You've read the headlines. You've seen the devastation in the news — Mariupol, Kharkiv, Kyiv, the shelling, the bodies, the ruins, families huddled in cramped shelters, families fleeing toward the unknown... There's no mincing words: Ukraine needs our help and it needs it now.
Which is why, starting today, #VBGIVESBACK is partnering with the International Rescue Committee to support its response to the crisis in Ukraine and with refugees, asylum seekers, and displaced people worldwide. All quarter long, we'll be volunteering and hosting special give-back days at our stores nationwide in addition to making a donation from each and every veronicabeard.com order to this worthy cause, which was founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein to assist those suffering under Hitler. Today, the nonprofit has expanded to cover the worst humanitarian crises around the world, from Afghanistan and Syria to Yemen and Ethiopia, helping the people affected to survive, recover and rebuild their lives—and always with a focus on the unique needs of women and girls. As mothers, this last part is particularly significant to us.
The stats speak for themselves. More than 4 million people have fled Ukraine, while 6.5 million have become internally displaced, making this the fastest and largest displacement crisis this century. The majority are women and children, who are most at risk of violence, exploitation and abuse. “In displacement contexts, women and girls are always the most adversely affected and bear the brunt of crises," explains Lani Fortier, Senior Director of Emergencies at IRC. "The situation in Ukraine is no different."
And then there's this: An estimated 80,000 women will give birth in Ukraine, within a mere three months from the start of the invasion. We've already seen examples of life finding its way against the backdrop of war—4,300 babies have been born since February 24. But if the crisis continues to shut down essential services, and with multiple hospitals destroyed, many will do so without access to critical maternal health care. For them, childbirth could be a life-threatening experience.
We hope you join us in changing someone's life for the better and in saving lives, period. Below, a breakdown of our IRC partnership—plus read what Ukrainians have to say about the crisis, in their own words.
• Attacks on health care facilities, ambulances, and health workers—more than 60 in just four weeks—are limiting access to lifesaving services and supplies in Ukraine. When people are trapped and health and sanitation facilities are targeted, diseases like cholera spread and preventable deaths skyrocket. People with chronic conditions, emerging conditions or who are injured by the conflict itself will not be able to reach the medical care they need. The most vulnerable will pay the steepest price.
• The war does not erase the pandemic. Just a week before the conflict escalated, Ukraine recorded its highest ever number of Covid cases. With less than 40% of the population vaccinated against Covid, people becoming displaced in crowded reception centers and bunkers are at risk.
• As the attacks continue, people who remain in Ukraine are enduring the dangers of life under siege, even as they try to cope without adequate water, heat and electricity. Freezing temperatures are making conditions for those seeking shelter in basements and subway stations even more unbearable. Roads and bridges made impassible by bombs and shelling are hindering access to food and other basic necessities. Every day, we are watching the deaths of innocent civilians, the destruction of vital infrastructure, and massive displacement within Ukraine and beyond.
HOW YOUR DONATIONS HELP
The IRC is on the ground and responding to the crisis in Ukraine by working with partners to support the evacuation of women and children and providing life-saving resources including the following:
• Critical goods for displaced families, such as groceries, blankets, sleeping bags, warm clothes and stoves • Cash assistance programs • Psychological care, translation services and legal assistance as well as support for housing, employment and refugee rights • Medical equipment and other essentials for health teams operating at border crossing points and refugee reception centers
The IRC is also speaking out. Its Policy and Advocacy team works alongside supporters to fight for policies that deliver real change for people in need of protection. In addition, the organization is calling for international donors and world leaders to prioritize support and protection services for women and girls. This means listening to Ukrainian women and girls themselves and including women’s rights organizations in all affected countries in coordinating and implementing the humanitarian response.
As Albert Einsten, IRC founder and a refugee himself, once said, "Those who have the privilege to know, have the duty to act.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS: THE WOMEN OF UKRAINE
Iryna was still on maternity leave when the war began and her whole world turned upside down. She escaped to Poland with her 1-year-old daughter Varvara, her sister and her sister’s two children.
“It is difficult to describe how scary it is to hear sirens all the time. We had to go to basements and shelters several times a day. We are happy to have left that, but all of our relatives are still in Ukraine and it’s difficult to be separated from them. For the journey we took only essentials, like children’s clothes and hygiene items. I took the least for myself and only a small amount of food, it was all we could carry. I want this horror to stop, so that everyone can return. People, including children, are being killed everyday. This cannot continue. What we need is for everyone—politicians and states—to unite to try to achieve some meaningful peace. There have already been so many tragedies and losses. Now that I’m in Poland with my daughter and sister, I hope that my husband will see that we are safe, so that he stops worrying. We’re so grateful for all the help we’ve been given, and that has been received by so many others fleeing Ukraine. I’d like to thank the world for all the help they have given us so far.”
