when the war began, and came to discover they were living nearby.
Then, the magic happened.

She took another step. After doing some research online and finding out how to connect with Dasha, she reached out. Vivianne told her about our team’s upcoming trip to Ukraine with water filters. When she asked, “Do you know anyone in Ukraine who is in need of filters?” Dasha responded, “Yes!” After they talked a bit more, a few days before we left for Ukraine, Vivianne connected Dasha with me, and Dasha connected me with her husband, Borys.

OK, back to our time in Poland and Ukraine. A few days ago, I was able to connect with Borys and his friend, Roman, who told us the need is great for clean water in occupied areas and at the front lines. On May 5, after we left Lviv, we met Roman and Borys in Ivano Frankivs’k to give the filters to them, along with their friend, Alexi. Each of them are husbands and fathers. One is a carpenter, another is a contractor, and the third, a computer engineer. It was a sweet time of new friendship with new friends – our brothers.
They each expressed how great the need is for clean water in occupied areas and at the front lines, in Ukraine, and offered to take our filters to soldiers.
Before hitting the road, I went into the hotel to use the restroom. When I came out, a woman at the front desk of the hotel asked, “What are you guys doing out there?” I told her about the water filters and that we came from America to do what we could to provide clean, safe water, and to build friendship and connection with the people of Ukraine. She was deeply moved and grateful. “Wow!” She said, “Next time, we’d love for you to share some of your filters with us! We need them here, too!” She shared a bit of her story – what has been hard during the war and what gives her hope. Another sweet moment of connection!

May 10 | We received this message from Roman about the photo above about the soldier holding the filter. This video is with “a sapper” in Kropyvnyckiy. We asked him, “What is a ‘sapper’?” and here is an excerpt of his response:

A sapper, also called pioneer or combat engineer, is a combatant or soldier who performs a variety of military engineering duties. The term “sapper” is used in the British Army and Commonwealth nations and the U.S. military. The word “sapper” comes from the French word sapeur, itself being derived from the verb saper (to undermine, to dig under a wall or building to cause its collapse). -Roman

 

 

June 11 | Today, Vivianne, Dasha and I met in person – what a JOY it was to sit together, share some stories, and be in AWE at the gift of our sisterhood and ways we’ve been brought together to care for the people of Ukraine … and to provide clean, safe water, to those who need it. (See last photo in above photo gallery.)

 

Chapter 2. VLADAMIR & VIVIANNE VIA THE LEATHER GARDEN BELT

Oh, my goodness. THIS story is so amazing. It involves my mom’s friend, Vivianne, once again. (What an extraordinary woman she is!)

In order to set the stage for this story, we need to go back to December, 2021. Vivianne had asked her husband for a leather garden belt, which he found and purchased on Etsy, an artisan online shop. It was a wonderful and heartfelt Christmas gift that would – months later – become a beautyFULL bridge of connection to people in Ukraine in need of clean, safe water.

In February, when war broke out in Ukraine, Vivianne remembered seeing that her leather garden belt was crafted in Ukraine. She hunted on Etsy for artisans in Ukraine and she connected with Viktoria (you guessed it … a leather garden belt artisan in Ukraine). The shopping site has an option to “chat” with artisans directly, so Vivianne did the same thing she did with Dasha. She reached out to Viktoria and explored if Viktoria knew of anyone in need of water filters.

Right away, Vivianne heard back from her artisan-connection in Ukraine that there was a great need, indeed; and through a series of texts, Viktoria connected us with a friend of her husband’s, Vladimir, who is involved in food distribution in Nikolaev, Ukraine.

On May 8, 2022, I received this message from Vladamir:

Hi Sarah! I from Nikolaev city. In Nikolaev it is bad with water. Russians have destroyed our water supply in Kherson. Water no longer comes to us from the Dnieper River. I am one of the founders of a civil organization that helps our people.

On May 9, 2022, I heard again from Vladamir, who shared that the mayor, Alexander Senkevich, had announced that the water in Nikolaev was not suitable for drinking or cooking. He continued, later that day,

Let me remind you that we take water from the Southern Bug River. We clean it several times and only then feed it into the system. Also, we have already connected part of the wells to the city networks. So far, the water in the taps is not suitable to drink or use for cooking. Yes, we need water filters here.

And, so our friend Vladimir received the filters – from our friends at Young Life Ukraine, in fact! Here is a glimpse of some of the photos.

 

Chapter 3. EUGENE | UKRAINE

While in Poland in early May, our team met a most-remarkable man, Yevgenly Shved, aka, “Eugene”. He has been working for decades with the Romani people in Eastern Ukraine (some call them “gypsies” – but many understand this to be a derogatory word, so we’ll refer to them as “Romani”). Here are some of his stories, a photo, and two videos of the Vivoblu Water Filter deployment to the Romani people.

May 9 | Hello, Sarah, It was great to meet you. I am very grateful to you, John, Terry and Ricky for the filters. 15 of them went to the Roma community in Serednje, 15 to the Romani community in Zarichchya (where many families came as refugees a month ago and all got sick because of the water they drank), and 10 are being taken to the city of Krivoy Rog to be used by the territorial defense personnel who need them for both themselves and those left without a source of clean water.

May 15 | Thank you for your interest in our Romani friends. They remain a very neglected minority in Ukraine and fight a lot of destructive stereotypes about them. They will welcome any help, especially medical, since medical services are not available to them or are simply out of their financial reach.

In the meantime, I heard from some Ukrainian soldiers, to whom we sent five filters. They said these are the best filters they had ever used and ask how they can get more of them. They spend a lot of time in either cities with destroyed infrastructure or in the fields with no access to clean water. So for the last week  they have been filtering lake water and stagnant water in makeshift reservoirs. They say the filtered water tastes better than clean bottled water! -From Yevgenly Shved, aka, “Eugene”

 

 

Chapter 4. YOUNG LIFE UKRAINE

For more of the story of how we connected with Young Life Ukraine and the filters they deployed in Eastern Ukraine to first responders, soldiers, and occupied territories, head to this story on our blog.

 

Water for All-Seeds of Exchange | Project Overview

Just so you understand how John DeYoung and I are working together: John is the maker of the filter (through his company Vivoblu) and founder of the non-profit (Water for All). John and I are dear friends. He is a hip-hop dance artist turned business owner and nonprofit founder. He is a mighty changemaker and creative that uses innovation to care for those in need.

In May, 2022, we were on a team of 4 others – including Terry Adams, Ricky Waitman, Morgan Braby, and Matt Tatusko – who went to Ukraine and Poland on this humanitarian mission. I am the founder of a community organization (Seeds of Exchange) that has been part of raising funds for the Vivoblu filters, sharing the stories of the filter and our trip, building a network of community within Ukraine and around the world, and reporting on the increase of human trafficking due to the war in Ukraine. Learn more: Trip to Ukraine | Vivoblu Water Filter | Water for All – Community Fundraiser | Ukraine