Expanding the circle of support, strengthening international solidarity, and new partnerships are all effects of the involvement of foreigners in restoration volunteering.
In recent months, the B50 team of legionnaire volunteers has grown significantly. Citizens of other countries come to the capital to taste the dust of destroyed homes in de-occupied communities. Their information bubbles burst on shovels and buckets in Moshchun when they meet progressive Ukrainians – B50 volunteers – face to face.
In a blitz interview #B50heroes, a Frenchman, an American and a Canadian share their experience of helping and their vision of Ukraine’s recovery.
Tom Di Nunzio, B50 volunteer and donor from France:
On the 24th I was in the UK, I left Ukraine 10 days before that seeing that the situation could only get worse. I remember eating my last syrnyks in Boryspil’ airport with bad feelings in my guts. My partner was still in Ukraine and she woke me up at 3am with the bad news. I spent the next days hardly able to sleep, frenetically trying to find out as many details as possible about what was going on. I was very worried for the people in Ukraine, very worried for the destruction to come. I couldn’t (and still can’t) understand how senseless people are to start wars.
My girlfriend and I went back to Ukraine at the end of April, due to her work. We stayed in Lviv for a few months and then moved to Kyiv. I had no pressing reason to return, except maybe the feeling of being back at home, as Ukraine had been for over a year at that point.
I was amazed at the reaction of the Ukrainian civil society at the beginning of the war, how people came together to fight for their independence. And I thought: if anyone could do something useful, why couldn’t I help? Because I don’t speak Ukrainian, a lot of activities were difficult for me to take part in, but eventually I came across B50. From that point things accelerated a lot. I messaged one evening and was working in Moschun the next day! I wrote an email to the contact address (yes, I wasn’t used to the omnipresence of Telegram in Ukraine yet 😅) , and a few hours later Ruslan messaged me on Telegram and told me to meet him the next morning in Pochaina. He explained to me the registration system later, and there were no issues.
Even though I had seen a lot of pictures and reports of the destruction of Moshchun, seeing it in person was another level of horror. I was very touched by the people there, who lost everything and yet were boundlessly generous and grateful.
I got along very quickly with the other B50 volunteers. People were very happy to see a foreigner coming to help, and nationality aside, we figured out quickly that we have a lot in common. I started learning Ukrainian in the process too.
And in this type of work words are not always needed. One shovel is going to be a pile of plates, the next one toiletries from the bathroom. Room after room, it felt like an intrusion into people’s lives, digging away remains of destroyed normality. I can’t help as much as I’d like to do with my time, so I’m donating to B50. I know from experience that any money given to B50 is very important and directly affects people’s lives.
Gary Wendt, B50 volunteer from USA:
There were many reasons to come to Ukraine. I feel strongly about the Ukranian future and this unjust war that has been brought upon them by the russians.
I like to stay active) I develop professional baseball players in Colombia, South America. A friend of mine recommended that I work with him at the Help Ukraine project in Lublin, Poland. There I found information about B50.
Your volunteers are wonderful, dedicated and hard-working people. I assisted in painting a Nova Hreblia bomb shelter and worked outside in Moshchun, clearing debris at bombed out houses. I hope this terrible war is over by next summer, but if not, I would gladly volunteer again!
Christina Saulnier, B50 volunteer from Canada:
I had to do something and I wanted to be here, in Ukraine. If the whole world was here volunteering maybe this invasion would be over with.
Ukrainians are brave and resilient people that just want to live like any other free nation. Their culture, language, architecture, art and people are not reason for genocide but should flourish. russia should be at the bottom of the food chain.
I helped with demolition and cleaning at Hostomel and Moshchun. I like the way volunteers are moved to different locations. It’s a good thing there is this assistance because there is a lot to be done.
I would love to go back and volunteer. I hope the war ends and Ukraine can move forward and so your people can stop suffering.
Involving people from Europe or America in the reconstruction is another way to show Ukraine’s unity with the world. Such support in difficult times gives us hope that together we can not only clean up and rebuild our country, but also design a new system for achieving peace and stability.
To join the B50 foreign legion, you only need to:
1. Familiarize yourself with the principles of involving foreign citizens in assistance – https://b50.com.ua/en/join-en
2. Fill out an Application Form for non-residents– https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSf3ZQu33BLeaTL08fMD4msUws9jiCaBAZKf3NLWDAkXm2EuUQ/viewform
3. Sign the Agreement on the Terms of Volunteering by a non-resident –https://drive.google.com/file/d/1BDyadGnSDj0lJuYZWIdfhB7ToLBtODBA/view?usp=drive_link