Iryna with her daughter, Varvara
Victoria fled Ukraine with her child and two friends. She left the rest of her family behind, and waited at the border for 12 hours with hundreds of thousands of other refugees before crossing into Poland.
"How does anyone feel being forced out of their country, being made to leave loved ones behind? Or being exhausted waking up to sirens, taking our children to the shelter at night? I made the unimaginable decision to leave Ukraine for the safety of my child. I have left everyone—my husband, my siblings, my parents, my entire family—in Ukraine. After we reached Poland, I managed to contact a friend who said we can stay with them until the war is over. Now that I’m here, I use my voice to speak up for the people back home. Ukraine is a peaceful country. For a long time, it was full of peaceful people who never wanted any war. People were happy just living in Ukraine. We simply want to live."
Anastasiia is a 24-year-old Ukrainian refugee at the Ukraine-Poland border, where she fled with her mother and brother.
“It was a hard decision to come here because my dad can’t be with us—men are not allowed to go abroad. But we decided to leave because no one knows what will happen today or tomorrow. A lot of my friends and family stayed in Ukraine. It’s their native country and they don’t want to leave it, they want to defend it. In the beginning, we thought maybe this would be resolved in a week. Now, it’s been more than ten days, the same situation. But we don’t lose hope."
Lena Kozar, a writer, has been living in Kyiv for 10 years and has decided to stay.
“I used to get angry with my city for being too noisy and crowded, but now our streets are empty and the only sound I hear is the sound of explosions. When I read the phrase against all odds, I thought about those women giving birth in bomb shelters right now. Against all odds, life finds its way amidst destruction, and I think this is how things are supposed to be. The light should defeat the darkness. Here, in Ukraine, we used to have this stereotypical image of women being very strong and stubborn and now it proves to be true. Women are holding on; they are holding strong.”
Angelina caught an evacuation train from Dnipro to Lviv, Ukraine. From there she was helped, alongside her family, to cross the border into Poland.
“My father used to say to me: ‘When you are happy, you don’t realize it.’ Before the war, we were happy with our everyday routine and we didn’t realize it. But now, we understand that real happiness was all of those small things, moments we shared between us as a family. Everyone has given us a warm welcome in Poland; we have clothes and people take care of us. Me and my family feel safe and we are happy to be here, but we’re also full of anxiety. We're so worried about our country and upset with everything that’s going on. I want our children to be able to look up and see a clear sky above us, for there to be no more war and for this to never happen again.”
“My father used to say to me: ‘When you are happy, you don’t realize it.’ Before the war, we were happy with our everyday routine and we didn’t realize it.” — Angelina
A scene from the refugee gathering point in Medyka, Poland
Yevhenia owned her own business in Zaporizhzia, Ukraine. On the fourth day of the conflict, she realized that her city would be encircled soon, and she made the difficult decision to leave on her own, even though her family couldn’t come with her.
"It is hard when you leave without knowing where you’re going, without understanding what will happen to you or if you’ll ever see your parents, grandmother, or friends again. You ask yourself, 'Was that the last time that we will see each other?' The journey to Poland was exhausting, I didn’t sleep for three days and I kept crying every time I thought of my family back home. I’m safe now, but my relatives can’t evacuate because the journey would be too difficult; it is terrifying to think about my elderly grandmother unable to leave Ukraine. I wonder what life would be like after the war, because I loved my job and I hope I can return one day. I’m so proud to be Ukrainian. I’m proud of the Ukrainian people, because like never before, my country has shown its unity, and shown others what it’s capable of. I think our country deserves the best. It deserves to live in peace. And the people who live in our homeland are the most extraordinary people.”
A mother and her daughter meet at the border crossing point.
From April 1, 2022, to June 30, 2022, Veronica Beard will donate a dollar amount from every sale on veronicabeard.com worldwide, to the IRC, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing humanitarian aid, relief and resettlement to refugees and other victims of oppression or violent conflict. The company will also donate 10% of all retail sales made in the United States on April 7, 2022 (#VBGIVESBACK) to the IRC. Company guarantees a minimum donation of $150,000 USD. For more information, visit www.rescue.org. No portion of the purchase price is tax-deductible.