For some, it’s easy to see the Russian invasion of Ukraine as something happening on our televisions or Twitter feeds.
But Scouts are wired differently. They’ll do whatever they can to help — even from 5,000 miles away.
Over the course of three Saturdays in March and April, 100 Scouts from the National Capital Area Council of Washington, D.C., assembled more than 3,000 personal first aid kits to send to families in Ukraine.
The American Scouts were joined by a group of Scouts from Ukraine who are living in the Bethesda, Md., area.
These emergency medical kits are lightweight and portable — meant for a Ukrainian person to carry in their pocket or purse in case glass shatters or shrapnel flies. They include supplies like gauze, bandages, butterfly closures, vinyl gloves, antibiotic ointment and alcohol wipes.
For the Scouts who showed up, the act of service was their way of helping strangers they may never meet.
“I’m simply here to help,” says Adria Nguyen, a Scout from Troop 3 of Rockville, Md. “Though this may not be the greatest and most impactful way of helping, I still would like to pitch in as much as possible, knowing how much difficulty many people are experiencing.”
Aiden McCleskey, a Tenderfoot from Troop 61 of Washington, says he wanted to make sure Ukrainian citizens were prepared in case of emergency.
“A Scout is helpful,” he says. “Ukraine is in a real time of need, and I want to help as much as I can.”
Troop 1434 Assistant Scoutmaster Steve Fox, who coordinated the effort, says the Scouts are simply doing what the founder intended when he created the Scouting movement more than 100 years ago.
“Lord Baden-Powell conceived of Scouting as a force for international peace and understanding,” he says. “When this opportunity to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine was presented, I knew I had to step up.”
The event also gave the American Scouts a chance to meet Scouts from Ukraine — giving the Scouts BSA members a closer understanding of just how much the war is affecting them.
The American Scouts spent time in intense conversations with the Scouts from Ukraine. They learned that the days of service were their way of sending love and support back to their native land.
“I have a lot of family in Ukraine, and I lived there for almost half of my life now, so I’m very hurt that this is happening,” says Ivanka Charchalis, a 15-year-old Scout from Ukraine. “I’m trying to do the best that I can to help from where I am since I can’t go there.”
Roman Onyshkevych, a Ukrainian Scout leader, says he’s impressed by the response from the local Ukrainian community and others who believe in the cause. They expected to raise about $4,500 to put together 1,000 kits but ended up tripling that amount — allowing them to send 3,000 kits overseas.
“The turnout was equally inspiring,” he says. “We expected 20 people to come help build the kits, and we ended up with over 100 people. The community’s response has been amazing, and we are just getting started.”
For Lara Kudryk-Traska, mom of two Ukrainian Scouts, the effort is a demonstration of the “unbreakable spirit” of the Ukrainian people.
“We have to do everything we can to help — donate, get out and demonstrate, share the stories of our family and friends in Ukraine, make these medical kits,” she says. “It all makes a difference.”
Guidance on Scouting donations to support Ukrainian Scouts
Here’s the official statement from the World Organization of the Scout Movement, of which the BSA is a member:
WOSM recognizes one National Scout Organization per country. For Ukraine, the Member Organization is National Organization of Scouts of Ukraine (NOSU). We encourage all NSOs that any Scouting support is channeled through the mechanisms made available through WOSM.
We are aware that many other non-WOSM but Scout-like entities are active in the region, including PLAST. We are not affiliated with organizations in Ukraine besides NOSU.
In most cases, the best way to help with the unfolding humanitarian crisis is to make a financial contribution through WOSM or another reputable NGO.
To directly support Scouts’ humanitarian relief work in Ukraine and for refugees, you can donate here. Representatives on the ground know what is needed and financial contributions help them purchase the most needed and locally-appropriate supplies.
For additional and ongoing updates, please visit this link.