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  • Writer's pictureABI BROWN & ALEXANDRA WHITE

Sunflower of Peace: Q&A with Iryna Saks

A bouquet of flowers and the colors of the Ukrainian flag hang on a bridge in Newton. Photo by Alexandra White

Sunflower of Peace is a Boston based non-profit organization founded in 2014 with the goal of improving the lives of people in Ukraine. During the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, Sunflower of Peace has been collecting monetary and physical donations that are shipped directly to Ukraine. Sunflower of Peace has raised over four million dollars since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Iryna Saks, a volunteer at Sunflower of Peace, is from Ukraine and has been working tirelessly to ship donations to volunteers in Moldova, Poland, and Romania.

Q: How did you get involved with Sunflower of Peace?

A: “My son goes to school with this boy who I randomly got in touch with his mom, and she works at a Newton School and they were doing a fundraiser; so she asked me to record a clip to be shown at their charity event. I recorded that, I sent some pictures, so I just tried to help out, you know, whenever I can. I’m going to go to the warehouse tomorrow and pack more backpacks to ship to Ukraine. On a weekend we’re going to go to the warehouse to again prepare a large shipment of medical backpacks. So just whenever I feel like I can help, I help.”

Q: Where do the donations go after someone donates money or after they donate an item from Amazon?

A: “When you purchase something, it goes directly to our warehouse where we pack our backpacks and then the shipments are prepared to be shipped to Poland, Romania, and from there, we have contacts in those countries. From there we have volunteers transferring those shipments through the Ukrainian border. And then we have our brave volunteers in Ukraine who transfer things back throughout Ukraine to the cities where they’re most needed at the time.”

Q: Why are local volunteers helpful?

A: “There is a lot of help that is needed. We packed so many backpacks and it’s a lot of…labor for hours and hours throughout the week. And we’ve been really fortunate with the people who came to help…We have a team that gets medical supplies and we are all volunteers who are just donating their time and their energy, their skills, and because of that it’s been so successful.”

Q: What types of donations are needed?

A: “Items that we mostly need right now are Israeli bandages. They tend to be out of stock in many places right now. Luckily, many organizations are trying to help Ukraine so this is when we’ve been trying to find more of. Tourniquets are probably the number one priority item… Going on Amazon and purchasing something is really helpful, as well as donating because these funds you know, we use them to buy everything we need to pack those medical backpacks.”

Sunflower of Peace provided many helpful resources for those who wish to help with the efforts in aiding Ukraine. If you are a student, professor, or citizen who wishes to help, you can log on to their website to make a physical donation via Amazon wishlist, a fiscal donation, or to find volunteer opportunities. The organization also wished to emphasize that students, no matter their budget, can get involved through volunteer efforts. A link to their volunteer sign up form can be found on their Instagram, @sunflowerofpeace.

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