First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska told how her Foundation appeared in response to the Russian invasion and challenges related to the war and what tasks the organization faces. The main goal of the Foundation is to recover the human capital of Ukraine so that every citizen feels physically and mentally healthy, protected, able to exercise their right to education, work and build a future in their native country.
"After the Russian attack, I have been doing many charitable projects simultaneously: our hospitals were bombed – we took children with cancer to safe countries. Our adults and children have lost and are losing limbs – we find them the best prosthetics abroad. Due to constant stress, our women began to give birth prematurely – and we import special incubators with the uninterrupted power supply to save premature babies," the President's wife said.
According to her, there were more and more directions for help and requests.
"During my visits abroad, I was increasingly asked how to help civilian Ukrainians. How to help in reconstruction? Is it possible to become a sponsor of a specific school or hospital? Where it is possible to go with this, whom to contact? In short, the moment that happens to every volunteer has come: people trust your name, but you need an official status. Being the First Lady is not enough for that. Many tools are lacking for effective assistance – financial, legal, organizational. More resources are needed to help as many people as possible. To act most effectively, I created the Foundation," the First Lady said.
The Foundation works in three main directions:
• Medicine – physical and mental health for all.
• Education – quality knowledge and conditions for the development for children and youth.
• Humanitarian aid – everyone who needs support should receive it.
The First Lady said that in the conditions of the exhaustion of the Ukrainian economy, the Foundation attracts foreign partners (businesses, funds, donors, etc.) to assist in Ukraine where it is urgently needed. For this, the organization cooperates with Ukrainian embassies abroad, ministries and local authorities, which speeds up negotiations with partners and the transfer of aid to Ukrainian citizens as much as possible.
To attract such foreign aid more widely, the presentation of the Foundation was held abroad – at a charity event in New York during the opening of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly. It was joined by world leaders, businessmen and philanthropists.
"The war goes on, but so does life. It paves its way to recovery even in war. The task of the Foundation is to help life win. And for this we need hospitals, schools, and education," Zelenska said.
Even more attention of foreign partners was attracted during other Foundation presentations: they were also held in London (in cooperation with Christie's, which helped organize the charity auction) and Paris (the presentation was organized in cooperation with First Lady of France Brigitte Macron).
Zelenska spoke about the implemented and ongoing projects of the Foundation:
1. Assistance to teachers from 12 regions of Ukraine most affected by the war: Luhansk region, Donetsk region, Kherson region, Dnipropetrovsk region, Zhytomyr region, Chernihiv region, Kyiv region, Zaporizhzhia region, Mykolaiv region, Odesa region, Sumy region, Kharkiv region. As part of the Digital Equity for Ukraine project, initiated by the Global Business Coalition for Education, through the Olena Zelenska Foundation, Hewlett Packard (HP) and Microsoft are handing over 38,000 laptops to teachers to support the educational process. The cost of donor support is $42 million. There remains a need for more than 200,000 laptops for students across Ukraine. The Foundation is in ongoing negotiations with HP and Microsoft regarding new supplies of laptops.
2. The launch of the project to rebuild schools in Ukraine. After the meeting and negotiations between Olena Zelenska and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen in September, the European Commission and the government of Ukraine signed an agreement on a EUR 100 million support package for the restoration of educational institutions. The European Commission, together with the Government of Ukraine and the Foundation, will work on the restoration of educational institutions that suffered from the brutal attacks of Russia. The Foundation will take over the coordination of the school reconstruction process, as well as monitor the success of the renovation projects.
3. Reconstruction of the central city hospital in Izyum, Kharkiv region. Raising funds for the restoration of the central city hospital in Izyum has begun. Before the full-scale war, the institution served almost 150,000 people. Now four operating units, the intensive care unit, a tomograph, the elevator shaft have been damaged. Shrapnel hits, broken windows are recorded in all buildings. The hospital is operating at 10% capacity. Zelenska dedicated the presentation of the Foundation and a special charity event in Paris (France) to raising funds for the hospital in Izyum.
"By fundraising for the reconstruction of the largest hospital in Kharkiv region, I want to draw the attention of foreign partners to the problems in the de-occupied territories. And I want Ukrainians who survived the occupation to feel not only our support but also the support of the whole world," the First Lady said.
1. Purchase of hearing aids for residents of Kyiv and Chernihiv regions. The Foundation joined the "Doctor's Office on Wheels. We are Close" project of the Vidchui public organization. In the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions (77 settlements), this organization checked citizens' hearing and found the need for 521 hearing aids. The Foundation closed this need шin cooperation with the Embassy of Ukraine in the Republic of Korea.
2. Humanitarian aid for people in the de-occupied territories. Thanks to partners, 120 powerful generators, as well as 4,500 sleeping bags, 100 field stoves, 85 heaters, 69 electric blankets and 40 batteries were handed over to residents of Kharkiv region. This aid was sent at the specific request of the residents of the district and distributed accordingly. 220 powerful generators, 880 electric blankets, and 2,700 heaters were transferred to Kherson region. The aid provided was delivered and distributed among the residents of communities, Points of Invincibility and shelters.
3. Humanitarian aid for family-type orphanages. The Foundation is in contact with 23 family-type orphanages from Kyiv region and Odesa region. Some of these families moved from the east and south of Ukraine. There is a family (10 children) who lived in the occupation in Kherson region for a month and a half. The Foundation supports them with everything they need. On December 25, children from family-type orphanages of Kyiv region attended the Iron Nicholas fairy-tale event on the Kyiv Children's Railway. A total of 3,000 children will watch the fairy tale: children from family-type orphanages, children who are forced migrants, children of military personnel, in particular national guardsmen, employees of the State Emergency Service and Ukrzaliznytsia, as well as young railway workers and children with disabilities. 6,000 children will receive gifts from project partners.
4. For the winter holidays, the Foundation handed over gifts for children to the Department of Bone Marrow Transplantation and Immunotherapy of the Okhmatdyt Children's Specialized Hospital.
Zelenska talked about the partners with whom the Foundation cooperates. They are:
• large technological companies HP and Microsoft, which provide laptops for teachers in 12 regions of Ukraine;
• the Temerty Foundation, founded by philanthropist James Temerty, a Canadian citizen of Ukrainian origin, who donated $500,000 for humanitarian aid to citizens in de-occupied Kharkiv region;
• The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA), which handed over 100 powerful generators to residents of de-occupied Kharkiv region;
• businesses from Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States, in particular WILO from Germany, which supplies water purification systems to citizens in Mykolaiv region.
Contributions are also made by former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and film director Michel Hazanavicius, who sent almost UAH 5 million to help Ukraine.
"At the center of my Foundation is a person, his or her well-being. I believe that the restoration of the country begins with the people. If you improve their lives, recuperate, the whole country will improve and recover," Zelenska said.