Over 100 million people were displaced around the world, following the war in Ukraine, according to the International Rescue Committee. Food insecurity has been rapidly growing and with the global cost of living crisis, many are unable to rebuild their homes, including schools and hospitals. Pavlo Mykolayovych Kostyuk, head of Ukraine Reconstruction Fund, understands what needs to be done to support Ukraine. He and his team have created various projects in order to help with reconstruction. Pavlo will eb sharing more details with us in this interview with TechBullion.
Please tell us about yourself and the Ukraine Reconstruction Fund.
The “Ukrainian Reconstruction Fund” was created to help Ukraine and Ukrainians overcome the consequences of Russian aggression. This mission is humanitarian.
In order not to scatter our efforts, we focused on three areas: support for war victims, restoration of social infrastructure, and humanitarian demining.
Our team includes people who have a sufficient level of knowledge and experience in each of these areas: scientists, builders, economists, crisis managers, psychologists, representatives of charitable and religious organizations. That is, we set about the business with a sufficient understanding of what to do, when to do it and how to be as efficient as possible.
We understand in times of war, there are interventions from Government and global humanitarian agencies, what inspired the Ukraine reconstruction fund program?
You can see that since February 24 – the beginning of the acute phase – there has not been a single settlement that was not affected by the war. Some have gone through occupation and total destruction, some infrastructure has been damaged, others receive and accommodate internally displaced persons.
But let’s be clear: the state is not able to “close” all critical problems at once. This is understandable, because the hostilities continue, costs only increase, and the budget is under tremendous pressure.
At the same time, it turned out that there are people abroad who have the opportunity to solve some of the issues. Our assessments of the real situation and the desire to be useful to Ukraine coincided with theirs.
When communicating with donors, we came to the conclusion that the charity fund format is the best for cooperation. It allows quick decision-making and leaves donors in control of funds.
Watching from a distance, one might just see simply the Ukraine-Russian war. Could you give us a narrative of how this event has really affected lives in Ukraine?
There is a very apt saying about what is happening now: “Another day of the 8-year war, which has been going on for centuries, is coming.” We say this, bearing in mind that the confrontation between Ukraine and Russia has been going on not since February 24, and not even since 2014, but since the time when Muscovy was formed into a state, felt imperial ambitions and began an aggressive policy.
After the collapse of the USSR – another personification of the empire – Ukraine built its own vector of development, based on Ukrainization and partnership relations with the Western democratic world. And the Russians didn’t like it.
In 2014, they took part of our territory, in 2022, they are again trying to get rid of Ukrainians as a nation, by organizing terror and genocide. According to various sources, about 7 million people have been forced to leave their homes due to hostilities and move to other regions, more than 6 million have left abroad, a million have had their homes completely destroyed, 7 thousand civilians (without data from Mariupol and other occupied territories) have already died
The task of the fund, among other things, is to keep the flow of those who leave Ukraine, and to give the opportunity to those who left to return to their homeland…
I would like to note: the war is not with the Ukrainian armed forces, but with the population of Ukraine. After all, when they fight with the army, they do not deliberately destroy schools, hospitals, residential areas, or burn wheat fields.
We are talking to you right at the beginning of the school year. This year, Ukrainian children will study at home or in bomb shelters with the constant fear of Russian missile strikes. Meanwhile, their parents will be wondering if the family will be able to survive this winter, because with the onset of cold weather, there is a high probability that the enemy will hit food warehouses, heating stations, power plants and other critical infrastructure.
Six months ago, Ukrainians dreamed of their own development, a successful career, travel, new experiences and a decent future for their children. Now the goal is just to survive, and the only dream is to win.
You seem to understand very well what needs to be done to support Ukraine, could you elaborate these points for us to understand?
For this, first of all, it should be understood that Russia is waging a war not only on the battlefield, but also throwing significant resources to weaken Ukraine economically, humanitarianly, and informationally. And in view of this, there is no such type of support that would be redundant or inappropriate now.
Sanctions, supplies of modern weapons, military training, financial aid for reconstruction, humanitarian missions and everything we agree on with allies are the right things that affect the course of the war now or in the future.
The only thing I want to emphasize separately is that now it is strategically important to prevent the attempts of Russia, its information agents and the political lobby to compromise Ukraine in the eyes of the West or to raise doubts about the real reasons for this war.
If that happens, the sacrifice my country made will be in vain. And the aggressor, who tasted blood and went unpunished, will not stop there.
