A group of Binghamton University students have fundraised over $2,400 for medical support in Ukraine.
The fundraiser, named BU Direct Dollar, is partnered with Direct Relief, a nonprofit organization that is working directly with the Ministry of Health of Ukraine to provide medical supplies, equipment and medicines. Donations of any size can be made, with both cash and services such as Cash App and Venmo accepted. Students have been tabling in Glenn G. Bartle Library, and hope to continue their fundraiser, which began on March 23, until the end of the semester.
Donations raised through the fundraiser will provide humanitarian aid to Ukrainians suffering from the ongoing war with Russia, which began following the Russian invasion on Feb. 24. The war has resulted in the deaths of over a thousand Ukrainian civilians and caused over four million Ukrainians to become refugees as of April 5, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Thousands of civilians in Ukraine have also been injured or wounded, and have faced dwindling medical supplies amid the targeting of medical facilities by the Russian military.
Steven Iannone, one of the main organizers of the Direct Dollar fundraiser and a freshman majoring in chemistry, described why he decided to start collecting donations.
“I remember just seeing the news that Russia had moved into eastern Ukraine,” Iannone said. “The initial feeling was just kind of shock or helplessness, but after a certain point, I decided that I didn’t really feel great about just kind of watching the crisis because I felt like I had to know about it but I didn’t want to feel like I wasn’t doing anything either.”
With the initial idea of supporting Ukraine, Iannone had contacted David Campbell, an associate professor of public administration in the College of Community and Public Affairs (CCPA) and the faculty in residence at the Public Service Learning Community (PSLC). The PSLC, of which Iannone is a member, is a civic engagement and volunteering-oriented living community within Hinman College. Campbell was able to then connect Iannone with other students interested.
Campbell explained his role as a faculty liaison for the students, particularly within the PLSC.
“My job as the faculty in residence, I wouldn’t really say it’s my job, it’s really my passion as the faculty in residence at PSLC to find ways for students to try to make a difference, to try out different things, to sort of see if they have something to motivate them, to help them to facilitate what it takes to run the stuff they get excited about,” Campbell said.
According to Campbell, student organizers of the fundraiser took initiative in its implementation and planning.
“They did all the work,” Campbell said. “I just made sure they were talking and I set up the tables for them.”
One of the students that Campbell connected Iannone with was Sophia Myshchuk, a freshman majoring in biology who is currently a student in his course, Philosophy, Politics and Law 280A: Philanthropy & Civil Society. Myshchuk, whose parents are from Ukraine, said her familial ties helped motivate her advocacy.
“My parents immigrated here,” Myshchuk said. “But although they’re here, I only have an uncle here, with an aunt and cousins. But the rest of my family, like 95 percent of them, are over there. So obviously I’m very connected there. So it’s just a very emotional thing for me, because family is involved. It’s not just like I’m passionate about this war going on, it’s more of a, ‘I’m passionate because my family’s lives are at stake,’ kind of thing.”
Myshchuk has been active as a volunteer for the fundraiser, helping to staff the Bartle Library tabling. She has also worked with the organizers of the fundraisers to help with planning and to bring the issues Ukrainians are facing to light.
Jessica Schwalb is a co-organizer of the fundraiser and a freshman majoring in philosophy, politics and law. Schwalb was already interested in supporting Ukraine when she was put in contact with Iannone through a mutual friend. After researching organizations to work with, Schwalb found the health care- and medical-focused nonprofit Direct Relief to be the best suited for their effort, due to its goals and financial transparency.
“I wanted only the best of course, so I went onto Forbes list of top 10 charities in the world, and Direct Relief was up there in the top 10 rankings,” Schwalb said. “So I compared all the charities, and how much of the donations were spent on fundraising expenses, and Direct Relief won with 0 percent being spent on fundraising expenses.”
In order to facilitate the transfer of donations from the fundraiser to Direct Relief itself, the fundraiser also utilizes Tiltify, a platform that allows smaller fundraisers to stay organized, keep track of donations and send their contributions to larger fundraising organizations.
Schwalb said that, in organizing the Direct Dollar fundraiser to focus on smaller donation sizes, students at BU would hopefully be able to contribute to the cause and provide support for Ukraine through their collective efforts.
“I also had the idea that we need to mobilize our 14,333-[student] undergraduate class,” Schwalb said. “If everyone can donate a dollar — because we donate a lot of dollars to Dunkin’ and Starbucks is the way I look at it — so if we can donate that $1 that you might’ve spent on your latte or your cappuccino, whatever it is, to this, we could raise over $14,000. And so I was like, ‘That would just be huge, and that would be such a beautiful thing to do, so we’ve got to mobilize, we’ve got to do something.’”
Direct Dollar tabling will continue Tuesday, Thursday and potentially Friday next week from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Bartle Library breezeway. Students can also virtually donate to the fundraiser at https://tiltify.com/@jessithesensai7/binghamton-university-direct-dollar. Those who are interested in volunteering for the fundraiser can contact the co-organizers at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.