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«Murashnyk» of good deeds: lawyers and activists from Khmilnyk help both people and animals to survive the war

Publication date: July 8, 2022

Author: Olena Orlova/ Legal Development Network

Lawyers and public activists from Khmilnyk, Vinnytsia Oblast, launched several special initiatives to help migrants, local communities, and even home animals survive the war. We talked with the head of the public organization “Pravo” Vitalii DOROKH about creating and implementing good legal and humanitarian deeds.

Only six of them work in the organization now out of nine – two are conscripted, and one went to war as a volunteer. Volunteers help. And even being such a small team, during the four months of the war, they implemented at least five important initiatives to support the local community, which had recently been joined by people forced to flee the war. They created a humanitarian hub “Murashnyk” (Anthill)* to help the migrants; they organized a “Bank of things” and give clothes; they saved hundreds of animals from hunger – both home ones and those fed by good people; they raised and spread the seedlings to the community members and migrants, for which the own piece of land is salvation; they purchased and transferred medical equipment to rural clinics. At the same time, they continue to provide free legal aid (Public organization “Pravo” (Law) has been a member of the Legal Development Network since its foundation in 2009). And that is not all. The plans include much work and implementing at least three valuable ideas.

The war has brought challenges – and work.

Picture: Vitaliy Dorokh, the head of the public organization “Pravo”
  • Since the beginning of the war, we have been trying to master the humanitarian direction. Previously, the main areas of our activity were community development, anti-corruption actions, and protection of human rights. The war has faced us with challenges we didn’t have before: a large number of migrants, a shortage of goods of a wide consumption (especially at the very beginning of the war), and others. It was necessary to join in solving these problems. Therefore, we reviewed our activity and decided to add humanitarian direction, – says Vitaliy Dorokh.

Even in February, in the first days of the war, by agreement with the owners of the local trade complex, the organization rented a basement, in which they made a place for humanitarian aid distribution (clothes, food, hygiene things, food for animals). The place was called “Murashnyk” (Anthill), which, according to its name, started to expand, to be full of work and visitors – and turned into a kind of humanitarian hub.

Murashnyk is uniting, helping, expanding

Later, “Murashnyk” officially signed a rent agreement for the accommodation and purchased a lot of equipment – from computer equipment to creative kits for children with the funds from the East Europe Foundation. Under the financing of the Legal Development Network (LDN), the space is now being repaired and prepared for new types of activities.

Hub “Murashnyk.” The new equipment for the new activities. Picture: public organization “Pravo”
Hub “Murashnyk.” The new equipment for the new activities. Picture: public organization “Pravo”
Picture: Taras Nasalskyi, the expert from Khmilnyk public organization “Pravo”. The repair in “Murashnyk” by your own hands. Photo: public organization “Pravo”

Currently, communication activities are being carried out in the hub to involve internally displaced people in volunteer activities.

  • The “Murashnyk” center for the internally displaced people will specialize in carrying out activities for them, their children, youth, and joint activities with the participation of local residents and internally displaced people. In practice, it can be informational meetings, computer courses, trainings, seminars on various topics, master classes, common reviews, discussion of documentary films, and much more. We will define in more detail, analyze the needs of internally displaced people, and continue to focus on the people’s needs. Now we are conducting a poll among the internally displaced people,” Vitaliy adds.

It should be added that by the moment, the organization “Pravo” has drawn up a Memorandum on cooperation with local authorities, the subject of which is precisely the support of the internally displaced people through “Murashnyk.”

Therefore, volunteer assistance is invaluable since the organization has lost several employees.

  • Local volunteers from Khmilnyk, as well as volunteers from internally displaced people, are involved in the work. Most of all, it is a work in “Murashnyk.” One of the several social initiatives we launched is the “Bank of things.” Through a survey among internally displaced people, we form a base of needs, and local residents bring things for those who need them. Therefore, volunteer work is very much overdone, – says the head of the organization.
“Murashnyk” is expanding, and at the same time, “Bank of things” continues to work in the office.  Picture: public organization “Pravo”.
People from Khmilnyk bring clothes for migrants and those who need them to the “Bank of things”. Picture: public organization “Pravo”.

People saved animals – but it was nothing to feed them

Another valuable idea belonging to the “Pravo” team was created at the beginning of the war due to a sudden shortage of food for animals.

  •  Then it was hard to buy not only specialized fodder but even some kind of groats to cook porridge for the animals – Vitaliy Dorokh remembers. – That is why we first searched for groats, bought them at our own expense, and delivered them to people who kept many animals at home or fed many homeless dogs and cats. Thanks to cooperation with the zoo volunteer group “Serdtse Druga,” (Heart of friend) we improved this process. And then it turned out that in our community, there are people who hold their private shelters – some sheltered more than 70 (!!!) animals. We realized that helping them with food for animals at such a difficult time would be very important.
Since the beginning of the war, people and animals have been in a difficult situation. Picture: public organization “Pravo”.
Food aid has become very importantPicture: public organization “Pravo”

Picture: public organization “Pravo”
Photo: public organization “Pravo”.

When we realized the scale of the necessary help and that such needs are not fulled by ourselves, we began to turn directly to the feed producers.

