Blog post | 24-01-2023 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Because of the war, many people in Ukraine have neither electricity nor running water. The need is particularly high in the recently liberated areas. The Dutch Embassy in Kyiv supports organizations that can quickly make a difference locally, such as the Lion Kyiv Foundation. Guido van Engelen and Emmeke Vierhout talk about their work.
After a week in Kiev, Guido joins the long queue at the Polish border. He has just brought another load of aggregates from the Netherlands to Ukraine. “They closed only 10 cars for an hour. So we’ll be here for a while,’ he sighs. The air raid siren sounds in the background, but Guido isn’t worried about a missile attack. “Statistically speaking, the chance of it hitting exactly here is very small. In the eastern or southern part of the country, it is a completely different story. It hits every day’.
Guido has lived in Kiev for almost thirty years and works there as a real estate agent. When the war broke out, he immediately drove to Holland. “I had arranged that at home. If there’s a fight, I’ll go.’ On the same day, Emmeke left with her children. She had lived with her husband Kees on a farm in central Ukraine for 15 years.
Lion Kyiv Foundation
On their way to the Netherlands, Guido and Emmeke contacted other Dutch entrepreneurs who had to flee Ukraine. ‘We immediately started a fundraising campaign together,’ says Emmeke. ‘We all have a large entrepreneurial network and know the country well. As a result, the first load of food, clothing and other aid was in Ukraine within a week.’
Since then, the entrepreneurs have jointly committed themselves to Ukraine. ‘We came together in the foundation de Leeuw Kyiv’, says Guido. As chairman of the foundation, originally created to promote the Dutch language and culture in Ukraine, he proposed turning Leo Kyiv into a humanitarian foundation. ‘It was the fastest way,’ explains Emmeke. “It often takes weeks to set up a new fund. Now we could immediately do everything from the foundation and also receive donations.’
Hundreds of aggregates
Russia’s attack has destroyed a large part of Ukraine’s electricity supply. “In Kiev it is often a temporary outage lasting a few hours, but in many other places there is no electricity at all,” says Guido. “In some villages, people have been without electricity for weeks. You just can’t imagine that’.
In recent months, the foundation has already brought hundreds of aggregates to Ukraine. The entrepreneurs assemble the generators in the Netherlands and then transport them to Ukraine by truck. ‘The large aggregates go to hospitals, the military and other critical infrastructure. The smaller ones go to the population itself’, explains Guido. The subsidies will initially go to the areas where there is no electricity at all. We help where the need is greatest. With a small generator, people can still charge their phones and flashlights.’
Clean drinking water
The power outages also affect the water supply. “In many cases, no electricity also means no running water,” explains Guido. He is worried because the winter temperatures quickly freeze the pipes. Resulting in irreparable damage.
In combination with major destruction of water treatment plants, it also results in a lack of clean drinking water, says Emmeke. “Many people are therefore dependent on surface water, such as rivers and lakes. But this water is often heavily polluted by the war, by waste and dead bodies. As a result, the risk of diseases is increasing.’
Ten thousand water filters
Emmeke contacted two former fellow students from the University of Wageningen. “They have designed relatively cheap and simple water filters. The filter system consists of two food buckets and a filter element that removes bacteria.’ The water filters can be used to clean rainwater, water from rivers and lakes as well as snow.
With the help of local volunteers, the foundation has already distributed ten thousand water filters in Ukraine. The filter systems are produced locally. ‘We take care of fundraising and coordination,’ says Emmeke. ‘The buckets are then made in Ukraine and the local foundation Save UE allowing the filters to gather and spread. This is largely done by local refugees.’
Preparation for spring
While winter is in full swing, Emmeke and Guido are also preparing for spring. Emmeke: ‘We see that many people are leaving areas where there are still daily attacks, like Kherson. At the moment there is less demand for water filters there, but when people return in the spring to work their land, we will need more filters again. We have to fix that now’.
In the coming months, the foundation hopes to distribute another ten thousand water filters in Ukraine and to deliver grants to as many communities as possible.
Dutch aid to Ukraine
The Dutch Embassy in Kyiv supports small organizations that can provide help quickly and flexibly. These organizations are often able to respond quickly and provide Ukrainians with essential emergency aid. Small NGOs and voluntary organizations play an important role in Ukraine: they often have an extensive local network and are therefore well aware of what is needed locally.
By 2022, the embassy had a fund of €250,000 to support this type of organization. An additional €250,000 has been pledged in 2023. Through this fund, the embassy financed four projects in 2022, including the activities of the Kyiv Lion Foundation in Ukraine. The fund is an important addition to existing funds that the embassy has and major international organizations that the Netherlands supports, such as the UN and the World Bank.