This month, the Telluride Rotary Club transferred $4,000 in donations to a day care in Slovakia to help refugee mothers and their children who are displaced after fleeing from the war in Ukraine.
Dr. Nancy Kerr is chair of the Telluride Rotary Club’s international committee and has spent months with club members researching relief resources for refugees and understanding what efforts are underway in Europe.
“I think we’re all very concerned about the war in Ukraine,” Kerr said. “In Europe… the Rotary Clubs, they are primarily able to provide more direct support to Ukraine itself, both educational and medical supplies.”
As the direct efforts appeared to be “well underway,” she began to look for other needs that are not being met. Kerr learned about the Radost Center for Mothers and Children in Košice, Slovakia, a day care project that had not yet received any Rotary Club funding and is dependent on private donations to help refugees from Ukraine.
Kerr said the Radost Center for Mothers and Children is on a main road about 50 miles from the border of Ukraine.
“They’ve gotten a lot of refugees — if not people planning to stay, people passing through all the time,” Kerr said.
About 8 million Ukrainians have been recorded in Europe following Russia’s invasion, the Associated Press reported in February. On Thursday, the Associated Press reported President Joe Biden had met with Ireland’s prime minister, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, and praised the humanitarian work there for nearly 80,000 refugees.
Slovakia has granted protection to about 100,000 refugees, the United Nations Refugee Agency said on March 30, which allows them to seek social services without going through a long process for asylum.
“They are going to Hungary. They’re going to the Czech Republic,” Kerr added. “They have no money once they leave, usually, unless they’re fortunate enough — like we’ve worked on ships, and so we’ve run into some Ukrainians who are working internationally on ships and sending money home. They’re nurses or captains.”
Kerr is an obstetrician gynecologist. Her husband, Mark Hauswald, is also a physician, and when they aren’t in Telluride, they can usually be found traveling internationally to provide medical care and support to refugees displaced by disasters and conflicts globally.
Kerr said the Radost Center for Mothers and Children aids refugees by giving day care for mothers who are seeking employment and is hiring Ukrainian teachers who can help provide bilingual education. The Rotary Club said the Radost Center for Mothers and Children will likely use the $4,000 donation to help pay preschool teachers.
The Radost Center for Mothers and Children has shared information and stories with the Telluride Rotary Club.
“You never know what awaits you in life,” Viktorya Bondarenko, founder of the Radost Center for Mothers and Children, is quoted as saying in one of the brochures of information shared with the Telluride Rotary Club. “For me and my family, life will never be the same again, because for us the war is not far away. For all Ukrainians, the war is at home. We all have friends who are struggling, but each of us believes that everything will be fine someday.”
Bondarenko opened the Radost Center for Mothers and Children on April 4, 2022. The Radost Center translates to “The Center of Joy,” and in addition to day care also focuses on assisting mothers with young children who are in preschool and elementary school with extracurricular activities, a support circle, and a mothers and children club.
Kerr and Telluride Rotary Club Secretary Sarah Lavender Smith said each year the club selects one or more international projects to help monetarily.
Smith said the international committee recommends projects “where our club’s grant of a few thousand dollars can make a transformative difference, rather than simply donating to large, well-established relief funds.”
“I really am grateful Nancy took the time to find and vet this project, and built a bridge between our club and their center, so our club can help it grow to serve as a refuge for more kids displaced by the war,” Smith said.
The Telluride Rotary Club took the international committee’s recommendation to support the Radost Center for Mothers and Children and approved the donation by a vote in March, with the funds being wired the first week of April.
“Our club is trying to do what we can,” Kerr said. “We have limited capability for fundraising. We’re a small club, and everyone’s pretty busy doing everything.”
Kerr said the Telluride Rotary Club has about 50 members. If additional people in the Telluride area are interested in providing aid to Ukrainian refugees, they can visit portal.clubrunner.ca/3291 to learn more, or to become a member.
The club will continue seeking ways to aid refugees in other areas of the world, as well.
“We’re a 501c3, and we commit our treasure to doing wire transfers, but I think all of us would think that was worth it … if anybody wanted to do that,” Kerr said.