What is the goal with the Ukraine reconstruction fund program and how much are you looking to raise?
We do not set ourselves the goal of collecting a specific amount. And from the beginning it was not discussed. Every penny is important. If the fund can make at least one family happy, it will already be a significant contribution to helping the country.
Since the war is not over, what impacts are you making and how could the current situation affect the Ukraine reconstruction fund program?
Yes, the war is not over yet, but so is the life of Ukrainians. Every day, the Foundation receives dozens of messages and appeals for help from people whose homes the war has brought trouble to.
We cannot tell the families who were left without a roof over their heads on the eve of the winter that they should wait until the hostilities stop. It would be unfair to them and would cancel the very idea of the Foundation’s existence.
Therefore, I support President Zelensky, who says that it is worth placing the emphasis correctly. Yes, something can be restored only after the end of the war, but there is enough work even now. In view of possible threats, it must be carried out.
Our Foundation was one of the first to volunteer to help. We install alternative heating systems in Kremenchuk and Globin to reduce dependence on Russian gas, help with the restoration of social infrastructure facilities in Irpen and Makarov, and work on temporary shelter projects for displaced people in Cherkasy. The number of partner cities is increasing, and therefore people need us.
Changes to the program may be made depending on the operational situation in the country, which we are unable to influence. And also – depending on the capabilities or wishes of the donors.
For example, providing targeted humanitarian aid is not one of our priorities. But recently the Fund received a targeted tranche for exactly this type of assistance for the residents of the Buchan district of the Kyiv region. And with the help of volunteers, we distributed more than 1,700 food kits to families with many children, families who lost their homes, people with disabilities, and other categories.
Who are you expecting to donate to this program; Government, agencies or individuals. How do we donate and what has been the response so far?
For us, this issue is also not fundamental. Government organizations, humanitarian agencies or private individuals – there is no difference. A wide circle of acquaintances and contacts only adds to our experience and authority in the field of charity. So we will be even more useful for Ukraine.
One of the fears donors have is knowing that their funds are judiciously used, how do you guarantee that every penny donated is properly used?
The form of control over the use of funds is discussed with the donor and approved during the signing of the cooperation agreement. Reports, audits, joint commissions at any stage – everything is acceptable to us, as long as it provides peace of mind to the person or organization donating their money.
We work transparently and openly, available for communication with the media. And all information about the team, projects, activities of the Foundation is available on our website and social media pages.
Besides financial help, do you accept any other forms of help like expertise and equipment, in what ways can anyone help the Ukraine reconstruction fund program?
Any kind of help is relevant. Especially if it concerns green energy, the philosophy of which is shared by the management and members of the Supervisory Board of the Fund. Compliance with leading energy efficiency standards is the main requirement for our projects. And if the sponsor has the opportunity to provide expert assistance or offer options for modern equipment, we are ready to consider them.
Which specific projects are you focusing on currently and what is next on your roadmap, any more information to share with our readers today?
During the three months of work, the Foundation concluded about ten memorandums of cooperation. And now we fulfill the commitments made by the already concluded contracts. They visited the most affected cities of Kyiv region, in the central regions of the country, in Transcarpathia. We have become a partner of the State Enterprise of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, with which we plan to hold informational and educational events.
I will say so. These memoranda are not just some pieces of paper, documents with seals. Behind each of them lies the future fate of thousands of people. Yes, we are looking for an opportunity to restore the geriatric boarding school in Borodyanka, in Irpin and Makarov – to rebuild the destroyed kindergartens.
In Kremenchuk, Cherkassy, and Kanev, we are talking about helping internally displaced persons: in particular, there we are conducting an inspection of buildings that can be equipped as temporary shelters for displaced persons.
In Kremenchuk, in addition to the large number of admitted IDPs, there is another problem. Two rocket strikes significantly damaged the local CHP plant, which provided heat to a large part of the community. So the question is how the city will pass the heating season.
We proposed to local authorities to install alternative heating systems based on heat pumps in schools and kindergartens. Some of them have already passed an energy audit.
Of course, we will continue to look for new partners, expanding the geography of our activities. Negotiations are conducted literally every day, because, as I said, there is not a single corner of Ukraine left untouched by the war.
Also, the goal of the near future is to create a Center for psychological assistance for persons affected by the war. Its main office will be located in Kyiv, and branches will be located in our partner cities. Negotiations are currently underway with doctors regarding the format of the Center’s work, and methodical manuals are being prepared in parallel. I think that in a few months I will be able to talk more about this idea.