Amidst the war in Ukraine, Charlottesville residents are working to make a difference.
The Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice held a “Stand with the People of Ukraine” event on the Downtown Mall Saturday, in partnership with other local organizations. The effort was a chance to give residents ideas on how to help.
“We’re providing information so that people can find ways to help people in Ukraine. We’re all watching these news stories, and the question is, ‘how can I help these people?’ We’re providing information about all the organizations that are helping,” said Bob McAdams, president of the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice.
The organization was joined by representatives from the International Rescue Committee, Amnesty International, the Blue Ridge chapter of the United Nations Association and Veterans for Peace. Each organization provided information on ways to donate and help.
Participants waved flags, held signs and performed music. Moments of silence were held each hour of the four-hour event. Amnesty International encouraged passersby to take photos with signs in support of Ukrainians.
“We’re focusing on the humanitarian crisis. We’re not in a discussion on the geopolitical conflict,” McAdams said. “You feel helpless. How can we help alleviate suffering for these people whose families are being separated, whose loved ones and whose children are being traumatized? We’ve discussed it and decided to focus on the humanitarian side collaborating with other organizations that are doing excellent work.”
Paige Heroux, volunteer coordinator with the Charlottesville branch of the International Rescue Committee, said the organization is juggling several refugee crises in the midst of the war in Ukraine. Currently it is trying to find homes for refugees from Afghanistan and other nations while anticipating Ukrainian refugees.
“One of the main things people can do is donate,” Heroux said, adding money can help speed up the process of refugee placement.
Donations can be made at help.rescue.org/donate/ukraine-acq.
The Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice is encouraging people to donate to a number of other organizations as well, including UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, Cleveland Maidan Association, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Unitarian Universalist Association Support for Ukraine and Project HOPE.
But McAdams said there are ways to help even without donating money. He encouraged signing letters and petitions, contacting officials in public office and writing letters to the editor. He also emphasized the importance of finding community.
“When we stay alone in the midst of a tragedy, it’s hard to work through the depths of that tragedy. And if we converse together, then we can share that burden and get perspectives from other points of view just by simply doing that,” McAdams said.
The Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice will hold its next meeting on April 3 at 4 p.m. at Friends Meeting House. Community members interested in efforts to help Ukrainian refugees are encouraged to attend.