  • “Nestle Ukraine” was the first who responded and gave the organization more than 2 tons of animal feed. This allowed help both locals, who took care of animals, and migrants who did not leave their pets and took them with them. Later on “Royal Canin Ukraine” also sent feed and joined the charity – Vitaly said

The volunteers from “Pravo” continue to deliver animal feed to people who have private shelters and to internally displaced people who apply to “Murashnyk” for help. By the way, the survey showed that the internally displaced people who are now in the community brought more than 300 animals with them, who also get feed in “Murashnyk.”   

The volunteers from “Pravo” continue to deliver food. Picture: public organization “Pravo”.
Picture: public organization “Pravo”.
Picture: public organization “Pravo”.
Another charity part of fodder arrived to “Murashnyk”. Picture: public organization “Pravo”.

“Dog” stories of kindness and rescue

During the time of help to animals and their owners, there are many exciting stories, says Vitaliy, and two of them are shared.

  • The first one is a story about an internally displaced family who came to Khmilnytskiy in transit. They intended to move abroad. They had a Stafford dog with them. The owner could not take him with her because it needed too much money and time. The woman was exhausted and asked Olena Chornii, the expert from “Pravo,” to find a shelter for the dog. But the real problem was that the dog was a fighting breed. Besides, he was old. However, Olena found a family that agreed to take a dog. It was rather hard to move the dog inside a private car of Serhii Skral, another organization member. But everything came out, and the dog now feels very well in the new family – says Vitaliy.

The second story is about a more minor but sick dog, pekinness. He had just got an operation when his family had to evacuate from Zaporizhya to Khmilnyk. The road and stress hurt the dog – he had to be rescued. In Khmilnyk, such nobody makes such operations, so it was necessary to take the dog to Vinnytsia – and this was about money, blockbustles, etc. But finally, everything was done, and now the dog’s health is not threatened.

The idea of the “Sady Peremogy” (Gardens of Victory) helped more than 200 families

“To the attention of the internally displaced people who have found a shelter in the Khmilnyk community! If you live in a private house, have a piece of land, or rent it, if you have a desire to provide your family with vitamins but do not have the opportunity to buy seedlings in the market, we can help you! Public organization “Pravo” together with humanitarian hub “Murashnyk” can provide FREE seedlings of cabbage and tomatoes…”

Such an announcement was placed on the organization’s website and social networks in May. The initiative was called “Sady Peremogy” (Gardens of Victory).

  • The idea with the seedings was spontaneous. The fact is that in our organization, many people love gardening. Someone is growing about 50 kinds of tomato, someone – the same amount of grapes, someone has quite a little land but manages to gather excellent crops, and someone even grows peanuts – explains our interlocutor. – That is why we know all the problems of gardeners in our region. Well, we predicted that the prices for seedings would be huge. This would create significant problems for people who came to our community and would not mind planting something to provide their family with vegetables, – Vitaliy explains.

Thus, the organization purchased the seeds of tomatoes and cabbage at its own expense. They have chosen relatively undemanding kinds. The initiative turned out to be so popular that it was even surprising. Although it was natural: the prices were really high.

The public organization “Pravo” members have grown the seedings themselves.
Picture: public organization “Pravo”. Picture: public organization “Pravo”.

The calculations fully justified themselves: within two weeks of the action, about 200 families got the seeds of tomatoes and cabbages for more than 20,000 UAH! And as Vitaliy points out, these figures are approximate and accurately reduced. And he adds:

  • It is interesting that not only the gardeners have come to the idea of seedings. These are people who have never done gardening but have taken advantage of such an opportunity. I have a few responses from the owners who host the internally displaced people who took our seedings. That is precisely the case when people have never been engaged in gardening but have planted it – and now they are happy with that.

The seedings of tomatoes and cabbage were distributed free of charge to the residents of Khmilnyk, and migrants. Picture: public organization “Pravo”.
Picture: public organization “Pravo”.

“Core” assistance to rural clinics of the Khmilnyk region

“Pravo” also has a “medical case” in its list of good deeds. After consultations with the representatives of the local center for primary health care, the department of information activity and communication of the city council, as well as with the internally displaced people living in villages of Khmilnyk municipality, “Pravo” made an application for the contest of the International Foundation “Renaissance” called “Grant Humanitarian Program “Humanitarian Solidarity” (The Fund is implementing the program in partnership and with financial support from CARE Deutschlande.V.). “Renaissance” has supported the direct purchase of medical equipment application, and the organization has already received seven cardiographs for the Khmilnyk municipality, which will work in rural clinics.

On the left is Olena Cherniy, the public organization “Pravo” expert. Transfer of a cardiograph to one of the rural clinics of the Khmilnyk municipality. Photo: public organization “Pravo”.
In total, the organization received seven cardiographs, which will work in rural clinics of the local community. Picture: public organization “Pravo”.
Picture: public organization “Pravo”.

Numbers and plans

More than 1300 newly-arrived residents of the Khmilnyk community have turned to the “Murashnyk” center since the beginning of its activity. And the humanitarian hub has a lot of plans. First of all, many events will start after the repair in the center is completed.

  • We also want to start a social laundry – people have requested this idea. Many people do not have the opportunity to do the laundry at home, where they settled, and they cannot pay for this service.

It is worth adding that our organization has also joined the project  “Housing Bank,” so we plan to work in this direction as well.

And in general, we plan to monitor the needs of the internally displaced people and then try to respond to such requests, – concludes Vitaliy Dorokh.

* The humanitarian hub “Murashnyk” works at the address: Khmilnyk, Peremohy square, 3.

Tel. +38 096 029 67 81.

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