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Houston Businesses Called on to Support Ukraine Relief Efforts

Published May 03, 2022 by A.J. Mistretta

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Houston area businesses and nonprofits are stepping up to aide Ukrainians affected by the Russian invasion of their country. Now in its third month, the conflict has led to the killing of thousands of Ukrainian citizens and displaced millions more. A Partnership virtual event on May 2 outlined how several local organizations are providing desperately needed equipment, goods and funds, as well as what others can do to join in the effort. 

“Over the weeks, the world has born witness to a modern-day massacre, as Ukrainian civilians from Kharkiv to Mariupol have fallen victim to this conflict,” said Partnership President and CEO Bob Harvey in opening the event. “Over 5 million refugees have fled Ukraine since February and another 6.5 million are displaced inside the country itself. Millions more—including the elderly, young children, whole families—remain vulnerable in an active war zone.”

Speakers for the event included:

  • Vitalii Tarasiuk, the Ukrainian Consul General in Houston; 
  • Michael Mizwa, CEO for the Baylor College of Medicine International Pediatric AIDS Initiative at Texas Children’s Hospital; 
  • Michael Bleyzer, founder of the private equity investment firm SigmaBleyzer, and representatives of his company’s philanthropic arm, the Daar Foundation. 

Tarasiuk began by describing the current situation on the ground in Ukraine and the significant needs of the country on both the military and humanitarian fronts. While millions of Ukrainians have left the country—mainly the elderly, women and children—Tarasiuk said roughly 4.5 million young people, or more than half the child population of the country, are currently displaced both inside and outside Ukraine. 

“The damage to both infrastructure and to the population are huge,” he said, adding that Ukraine needs more weapons to fend off the Russians and more international pressure on the Russian government in the form of increased sanctions and corporate pullout of the country. 

Speaking to the Partnership’s business audience, Tarasiuk urged companies to consider investing in Ukraine once the conflict is over to help the nation rebuild. “But right now, we need your support to help win this war.” 

Bleyzer, whose nonprofit Daar Foundation has been active in Ukraine for more than 20 years, talked about the organization’s shift to humanitarian work amid the ongoing crisis. Daar has partnered with a number of organizations here in Houston and around the U.S. to collect relief funds and organize shipments of everything from protective gear to medicine and medical supplies. So far, the group has raised more than $3 million and shipped dozens of palettes of product to the region. 

Bleyzer said the advantage Daar has is that the group has had personnel on the ground for a long time who know the landscape and the need. The organization is working with other groups such as the nonprofit Medical Bridges, which packages surplus medical supplies from the Texas Medical Center for under-resourced communities, to secure, package and ship resources to Ukraine. Daar is also relying on volunteers to assist in the process. 

Other Daar partners include Project CURE, Ukraine Needs Wheels, Texas Law Enforcement for Ukraine, and Blessings International, to name a few. 

Mizwa from Texas Children’s Hospital said that institution is leveraging its established healthcare presence alongside institutions in Romania and Poland to provide treatment and assistance to Ukrainian refugees. “What we are seeing is a very serious and very needful situation,” he said. 

Here in Houston, Texas Children’s recently completed a community and employee donation drive including personal hygiene and dental products that have now been shipped to the region. “The needs are fluid and constantly changing, so we are trying to be fluid in addressing those evolving needs in a focused, strategic fashion,” Mizwa said. 

Harvey called on local companies and individuals to engage in relief efforts in whatever way they can, whether through volunteering to sort and package supplies going to Ukraine or through monetary donations. Learn more here

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created a far-reaching geopolitical quagmire, with implications in global energy, agriculture, finance and other sectors,” Harvey said. “But the business cost of Russia’s aggression pales in comparison to the humanitarian cost—the tremendous loss of life, the refugee crisis that continues to grow, and the real danger millions of Ukrainians continue to face as this war rages on.” 

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