When it seems that your day has more than 24 hours in it, when your daily work helps our heroes in the rear, when volunteering means doing good deeds. Such moments make you realize that there is no other option than Victory. Because you bring it closer with each thing you do.
Vision and mood
“Each of us brings the Victory closer by little steps each day,” Iryna Arzyaeva is convinced. She lives in Vyshneve town, near Kyiv, Ukraine. Together with her friend, she organized a social wardrobe project in one of the districts of the town. She is the volunteer who weaves masking nets, knits ghillie suits, sews flags, and gathers money for the military’s needs. She is the wife of a soldier on the front line and the mother of two children. She is very modest and does not believe she is doing something extraordinary!
“There are many people like me,” the woman says. “We are ordinary Ukrainians. There are millions of us. But we did not freeze waiting for the victory, did not succumb to panic, and did not give up. On the contrary, we do what we can here and now, and sometimes even more, so that later we can celebrate the victory of good over evil together with the whole world!”
Step 1. “Take something if you need it, and give something if you can”
“Our charity project with clothes for people in need in Vyshneve started a few years ago,” Iryna Arzyaeva says. “At first, my colleagues and I simply collected and sorted the clothes people brought us, and then we handed them over to the Social Closet project in the center of the town. And then we thought that we could organize such a charity project in our area as well, as we actually have a lot of people in need. So it was said and done; we created a complete social wardrobe that allowed everyone to choose clothes for free. We don’t have a name or a sign, but word of mouth is working great, as many people already know about our initiative, and they bring us clothes or come to get some.”
“How does it work? It’s straightforward and follows this rule: Take something if you need it, and give something if you can. People bring us clothes, shoes, or children’s toys that they don’t use themselves; we sort and distribute them among people who cannot afford to buy them. It is important that all these things must be in good condition. After all, people who come for clothes also want to dress nicely; they just don’t have the means to do so. Therefore, we always ask others to bring us clothes they would be happy to wear themselves.”
“We put a lot of effort into making the giveaway look organized and proper. No clothes are lying around in piles to sift through, and everything is on hangers and special racks (thanks to the Goodacity space for helping to buy some! Everything is grouped and hung neatly. All this is so that people in need who come to us feel they are treated with love, respect, and care.”
“Clothes made of eco materials that can no longer be worn are given to animal shelters — they use such items for bedding for our four-legged friends, or we give them to the service stations where cars for the army are repaired.”
“Once, we had a request for the guys from the car repair brigade that needed a lot of clothes to change into because they get dirty very quickly while working with cars. So we collected three boxes of stuff for them, and the guys were so happy! During the summer, we collected men’s T-shirts and shorts for the hospital where our wounded defenders are treated.”
Step 2. Not just clothes, but also hope and support!
“Before [the war], the “regulars” of the social wardrobe were mainly elderly people who, due to life circumstances, were left alone, without love and care. For them, a trip to get something new is a whole event! They are absolutely delighted, saying, “You are so much better than a second-hand store.” Mothers with children from low-income families also visit often. Children grow quickly, so many people are willing to give clothes, and just as many need them.”
“Even if they need them, not everyone can come and take clothes for themselves. Many people are ashamed; they are uncomfortable and feel awkward. So, we try to “break the ice”: we are the first to start a conversation with each person, offering them something and encouraging them to try it on, as the item may suit them and look good. Eventually, the person opens up or thaws and thinks, “It really wouldn’t hurt; maybe I’ll take a look at something else.”
“Recently, one of our visitors wrote me: a displaced woman who moved to Vyshneve from Mykolaiv, Ukraine, to escape the daily shelling. She thanked me, saying, “You can’t even imagine WHAT exactly you do for people. It’s not just clothing; it’s hope and support. I came here with nothing; I couldn’t do anything and didn’t want anything, and then I came to you and was basically born again!
And it is not only because I was glad to look at myself in the mirror again, but firstly, because I felt that someone thought and cared about me… It brings people back to life!”
I remember another one of our visitors, a young mother who was coming to get clothes for her little son. With every visit, she brought something to exchange so that there would be a reason for her to come, to share something.
Such stories inspire so much. In my opinion, the chance to help others makes us happy.”
Step 3. “Our people are everything to us!”
“Now, there are a lot of visitors in our social wardrobe; I don’t ever recall having so many during our whole existence! This June, we started working again after a several-month hiatus because of the full-scale Russian invasion. Currently, we mostly see displaced women with children who arrived here without money, clothes, personal belongings, or even shoes to change. They had no basic necessities for everyday life, and they needed to start from the beginning. Moreover, we send warm clothes to the liberated territories of the Kharkiv region with the volunteers’ help because the situation is so difficult there now.”
“Yes, of course, it all takes a lot of time and energy… But my husband is fighting, he is at the front line, and I just can’t imagine what it’s like to sit idly at home, constantly scrolling through the news. It would be much more difficult for me. I am practically never at home these days. I am either weaving nets, knitting ghillie suits, or sewing our yellow and blue flags, so essentially, I volunteer 24/7! But, as far as I’m concerned, that’s how it should be: one army is at the front, and the other is here, in the rear. It is vital that our heroes who defend the country know that we are united and effective here, on our fronts, doing everything we can for them.
One might say that we have a volunteer family, as my son Ilya helps me to sew flags, and my daughter Mariya helps with distributing clothes and weaving masking nets. They grow admirably!”
“I take my energy from other people. Our people are everything to us! Without their support and inspiration, it would be impossible to do volunteer work for so long.
Ukraine is called the country of volunteers for a reason,” Ms. Iryna says. “You know those jokes about volunteers being able to get anything, from a unicorn’s horn to a dragon’s ear? Well, it is a joke only partially; mostly, it is the truth! Once organized, our people can do anything!”
“I’ll give an example from my experience. We recently had a very large crowdfunding for an anti-drone electronic gun for my husband’s unit; it is an essential item for the military, but also very expensive. It cost 15000 euros, a huge sum by today’s standards, and I was worried we would not make it. But I wrote a post, my friends started sharing it, and in three weeks, we had the whole sum, ordered the device, and I took it to our boys on the front lines! It was incredibly inspiring! You experience an emotional union with all those who helped, which is such a strong feeling. We are a country of incredible people who can do anything together, even if it seems impossible! So together, we will win.”
Time to sum it up
What can you do for the Victory every day? Continue working, believing, and donating! Small daily steps lead to achieving big goals. You can give warm clothes to a lonely older adult or bake cookies for the guys on the front line. You can care about what is happening in the country and at the front with your neighbors and displaced people. Everything big and global in our world starts with small everyday things. When small streams merge into rivers, and rivers merge into the sea, you see all this power! And each of us is a part of this force!
You can afford yourself the luxury of goodness!
Doing good is very simple!
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