Tanger Hillel Volunteers For Local Ukraine Relief Effort 

Tanger Hillel volunteers./Mary Grace

By Aliyah Jacobson 


   On Sunday, Mar. 6, a team of 24 volunteers from Brooklyn and Queens College gathered together to sort 3,750 pounds of medical supplies for Ukrainians on the ground in Ukraine and Poland. The volunteers worked alongside the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) and Afya Foundation, who organized the relief effort. 

   The Afya Foundation has been around for 20 years and has aided in disasters from the earthquake in Haiti to the COVID-19 pandemic here in the United States and abroad. With the help of local volunteers, Afya takes sterile medical supplies that hospitals can no longer sort through and ships them locally and around the world where they can be of the most use. 

   “I have felt hopeless the last few days with the war in Ukraine, and this volunteering event is helping keep my mind off of the conflict even briefly and my hands busy,” said Tatiana Makarenko, a Brooklyn College biology student, who thought Sunday’s event was an opportunity for her to aid her family in Ukraine. Before volunteering, Makarenko researched Afya and discovered it is a credible organization. Though it is almost impossible to get into Ukraine right now, she trusts that the supplies will make it to Poland and into the hands of the Ukrainian refugees who need them. 

   Benjamin LeSalle from Queens College, an AEPI fraternity brother, was among the volunteers on Sunday. After researching Afya, LeSalle felt it was a trustworthy charity to devote his Sunday afternoon to, and he plans to bring more of his AEPI brothers from the Queens chapter to volunteer on a different date. 

   “Although I do not have family in Ukraine like many of the volunteers here today do, I have been watching videos online and have seen the suffering that the Ukrainians are enduring and am grateful to help today,” LeSalle said. 

   Other volunteers, including Michaela Pomeranets, heard of this event from Tanger Hillel and expressed that the Ukrainian conflict is personal to them. “I have family and childhood friends there [Ukraine]. I am confident that these supplies will get to those in need and I am happy to help even if it is from the other side of the world,” Pomeranets said.  

   Two volunteers from Afya were also from Ukraine and spoke about the fears they have for their families. The volunteers asked students to reach out to elected officials and ask that they assist in stopping the war on Ukraine and aid refugees leaving the country. 

   “It is personal to me as I have been volunteering for other causes for years, and this time, it is my home country that is in need,” one of the main volunteers at Afya, Valentyna remarked.   

    Brooklyn College’s Tanger Hillel hopes to organize another trip to volunteer again in the coming weeks.

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