When Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24, Spirit of America (SOA) was ready to provide lifesaving assistance to Ukrainian soldiers fighting on the front line against their aggressors.
Founded in 2003, Spirit of America is the “only 501(c)(3) nonprofit working alongside troops and diplomats to help them save and improve lives, promote values shared by Americans and our allies, strengthen relationships … and demonstrate that the United States is a friend of those who seek a better life.” The organization, which operates in 94 countries, helps solve security challenges, including stopping the threat from terrorist group ISIS, preventing war in West Africa, aiding displaced Syrians and countering Russian aggression in Ukraine. The organization, which has been recognized by Congress for “supporting the missions of deployed United States personnel around the world,” prides itself on going “where other organizations can’t” and doing “what no one else will do.”
“Just 10 hours before Russia invaded Ukraine, we were talking to the U.S. ambassador in Poland about what might happen, when it might happen and how Spirit of America can best be of assistance,” said Lauren Pauer, SOA’s director of development communications. “We were ready to go as soon as the invasion started.” This ability to respond within 24 hours of the Russian attack can be credited to longstanding partnerships in the region.
Since 2015, SOA has been working in Ukraine to help the country defend itself from Russian aggression, first launching Army FM, the country’s first armed forces media outlet. Army FM, which is still running today, is designed not only to combat Russian propaganda, but also to provide Ukrainian soldiers crucial information as well as entertainment. The relationship between SOA and Ukraine’s armed forces quickly evolved as the group worked to provide much needed supplies, including first aid kits and vehicles that transported critical care personnel to troops on the front line.
As Russian forces invaded Ukraine several weeks ago, a near decade of building trust and relationships in the region enabled SOA to be in regular communication with partners in the U.S. Embassy of Ukraine as well as Polish diplomats. These partners helped SOA identify urgent gaps that, either due to budget or time constraints, the U.S. government was unable to address. This included providing direct support to the Ukrainian military. At the moment, SOA is the only NGO getting essential gear and nonlethal defense supplies directly into Ukrainian hands. To date, these supplies include individual first aid kits, body armor, ballistic helmets, 50,000 pounds of ready-to-eat meals, communications gear, vehicles and fuel.
“Our focus is providing assistance that is urgently needed by Ukrainian armed forces, the territorial defense force, which is the newly formed [organization of] civilian volunteers, and the field medical personnel,” said Pauer.
The relationships Spirit of America cultivates and nurtures not only include diplomats, ambassadors and troops, but also key logistical partners. These partners are instrumental in rapidly procuring, assembling and shipping supplies to where they are needed to help counter Russian aggression.
As it continues its relief efforts in Ukraine, SOA has established a Ukraine Emergency Fund, where 100% of donations go directly to helping Ukrainians in need. Those who are interested in learning more can visit SOA’s website.
For a better understanding of SOA’s history and scope of work, read Philanthropy Magazine’s Spring 2020 article.