When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, 2022, New Haven-based Yale doctors with Ukrainian roots watched the events unfolding in horror. Irina Esterlis, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Andrey Zinchuk, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Alla Vash-Margita, Associate Professor for Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, and others were in touch with their colleagues in Ukraine who were in hospitals treating the wounded. The Yale doctors learned that, despite large shipments to Ukraine from the U.S. and Europe, there were critical gaps in medical supplies: dialysis equipment, fluids, protective gear for medical professionals, and specific medications were acutely needed. Drs. Esterlis, Vash-Margita, and Zinchuk decided to raise funds to purchase these items from suppliers in Poland and have them trucked directly to hospitals in the conflict zone.
Since the beginning of the war, Dr. Esterlis raised funds by baking traditional Ukrainian bread, and Drs. Vash-Margita and Zinchuk networked with colleagues, family, and friends for donations. But the need was too great to handle on an individual scale. The doctors brought together doctors and professionals at Yale and from the New Haven area to formalize their fundraising operation. Looking to learn about starting a nonprofit, they reached out to Peter Crumlish, the Executive Director & General Secretary of Dwight Hall, Yale’s Center for Public Service & Social Justice. Peter frequently advises students and community members on incorporating and maintaining 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations. “Usually, my advice to students is not to form a nonprofit, if you can help it,” he said. “New Haven already has a superabundance of nonprofit organizations, and students usually find it very hard to keep nonprofits sustainable once they have got them up and running.” In this case, Peter advised the physicians that a new nonprofit made sense but would take time to establish. In the meantime, he offered Dwight Hall to serve as the group’s fiscal sponsor so that they could begin collecting funds straightaway.
In the space of a week, the group incorporated as United for Ukraine (U4U), opened a bank account, and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Dwight Hall. A vigil in Guilford raised more than $6,000 in one day, with $25,000 coming a few days later from a donor who attended the event. Twenty-four hours later, U4U purchased $39,000 worth of supplies, including medicine to treat kidney failure in wounded soldiers and ultrasound systems to quickly diagnose the causes of shock. To date, U4U has raised more than $200,000.
While the Yale physicians of U4U hope that the war in Ukraine will end soon, they know that the long-term needs of wounded victims will be extensive. People with amputated limbs and organ damage will require medical treatment and rehabilitation for years to come. United for Ukraine will continue to raise funds to help mitigate the crisis in Ukraine. Peter said the opportunity for Dwight Hall to support this effort was a gift, allowing the organization to contribute in a positive way to a horrific humanitarian disaster.
United for Ukraine is still actively fundraising. Join Dwight Hall in supporting U4U’s efforts by donating here.