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TrustChain: an international network of volunteers saves lives in Ukraine

international volunteers ukraine
TrustChain: an international network of volunteers saves lives in Ukraine
Article by: Zarina Zabrisky
Daniil stayed up all night to help deliver the formula…through a series of connections, he found Natalia, a young mother from Kyiv, who refused to flee her country. She drove from pharmacy to pharmacy risking her life for the babies of a person she had never met. Natalia narrowly escaped shelling but delivered the formula. The first link in the TrustChain network of international volunteers was born. To date, it was saved 37,000 people from the hardest-hit parts of Ukraine.

Right after Russia started its full-scale war of aggression in Ukraine, Daniil Cherkasskiy got a desperate call at night. His close friend just had kids. To survive, the prematurely born twins needed preemie formula— in Kyiv. The surrogate mother couldn’t get to a pharmacy under the Russian gunfire. Daniil stayed up all night to help deliver the formula. He called everyone he knew and, through a series of connections, he found Natalia, a young mother from Kyiv, who refused to flee her country. She drove from pharmacy to pharmacy risking her life for the babies of a person she had never met. Natalia narrowly escaped shelling but delivered the formula. The first link in the TrustChain network of volunteers was born.

TrustChain volunteers organize

Soon, in Ukraine, teams formed in active war zones. In the US, Daniil’s friends mobilized friends, families, and co-workers to raise funds for the teams on the ground in Ukraine. Daniil built a stable financial bridge to channel the incoming donations to the volunteer teams in Ukraine. Within hours, funds flooded to Ukraine to match the needs as they came up. The network quickly expanded. At this point, hundreds of volunteers on the ground are saving lives in war-torn Ukraine and TrustChain is funding about 10 teams in the country.

The needs in Ukraine change constantly. At first, the network was mostly focused on evacuations. To date, TrustChain volunteers have evacuated about 37,000 people from the hardest-hit parts of Ukraine. These days, evacuations still continue, but the focus has shifted to delivering humanitarian aid, supporting refugees, and, in some cases, rebuilding.

“We currently feed or provide aid for about 50,000 people each week, run multiple refugee shelters, and look at rebuilding projects, for instance, schools in Chernihiv,” said Ilya Knizhnik, a Board Member and Partnership Manager at TrustChain.

Volunteers risk their lives to help their countrymen.

Deliveries over landmines and under fire

Olena Shulha, one of the volunteers working on the ground in Ukraine, wrote about a tragedy in Mykolaiv Oblast. A Russian tank shot at one of the cars that was evacuating orphans from a psychological rehab. Several teachers were killed. The volunteer team then drove the children and the remaining teachers to safety across the country. The children were sick and under stress, and the TrustChain team tried hard to calm them down.

In April, TrustChain teams were some of the first to go into the villages in the liberated Kyiv suburbs. The Russians had bombed the bridges. To get to the village from Hostomel, one team had to drive through the forest in the rain, risking being stuck in the mud. The Ukrainian soldiers warned volunteers to “look under their feet,” as the Russians had mined the forest. In Borodianka, hungry people surrounded the truck carrying humanitarian aid. When one of the volunteers asked to use the bathroom, a local child offered to bring her to bushes that had not been mined.

In June, a TrustChain team completed a trip to Donbas, delivering aid to Sievierodonetsk residents living without food, electricity, water, or gas. The team brought a generator and wired a light bulb to it, lighting the basement shelter where people were hiding.

From Paralympic swimmer to coordinating volunteers

TrustChain volunteer Daria Kopaieva, a decorated Ukrainian Paralympic swimmer, helps people with disabilities in Dnipro. She reached out to Ukraine TrustChain in May and has been coordinating the delivery of food and hygienic products since then. Before the war, Daria started an organization called “Mama Zmogla” (Mama Can) helping parents with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities.

During the war, Daria expanded her efforts to include all people with disabilities who need help. She cares for 27 people by preparing and distributing aid packages. Daria wrote,

“I was born in Ukraine, and I grew up, worked, had a son here. Even when I moved to Mexico, I didn’t change my allegiance to Ukraine, though I was an accomplished athlete and two coaches from Mexico fought over me. However, I decided to return and stay in Ukraine. This is my home. But now there is war here. And I’m afraid. I’m afraid probably because I’m a mother. After all, I’m responsible for my son’s life. I made the decision to stay. We are home. We must stay. Who else but us, Ukrainians, should take care of our home?”

From Kazakhstan and the US

TrustChain sponsored a humanitarian aid shipment from Kazakhstan, delivered through Western Ukraine to be distributed in the Chernihiv rural area. In addition to three trucks of aid, the people of Kazakhstan sent loving letters of support.

“Our goal is to help as many people as possible in Ukraine. The main challenge these days is that the world’s attention is shifting from Ukraine. As attention shifts, there is a slowdown in donations and international aid just when it is needed the most. The biggest challenge is raising awareness and raising funds. On average, we evacuate people from war zones for just $5 or feed someone for a week for just a few dollars as well. Even with the low-cost structure, we have to raise funds each week to maintain these large-scale operations,” said Knizhnik in an interview with Euromaidan Press. “The other challenge is the constantly changing situation on the ground. One week an area might be safe, and the next it is getting bombed. It is not clear what happens from week to week.”

Asked about the funding, Knizhnik explained that all the US team members pooled their own funds to help Ukraine in the beginning.

“Then, we asked our friends to contribute. The need was far greater than we could meet, so we formed an official non-profit to allow us to collect more funds and send them to Ukraine. We run at zero overhead on the US side and send 50,000–100,000 US dollars to our teams in Ukraine on a weekly basis. We rely on crowdfunding and fundraisers all over the world to raise these funds. As an official non-profit, we also accept corporate matching, donations through Facebook, and other sources.”


TrustChain put together several successful fundraisers, including a concert in Chicago featuring Brazilian and Bengali bands as well as Ukrainian folk and 50s-70s retro with bandura, violin, trumpet, and accordions. The company dancers of Studio North Academy of the Performing Arts in Wilmette hosted a bake sale in April. One of the volunteers ran the Hamburg Marathon and donated half the money she collected to TrustChain.

As Ukraine enters the fifth month of this devastating war, with over 100 missiles launched against its cities in three days, help is needed more than ever.

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