An anniversary that no-one will be celebrating

Medair’s two-year journey in Ukraine – a story told by our amazing team

Medair’s two-year journey in Ukraine – a story told by our amazing team

Imagine hearing the sound of shelling in the place where you live. Every day, for over 700 days. That has been the grim reality for so many of the people of Ukraine since the war began on 24th February 2022.

In that time, thousands of civilians and children have been killed, infrastructure has been severely damaged and millions of people displaced – a massive humanitarian crisis that shows no signs of abating and means that countless individuals and families are struggling to survive.


Rapid response

Almost every day since Medair was registered as the first NGO in Kyiv to respond to the conflict, our teams have been working tirelessly across the country to alleviate suffering and bring hope to thousands of people. Our work continues today and has evolved dramatically over two years as we devise and deliver programmes to meet people’s ever-changing needs.

Damon, on behalf of the Emergency Response Team, recalls: “In 2022, alongside two colleagues, I deployed to the eastern Polish border, arriving on February 8th. Within a week, we were making regular visits to Western Ukrainian cities, meeting with mayors and displaced survivors, and mobilising teams. Two years on, it seems the violence and hardship have only intensified.”


Meeting ever-changing needs

Over the course of two years, Medair has undergone a complex and challenging journey to improve our work across various sectors and accurately identify the needs of people and communities. The team is blessed with a broad range of expertise, which has enabled us to significantly grow the range of services we provide.

Esteban, Medair’s Shelter Advisor, explains:

“Our shelter and infrastructure team across the country has improved in quality and quantity. Our understanding of people’s and communities’ needs has improved greatly, which means we are delivering the most appropriate repair solutions. The team has now incorporated a case management approach to shelter, which involves helping IDPs to find housing solutions as well as improving their current living conditions through house repairs.”

Since summer last year – and for the first time since the region was liberated in 2022 – our Shelter teams have been able to access remote areas in the east, conducting essential repair work to damaged homes and infrastructure. And in the north we increased our output too, by adding new staff and expanding to new areas.

It’s important not just that we do the right, priority work, but also that it is done to the highest professional standard. In all the communities we support, we distribute a hotline number so that people can tell us if we haven’t done something well! But mostly people call us to say thank you.


Our team – diverse, talented, local

But the real key to engaging the communities we are serving is the amazing Ukrainians who make up the Medair team across the country. At the same time as experiencing a war themselves, they continue to give help wherever it is needed. The team has doubled in size since 2022, with a healthy blend of ages and experiences, bound by a shared purpose.

Damon recognises this change: “Aside from a systematic scale up, I’ve observed Ukrainian colleagues taking on senior roles so programmes can be designed and lead with local insights and priorities. It gives me great encouragement to see this local leadership rising and complementing a diverse and multicultural team.”


True community engagement

It has always been in Medair’s DNA to work closely with communities, communicating openly, listening and placing them at the centre of decision-making processes. We get better and better at needs assessments and our feedback mechanisms ensure that the aid we provide is appropriate and effective.

Olha, a Project Support Officer working in the north of Ukraine explained: “Medair always tries to build strong and trustworthy relationships with the communities in which we operate. Real community engagement is what enables the smooth implementation of our activities.”

Rachel, Medair’s Deputy Country Director, agrees: “Over the course of two years operating in Ukraine, we have strengthened our collaboration with local organisations and established strong, reliable partnerships. With each successful project and every interaction with our partners, our confidence grows, reinforcing our belief that together, we can make a greater impact in providing aid to those in need.”


Real empathy

Many of our team can truly empathise with the people we are serving, because they are IDPs themselves. Irina, a Case Management Officer, recalls the harrowing moment she knew she had to leave her home in the east – and the journey that led her to Medair: “We woke up to the sound of explosions nearby. We knew we had to move quickly, so gathered a few documents and some winter clothing. I remember embracing my husband. We both understood the seriousness of the situation as we said goodbye. Then, with my 12-year old son and mother, we headed into the unknown.”

She continues: “Arriving in the city of Vinnytsia, we settled in a dormitory, bewildered and not knowing what to do next. I started sending out my resumé, thinking I wouldn’t be able to find a good job, but I was lucky and found work at Medair.

Being a displaced person myself, and having to work with IDPs, this job brings me great satisfaction knowing that I can help people who find themselves in the same situation as me. I feel, see and understand their needs. I can show them by my example that they shouldn’t give up but keep moving forward. Working at Medair has strengthened me and inspired faith in life and that anything is possible.”


The need for assistance remains urgent

However, the situation in Ukraine remains dire and as the war continues, the people suffering most are women, children the elderly and sick.

Marco, Medair’s County Director in Ukraine, summarises:

“We have observed significant shifts in humanitarian needs in Ukraine, with the conflict evolving and impacting communities differently. However, the fundamental truth remains that people still desperately require assistance, whether it’s access to safe water, shelter, medical care or psychological support.”

The two-year anniversary is a particularly tough one, as Marco explains:

“It will be two years since the war began in Ukraine and exactly a year and a half since I arrived in this country to provide humanitarian aid to civilians suffering the terrible consequences of the conflict. This is a particularly difficult anniversary for me and for all of us because last week two colleagues from another Christian humanitarian organization were killed in a drone attack as they tried to bring aid to the civilian population in a particularly isolated and hard-to-reach area. I wonder if this madness will ever end? I can’t find any answers, I can only be grateful to God that I’m alive and that my team is safe today.”