Allan Bussard is the Director of the Integra Foundation based in Slovakia. Here he shares with us what Integra is doing to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, as well as what being an Integral Member means for him …
What Integra is doing to respond to the Ukraine crisis?
We are active in refugee resettlement in Poland and Slovakia, and in transporting humanitarian aid from Slovakia and Romania to five distribution centres in Ukraine. From there, we deliver smaller volumes, mainly through Church partners, currently to about 25 locations in Central and Eastern Ukraine. We are currently transporting two containers per week, and by the end of April plan to increase this to three per week.
What other Integral Members are doing to support you?
Ten Integral Members have responded with very generous financial support that has allowed us to respond quickly. We have been able to produce a single proposal and budget due to this support and agree a common approach. Also, Tearfund Netherlands and Tearfund UK have been helping with technical support regarding reporting, standards and communications.
What are your observations from being in the region?
We recently returned from a monitoring visit to Kyiv and surrounding villages. I would say that the local church is absolutely crucial to delivering the aid at the last stage, ensuring that it gets to the areas of most need. We encountered people who are without electricity, water, sanitation, food, cell phone signals, internet, for who the local church is the only lifeline. In particular, it is the elderly who remain most needy.
Can you share with us any stories of hope?
Our warehouse in Kyiv is full of volunteers from all walks of life -we met forklift drivers who normally work as IT Executives. There is an incredible spirit of solidarity, with people donating their time, vehicles, space, labour and money to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in outlying communities.
What you see as the challenges going forwards to the humanitarian sector?
We visited the home of one pastor near Kyiv in a village that had been occupied by Russian troops for a month. Although still physically standing, the home is practically uninhabitable due to the destruction and looting, as well as the thousands of mines and munitions left behind. Returning these areas to a habitable state will be the next big task.
What you find most inspiring about Integral’s collaborative approach?
The high level of trust established over the years results in the ability to move very fast in responding to humanitarian needs. We all benefit from the investment in standards and relationships built up within the Alliance. This goes beyond the basic technical elements of cooperation, moving into what the Bible calls Koinonia – a word that includes concepts such as unity, fellowship, joint participation and sharing.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
Without Integral we would be left observing this crisis on our doorstep, with very little capacity to help. With Integral we have shipped over 100 tons of aid, with plans and capacity for much more to come. It is clear to me that the work of the Alliance is such a work of God. If it was not for Integral’s joint Disaster Relief process and collaborative approach, we would be sitting around helplessly.