Vostok-SOS (East-SOS) is a Ukrainian refugee support center that helps people who have fled the conflict and those who are still living in the war zone. The organization began its work in April 2014 and has approximately 35 volunteers, mainly from eastern Ukraine. They work around-the-clock to help resettle refugees from the occupied regions of Donbas and Crimea. Diaconia – CRD is partnering with Vostok-SOS to help those in need.
The organization was initially started by activists from Postup, a Luhansk-based human rights organization that was forced to move to Kiev after rebels took over the city. In addition to providing food, medicine, and other basic needs, Vostok-SOS has been instrumental in providing support to internally displaced people, mainly children and single mothers. They help people find temporary housing, organize volunteer construction teams, procure much-needed building materials, and provide medical assistance and educational programming. The organization also manages two hotlines that provide legal and psychological aid to refugees and those still residing in occupied territories.
Those who decide to return to their homes in Eastern Ukraine are finding their communities completely destroyed. Often, electricity, gas, and water lines have been shut off. Communication systems are nonfunctional and homes, schools, and other buildings are in need of extensive repairs. Citizens of these eastern cities have a difficult task ahead of them, as they work to rebuild their lives and towns.
Olga Ivkina, Public Relations volunteer for Vostok-SOS, sent us stories of some of the families who have been helped by the organization. Today, we highlight two of them:
Our first story comes from a family of six. In the summer of 2014, during the escalation of hostilities in Donecka, the entire family fled to the relative safety of Kiev. While there, complete strangers offered the family a place to stay in their small summer cottage, near the city. Within a few weeks, the father was able to find a job and the children began attending school. However, as winter approached, the family was in desperate need of materials to help them through the cold nights as the cottage is not insulated and does and has no source of heat. Vostok-SOS stepped in to help the family and has provided them with much-needed winter clothes, warm blankets, cooking utensils, office supplies, and toys for the children. They are also working to obtain a fire place, heating stove, and insulation for the cottage.
The second story comes Popasna, a city in the region of Luhansk, where Vostok-SOS began offering aid and support to a family the day after their home was destroyed by a bomb. The mother of the family suffered minor injuries, while the father was seriously wounded and is currently in the intensive care unit at the local hospital. Family friends who were in the home during the attack were killed. The family resides in an impoverished region of the city and are themselves very poor. Homes and businesses were destroyed in the fighting, and now many from the neighborhood have been forced to sleep in bomb shelters for protection. Vostok-SOS has been instrumental in providing these affected families with food, water, blankets, bedding and other basic goods.