The concept of the "Marsh* Route" has changed over the last few years, as conditions in Ukraine and in Ukraine's orphanages have changed.
When we first began helping orphanages in the mid-1990s, the economic situation in Ukraine was grim. The currency was unstable. The banks failed with regularity. Government money was often embezzled. The market economy had not yet taken hold, and there was little in the way of goods available for sale in Ukraine.
Throughout the year, the Detroit and Chicago Chapters collected and purchased items to be sent over seas via a container to Ukraine. Items collected and sent included gently used clothing, toys, linens, sporting goods, new shoes, hygiene items, school supplies, medications--just about anything you can imagine a child would need in their day-to-day life.
All of these items were collected, stored (many volunteers have lost garage and office space, basements, etc.), and then sorted, counted and labeled for shipping and customs clearance. A detailed inventory list is kept on each shipment. The supplies from Chicago and Detroit were consolidated onto one or two containers and shipped to Ukraine.
We worked closely with Priyateli Ditey (our Ukrainian sister organization) in Kyiv to get the containers cleared through customs. Our volunteers traveled to Ukraine to assist with the customs process, as well as purchase additional supplies in Ukraine.
The team of volunteers with the aid o four scholarships students, staff from the Kyiv office of Priyateli Ditey, and various Ukrainian volunteers (including many kozaks), would then distribute the supplies to orphanages throughout Ukraine. Each child at each orphanage was given a pair of shoes, an outfit and a toy; sporting equipment, formula, vitamins, school supplies and medications were given to the orphanage as a whole.
But times have changed. The currency and the banks are more stable. The market is working. The population, and our orphans, have a slightly higher standard of living. But customs processes have gotten more arduous with each year, making it almost impossible to import medications and many other items to Ukraine. And corruption continues to thrive.
It is now possible to buy good quality clothing, shoes, medications, school supplies, hygiene items, formula, and the like in Ukraine. When one factors in the cost of shipping and packing, it is more cost affective to buy most items in Ukraine. By purchasing items there, we are helping the local economy, saving on transportation costs as well as eliminating customs headaches (errr, migraines). And so that is what we do now.
We still make at least one trip to Ukraine per year. A team of volunteers travels to Ukraine to distribute supplies to our selected orphanages. UCARE will cover the travel expenses of anyone who has contributed 100 volunteer hours.
In the beginning our scope was large, we tried to spread as much help as we could to as many orphanages as possible and found we were not having the impact we were hoping for. We also noticed that some orphanages were getting assistance from other sources: church groups, adoptive families, humanitarian aid organizations, etc. We recognized our limitations and realized we needed to focus on some of the orphanages with the greater needs and great potential, and help them as much as possible.
We have narrowed our scope and are currently focusing on a select few orphanages. Limiting the number of orphanages allows us to spend more time at each location, spending more time with the children and staff, and to gain a better understanding of their needs. It also enables us to follow through on long-term projects (rebuilding laundry facilities, bathrooms, etc. by teaming up with local Rotary International organizations) and monitor their progress over the years.
By traveling to Ukraine and distributing the supplies directly to the orphanages and giving the children -- in their very own hands -- clothing, hygiene items, a new pair of shoes and their very own toy, we can guarantee that the items donated in the United States have reached the intended destination. We also return to these orphanages, unannounced, periodically to make sure the items have remained with the children.
________________ * A "marsh-rut" is the Ukrainian term for a route that a bus takes, making many stops along the way.
DONATE MONEY: Our greatest need is cash to pay for the clothing, shoes, medications and other items the orphans so greatly need. Consider making a cash donation
DONATE GOODS: We are accepting donations within Ukraine. Clothing, shoes, school supplies, sporting goods and hygiene items (shampoo, soap, detergent, etc.) are particularly needed. For donations within Ukraine, please contact our Kyiv office:
DONATE TIME: If you can spare a few weeks of your life, you could travel to Ukraine and help on a Route. (UCARE will cover the travel expenses of any volunteers who have put in 100 hours of volunteer time; for others, their travel expenses are tax-deductible.) It is a life changing experience.
Or you could participate in local UCARE events to help raise money and raise awareness. Contact us at UCAREInc@aol.com, or fill out the form on the "contact us" page.