An estimated 11 million Ukrainians have been forced from their homes and South Florida is playing a critical role in getting these families what they need to survive.
Monday, an event was held to support the Doral-based group leading the relief effort and to remind South Florida to keep the donations coming.
When your surviving a war, even the simplest of distractions like hand painting means a lot to those too young to comprehend the devastation around them, and adults in shock over what’s happened to their lives.
Images sent from Europe to NBC 6 by Doral-based Global Empowerment Network - known as GEM - showed parents doing artwork with their children.
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“God gave us these amazing partners who are willing to go in these areas and deliver aid. Its just unbelievable,” said South Florida resident Michael Capponi from their European supply hub in Warsaw, Poland. “We have about 100 or so different organizations that we work with inside Ukraine and we asses that and the Ukrainian committee and they assess where the need is the most.”
NBC 6 has shown the locations where Capponi said every Friday the supplies are brought in during the week and placed in a shipping container. Those donations are trucked from Doral to the Port of Miami, where it takes a cargo ship three weeks to sail across the Atlantic and into the Baltic Sea.
Then, the supplies are moved over land to GEM’s Warsaw warehouse and then trucks fan out into and across Ukraine.
“If a major corporation sends five trucks of a certain type of product it goes straight to the fulfillment hub and it comes straight here,” Capponi said.
Capponi said they have security details that protect the trucks inside Ukraine on the way to their destinations.
“So when you have a situation where a family refuses to leave and they are in Kharkiv for example they have no where to go - they just don’t want to leave the box has everything they need to survive for maybe two weeks. It has food. It has snacks. It has hygiene. It has blankets. It has a phone charger,” Capponi said.
And now, a novel approach to keep school going. They’re putting up what amounts to mobile classrooms. Capponi said.
“We started these virtual classrooms because kids have to study. So, if you are a mom and you have three children and you are in a shelter with 3,500 people sleeping on a cot for the last 60 days now you are going to have a classroom inside that shelter,“ he added
The White House is now asking Congress for $33 billion for Ukraine, an indication this war has no end in sight. Capponi is preparing the for the long haul.
“It’s like the never ending hurricane," he said. "It just goes and destroys one city then it goes and then the next day there’s another city."
Capponi said they’ve been able to find new places to live for almost 16,000 people and plan on sending in 100 supply trucks each month. Monday night, the popular South Beach restaurant A Fish Called Avalon hosted a fundraiser to keep Ukraine in the front of the public’s mind.
If you’d like to donate, click on this link for the Global Empowerment Network.