A NATIONAL MONUMENT of Taras Schevchenko and Wave of National Revival in Lviv. Schevchenko is considered Ukraine’s greatest nationalist writer.
Brian True, of Corunna, will soon be leaving for a second trip to Ukraine, delivering medical supplies. True is the president of Eye Care for Ukraine, which up until the war, was a nonprofit organized to assist Ukrainians with ophthalmological needs. That changed on Feb. 24 with the Russian invasion. Since that time, Eye Care for Ukraine has transitioned to providing medical supplies and equipment, particularly certain supplies that might be overlooked by larger nonprofits or other agencies helping Ukraine.
Eye Care for Ukraine’s current needs include ophthalmic supplies for traumatic eye injuries, ophthalmological medical equipment, improving pharmaceutical access and providing frontline soldiers with eye protection.
Advocacy for True is in encouraging people and/or organizations in the Shiawassee County area to help in some way. “This is an opportunity for everyone, large or small, to support a nation who was needlessly attacked and is suffering greatly. There are few times in life when we are given such a broad opportunity to help in so many ways,” he shared.
True, who has numerous ties to Ukraine and has spent a considerable amount of time in the country, left for Ukraine on March 20 and returned April 4 – successfully delivering roughly $60,000 in critically needed medical supplies to Lviv where he met with physicians and others to better understand needs.
His first trip delivering medical supplies, minus his early-on organizational efforts while he was still in Michigan, included a stop off in Kraków, Poland, prior to making his way to the border that Poland shares with Ukraine and through a number of check-points. He then made his way to Lviv.
For those less familiar, Lviv is in western Ukraine, roughly 40 miles from the border. In normal times, the city contains a population of about 720,000 citizens, is the sixth largest city in Ukraine and considered one of the main cultural centers because of its diverse history, art and architecture.
Regarding his initial journey to deliver supplies, True is cautious not to share too much, particularly contact names or checkpoint photos, due to the ongoing war. The message he is most concerned with is in directing people in Shiawassee County to the nonprofits he knows where proceeds and/or supplies are absolutely designated for Ukraine.
“You want to make sure that the organization is specifically organized to support Ukraine and pick an approved 501(c)(3) nonprofit,” he offered. Some suggestions he made include Eye Care for Ukraine (www.eyecareforukraine.org), United Help Ukraine (www.unitedhelpukraine.org), Project C.U.R.E. (www.projectcure.org) and Razom (www.razomforukraine.org.) Another organization that is not a 501 (c)(3), but he knows is reputable and trustworthy is Support Hospitals in Ukraine (www.uahospitals.org).
“For me, its more about the average person being able to help Ukraine. Most people are looking for ways to help,” True said. “A lot of people don’t necessarily know anything about Ukraine and don’t know how to help, though there are ways for people to help. In most ways, it’s providing monies, but it is also buying supplies. Though before buying supplies, people should first contact Ukrainian-centric nonprofits that are working to provide relief directly to Ukraine. Just because a charity indicates they’re supporting Ukraine, doesn’t necessarily mean that your donation will be used in support of Ukraine.”
Following the Lviv supply transfer, True left through Slovakia, south of Poland, spending time meeting with others in support of Ukrainian telehealth needs. Ultimately, several Ukrainian-centric nonprofits have networked together in an effort to better support and assist Ukraine, including many small, grassroots Ukrainian groups who communicate needs to the nonprofits.
Regarding, ophthalmology in Ukraine prior to the war, much of what was used is decades old, which factored into True’s initial desire to help with Eye Care for Ukraine. True shared photos of a public hospital in Chernihiv in northern Ukraine, which has been heavily bombed, showing very old ophthalmic equipment and windows barricaded with sandbags for safety.
In describing his second supply delivery trip, True said he is “taking a little bit more medical this time and I’m trying to buy some glasses and things like that. We’re trying to buy, at this point, eye shields for soldiers. The professional soldiers get eye goggles, but the volunteer soldiers don’t. One of our friends is a doctor at the front and he said they’re not getting any eye protection at all and so I’m trying to prevent eye injury, rather than just treat it. I’m taking a little over 2,000 sutures and ophthalmological stuff and hopefully two medic bags filled with stuff for medics to use.” More supplies will be shipped.
The supplies True is taking are charitable donations through the University of Michigan and the San Francisco Department of Health. Financial donors have contributed just shy of $100,000.
“You do what you can in life,” True stated. “This is what I can do. Other people can donate money or can donate supplies or even contact friends and find ways to help Ukrainian families when they come over. There is a lot of different ways to help these people. It’s a matter of making the effort. Donations of any size are good.” He emphasized he has witnessed Ukrainians, such as those he saw in Lviv, working very hard together to make a “lot out of not much.”