In response to the brutality and aggression of the war on Ukraine, Gerard founded the Hope Foundation in February 2022 to help those in need. It was officially registered with Poland in March 2022. Gerard started with organizing essential humanitarian aid and delivering it into the most critical cities across Ukraine. Jacek soon joined him with aid preparation and distribution. Gerard and Jacek live by Theodore Roosevelt’s words of: "Do What You Can, With What You Have, Where You Are."
From the very start of the war, Jacek was also working with Lucy at the Przemyśl Humanitarian Aid Center helping refugees find transportation and accommodation across Europe. This shelter was an old supermarket (Tesco) located about 10km from Medyka, the busiest border crossing between Poland and Ukraine. Tesco had a capacity of around 2,000 refugees, but at the start of the war it was overcrowded housing almost 5,000 refugees in the shelter at a time. On March 7th, 2022 approximately 200,000 refugees fled Ukraine. This was the highest recorded number in one day. Tesco was filled over capacity and did not have enough beds, space, or resources to provide proper aid. Jacek and Lucy worked very long days in poor conditions trying to find better accommodation for as many refugees as possible. They both speak Ukrainian and were essential for translating between the other volunteers/drivers and the Ukrainian families. Lucy started with assisting the German transportation team and then started her own team for coordination between the Netherlands, Belgium, and Austria. Jay came to help in Tesco in April. Tesco had a lot of amazing volunteers and it was essential to have the large facility during the peak refuge days. As things slowed down around June, Tesco was run down and out of funding to support this large facility. In July the city decided to reduce capacity to only 200 refugees and change the goals of this shelter. This forced all other families to sleep at the train station or on the streets when the station was full. The change in management also had the independent volunteers stop providing assistance with transportation from the shelter. The world central kitchen that was providing meals withdrew. Since they no longer provide supplies, food and transportation assistance, we saw a need to start a shelter that does to prevent refugees from freezing on the streets.
Przemyśl Humanitarian Aid Center (Tesco)
After the volunteers left Tesco, Jay joined the Hope Foundation in August for their missions of humanitarian aid assistance to Ukraine. The Hope foundation also opened a small office at the Main Train Station in Przemyśl. This is a place for refugees to get help and any questions answered. Thierry joined the Hope Foundation and started the HOPE Europe pour l'Ukraine in September. By October it was getting cold and more refugee shelters were closing or reducing capacity so Jay with Hope Foundation and other partners started the Hope Shelter. Chris, Kate, and Mike joined Jay to help with building and running this new shelter in November. Our Hope Foundation has now expanded into a strong team of 8 individuals (Gerard, Jacek, Lucy, Jay, Kate, Chris, Mike, and Thierry) all working together to help those in need. We provide a safe and clean shelter for refugees with healthy hot meals daily. We also assist with finding transportation and accommodation across Europe and helping with the necessary documents and applications. Our Hope foundation continues its support in Ukraine with regular humanitarian aid convoys, and animal aid.
We have provided all these services for a full year now and remain a truly non-profit organization. Unlike other “non-profits” we do not take any of the donated funds for advertisement, personal salaries, transportation, accommodation, or anything else. Every dollar that is donated to our Hope Foundation goes directly to helping refugees. We not only refrain from using any funds on personally necessities but we also personally fund and cover essential aid, as well as the shelter’s rent and heating when we do not receive enough support. Unfortunately, we will not be able to keep this going for long without more financial support. It is crucial now more than ever that we get help, because after a year of war there is more pain and less help available.
From February 24th 2022 to February 2023,18 million people left Ukraine while 10 million returned. There are currently 8 million refugees displaced from their home. Now around 30,000 refugees flee Ukraine every day in search of safety. This is across all borders, so we typically see around 50-100 refugees per day at our location. Our Hope Shelter has a capacity of 102 beds and we are looking for funding and support to add another 22 beds, increasing our total capacity to 124. This February we have been over capacity with children having to share small beds with their parents. Our shelter is around 650m2 (7,000ft2) and can fit more beds but we require more funding for them. Tesco is still open but in very poor condition, and refugees deserve to stay at the clean and warm shelter. Tesco is said to be closing soon, which is why we need to increase our capacity quickly to prevent refugees from ending up on the streets. Any donation you could provide will help a family in need of a warm shelter and food.