Susan Mathison was our speaker today. Sue gave us an overview of the work that has been done and will continue to be done by Common Man For Urkraine/Rotary Club of Plymouth, NH. Common Man for Ukraine was featured in the January 2024 Rotary magazine.

She started by stating that after we hear her remarks we would better understand why the world needs Rotary, and she hoped her story could be shared to help others in our community understand why Rotary membership is important in making our communities stronger here at home and around the world.

Susan reflected on meeting over a cup of coffee as the start of the war. Alex Ray (Common Man Restaurant Group and Plymouth NH Rotarian), and Steve Rand (Plymouth NH Rotarian) and Susan wondered what if anything they could do to support the citizens of Ukraine. They decided that they wanted to raise money to help, but in addition, wanted to explore what they could do in country to help. They shared ideas with with the Plymouth Rotary Club that agreed to support their projects, and set up the systems to take donations via the Plymouth Rotary 501(c)3 Foundation.

They started their work believing that people want to help Ukraine, but didn’t know how. On the Common Man for Ukraine webpage, I found this quote, “As the invasion began, four heartbroken friends in New Hampshire could not look away.” Susan, Alex and Steve decided that they could identify ways to help partnering by with Rotarians in Poland and Ukraine.

Their mantra is: The only thing stronger than fear is love.

Alex Ray was willing to commit one million dollars to start projects in Ukraine. They knew that they would need to go to Ukraine/Poland to meet with Rotarians to identify the pressing needs. The first meeting that was held, in Warsaw, was with 16 Rotary club, that spoke 4 different languages. She reflected that was was emblematic of Rotary International at its best. At this meeting they became acutely aware that like the brave Ukrainians, and Polish Rotarians they too needed to go into Ukraine to better understand what the immediate need are. Assuming risk can be scary at times. But taking risk is important. They needed to be brave like the citizens of Ukraine. With so many needs to be addressed, it was important for Common Man for Ukraine to narrow its focus to be effective.

Susan shared photos and videos of caravans of trucks being taken in to Ukraine by over 100 brave Rotarians in Poland. They organize bi-weekly multi-truck supply convoys that go to Ukraine. Common Man for Ukraine has been identified as a trusted partner. They receive protected location information that permits them to deliver supplies to the most vulnerable children in orphanages. Their convoys have expedited boarder crossing. Often it only takes two hours for their trucks to be approved to enter Ukraine, while other trucks can be stuck at the boarder for several weeks.

Since their work began in 2022, Common Man for Ukraine/Plymouth Rotary has raised and delivered more than $3 million in relief from 3,000 different donors.
Many of their donation are goods for the orphans, children and families who were otherwise left devastated by war. Every item purchased in purchase in Poland. They have two warehouses in Poland to store items needed in Ukraine.
So far, Common Man for Ukraine has delivered:
• 900+ tons of food
• 10,000 sleeping bags
• Hundreds of generators
• Bloodmobile
• More than $400,000 toward kids’ mental health services
Common Man for Ukraine is very worried about the trauma that has impacted the children of Ukraine. They are now working with teams of mental health workers and working to find ways to support the mental health of children. They have held three week retreats for children in Poland to give children time to process that impact of war. To date they have been able to reach 400 children but so many more need to be served.
Susan, Steve and Alex continue to make trips to Ukraine. The next is scheduled for April 15th. They continue to go to reinforce relationships; verify that the aid they are providing is getting to the children and mothers that need it; and she indicated that it helps them to be nimble and flexible as needs changed in this complex environment.
Currently, in addition to the important work of trauma counseling, they continue to supply food, generators, and sleeping bags.
Susan reminded us that there is many more things to be done. They are working to raise and additional two million dollars to expand their work in trauma recovery. They are writing a Rotary Foundation Global Grant that will be focused on trauma recovery.

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