LOS ANGELES, California — The war in Ukraine has caused the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has its roots in the collapse of the USSR in 1991, which left Ukraine as a nation independent from Russia. Since then, Russia and Ukraine have had a complicated relationship, with Ukraine seeking closer ties with the West while Russia has sought to maintain influence over its neighbor. The tension came to a head in 2014 when Russian troops invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. The conflict escalated once again in 2022, with Russia launching a large-scale military operation in Eastern Ukraine. As of early 2023, the situation remains strained and there are no clear signs of a resolution to the war. Amid increasing wartime poverty in Ukraine, iMiracleProject is providing critical humanitarian aid.
Poverty in Ukraine
In early February 2022, Ukraine’s poverty rate stood at a minimal 2%, which Arup Banerji, World Bank regional country director for Eastern Europe, projected to increase to 25% by the close of 2022. The World Bank estimated that Ukraine’s GDP shrank by about 30% in 2022 and estimated in September 2022 that Ukraine would need $349 billion to fully recover Ukrainian infrastructure and rebuild the country. This number is more than 1.5 times greater than Ukraine’s GDP in 2021 before the war. The war has drained Ukraine’s resources, both financial and human. It has hit every sector, making it difficult for families to attain even the basic necessities.
The Founding of iMiracleProject
Founded in 2016 by Serge Bagdasarov, iMiracleProject is a Seattle-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established to provide humanitarian aid.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year, iMiracleProject refocused its mission to help Ukrainians affected by the conflict. Throughout the last year, iMiracleProject’s efforts to address wartime poverty in Ukraine have supported people of all ages and ethnicities who are struggling to escape the war, feed their families, heal their wounds and clothe their children.
Diverse Array of Aid Programs
To address these challenges, iMiracleProject operates a range of programs aimed at supporting vulnerable communities within Ukrainian society. This includes providing shelter to those displaced by the conflict and medical assistance as well as food-supplying initiatives for seniors and educational programs for children.
The iMiracleProject recently procured $1 million worth of medical supplies from Scott’s Dental Supplies, which it shipped to Ukraine and distributed to hospitals.
Volunteers personally deliver food right to the doors of isolated seniors in Ukraine who respond with gratitude and hope. “Multiple times, I’ve had people just start crying,” said iMiracleProject board member and volunteer, Rick Steckler, in an interview with The Borgen Project.
iMiracleProject’s “Teach Ukrainian Youth” program sponsors students to study abroad during the war, which has damaged or destroyed hundreds of schools in Ukraine. “The war has taken everything from me,” says 15-year-old Ukrainian student Zlata in her video submission to iMiracleProject, “it’s scary just to go outside.” So far, Teach Ukrainian Youth has sponsored three students from Ukraine to study for one year in the U.S. state of Minnesota.
These programs are made possible by more than 220 volunteers who have joined iMiracleProject’s mission, a dozen of whom travel to Ukraine for months at a time.
While iMiracleProject welcomes corporate sponsors, such as Vouched and Auroras Investment Group, it crowdsources most of its funding. The organization’s recent Chords and Cuisine benefit dinner for Ukraine celebrated Ukrainian culture through food and music and raised $33,000 to support the iMiracleProject’s efforts. iMiracleProject encourages all donors to ask their employers to match their donations to double the funding impact.
After one year of fundraising and humanitarian projects, iMiracleProject’s battle against wartime poverty in Ukraine is making a difference. Volunteers raised more than $2 million in 2022. All team members are unpaid so every dollar raised goes toward humanitarian efforts in the form of food, clothing, medical supplies and other initiatives. iMiracle Project delivered 14,000 pounds of medical aid to Ukrainian hospitals and reached more than 50,000 Ukrainians with on-site relief programs.
iMiracleProject’s impact has garnered attention from local media and national policymakers. Its vigil on February 24, 2023, was featured on FOX 13 Seattle, KIRO 7 News and KING 5. Congresswoman Suzan DelBene spoke to pay tribute to the lives of innocent Ukrainians who have suffered due to the war and commended iMiracleProject on its endeavors to repair and strengthen the ravaged country.
In 2023, iMiracleProject aims to expand its refugee assistance activities in its home state of Washington, helping with housing, job placement and English lessons. As the ongoing conflict in Eastern Europe continues to derail the lives of its citizens, iMiracleProject is working to alleviate poverty and provide hope for those in need. iMiracleProject’s battle against wartime poverty in Ukraine has become increasingly important as the conflict drags on, with nearly 14 million people displaced and 17.6 million in need of humanitarian aid as of February 2023, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency. iMiracleProject’s efforts are a beacon of light in a country devastated by war and poverty.
– Skye Connors
Photo: Courtesy of iMiracleProject