On June 28, University for Ukraine, a grassroots support organization at the University of Waterloo, held a free event called “The War in Ukraine: What’s Next?”.
The event’s organizers are working to keep attention on the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and raise funds to support humanitarian relief in Ukraine.
Serhiy Yarusevych is one of the group’s organizers and a professor of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering at the University of Waterloo. He said the group of staff, faculty, and students started the group in late February shortly after Russian forces invaded Ukraine.
The large scale of the war caused millions of people to flee to safety within a week, bringing a need for humanitarian assistance within Ukraine and countries including Canada where Ukrainians found refuge. Professor Yarusevych said the group started organizing their fundraising efforts through professional associations within the university, including the Faculty Association, Staff Association and Undergraduate and Graduate Student Associations.
“It took a little bit of time, but we’ve been up and running since June with our online donation site in time for the seminar on June 28. We had two political science professors that were providing an overview of what led to this conflict, how it is unfolding and giving their professional projection on where it may go from here. Being an academic, it’s very interesting to hear the professional view on this,” Professor Yarusevych said.
He said that while news organizations cover what is happening today in Ukraine, there is a general lack of coverage on the precursors that led to the war. Professor Yarusevych hopes the June 28 event helped the audience understand the nature of the conflict.
“The question and answer period was probably as exciting, if not more exciting, for the audience, as the presentations themselves, because they led to very interesting responses and a bit of a debate between the two panelists,” Professor Yarusevych said.
The University for Ukraine fundraising campaign is collecting donations for three nonprofit organizations—Canada Ukraine Foundation, Canadian Red Cross and UNICEF Canada. Professor Yarusevych said donors can choose from one of all of the organizations when making a donation.
“All of those programs already have designated initiatives focused on Ukraine and have boots on the ground. We wanted to tie into something that can get the donations to the locations where it’s needed the most,” Professor Yarusevych said.
One challenge for fundraising efforts is keeping attention on the war as media and public attention turns to other news. Professor Yarusevych said that large media outlets are geared towards giving attention to what is breaking news today.
As the war enters its sixth month, media attention has shifted to other stories. But Professor Yarusevych hopes future events will help keep the war in people’s minds and encourage continued donations to their fundraising efforts.
“People are getting used to it, but the scale of the conflict just increases with time. A lot of the humanitarian organizations that we’ve been in contact with highlight that as attention decreases, so do donations,” Professor Yarusevych said.
University for Ukraine has a $50,000 fundraising goal this year. Professor Yarusevych said he hopes people across the university and within the community take advantage of future events to learn more about the conflict and make a donation to help relief efforts.
“The university is about 42,000 students and there’s close to 8,000 faculty and staff. One dollar per person seems reasonable. We’re planning to pick up with a few events in the fall, early fall, when all of our students are going to be back on campus with staff and faculty support. So we will work quite determined to see this going.
And, you know, if we reach the goal, that’s great. But every, every dollar makes a difference, really.
Alex Kinsella is a freelance content marketer and writer based in Waterloo Region, Ontario. He's behind the TL;WR newsletter–Waterloo Region's weekly events newsletter. He's worked with some of Canada's most well known tech companies in roles including customer success, development, product management, PR, social media and marketing. Alex has contributed to publications including BetaKit, Grand Magazine and more.