Have you Googled “Flight to Poland?” Wondered which humanitarian agencies have a presence on the ground on or around Ukraine? 

I have. 

I am pretty sure I am not the only one. I have watched many friends post some version of the following: “I feel so helpless.” “I just have to do something.” The drive to help — almost an ache — can be almost overwhelming because it feels like so little from this side of the world. 

Sometimes, I think that urge to act can be interpreted as a need to, say, fly to Poland. When that doesn’t happen, sometimes we let those desires to serve flicker and die in the face of seeming impossibility. 

The needs in Ukraine are enormous. Trauma, fear, grief, loss and the need for basics like food, clothing and shelter can seem overwhelming. And they are. The United Nations estimates that 1.7 million people have fled to neighboring countries in the last 11 days, the fastest growing refugee crisis since World War II. 

Saint Theodora, a French-American saint, reminded us that “We are not called upon to do all the good that is possible, but only that which we can do.” Another saintly woman, Mother Teresa, recognized how we might feel like what we do is not enough when she said “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

Overwhelm can lead to inaction or waiting for “someone else” to do something. We don’t need to wait. We can reach out and we can serve even just one person because here’s the truth: we don’t need to cross an ocean to make a difference. Sometimes all it takes is crossing a street. 

Brandon Stanton, creator of “Humans of New York” described his work as one person at a time, one story at a time. He said “When I stop and ask these people about their lives, I am often the only person who has ever asked.” People are starved for connection and want to share their stories. Being heard matters. Being seen matters. 

The people of Ukraine and Poland and Romania need help. So do the people of Yemen, Syria and Ethiopia. And so do the people of Salt Lake City, Provo, Price and Panguitch. If you ever needed a moment where the universe tapped you on the shoulder and said “We need your help,” that moment is now. 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., reminded us that “You don’t need a college degree to serve.” You don’t need to be a certain age, make a certain income, or live in a certain area. You just need the desire — and a commitment to put that desire into action. 

Here are some ideas: Go to JustServe, put in your zip code and find opportunities near you or check out VolunteerMatch. Volunteer at the Utah Food Bank or one of the local food pantries around the state. Volunteer to help sew, stuff or deliver dolls and bears from Dolls of Hope. Volunteer to help recent Afghan refugees who have landed in Utah through Utah Refugee Services, Catholic Community Services, International Rescue Committee, the Granite School District, the Utah Refugee Connection and others. Volunteer to serve at a domestic violence shelter, at your local school or with your church.  

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If Ukraine is on your heart and mind, there are a number of ways to help there too, including financial donations that can have immediate impact. Here are a few: 

  • Join Show Up Utah and others to collect food and goods this week. Monetary donations can be made to the Community Foundation of Utah (CFU) through LHM.com and will be matched up to $2 million. Donations of diapers, feminine hygiene products, new (tags attached) shoes, socks, cold weather clothing, emergency blankets and hand/foot warmers can be made at one of six locations along the Wasatch Front. 
  • Donate to the International Rescue Committee (IRC) 
  • Donate to Latter-day Saint Charities
  • Donate to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR

Be on the lookout for scams — they proliferate during crises — but know there are many legitimate ways to donate and help. 

Again, you do not need to cross the ocean to render service. You may just need to cross the street. Mister Roger’s mom told him during scary times to “look for the helpers.” They are there, but they need reinforcements. You are needed. Take that urge to make a difference and run with it. The world will be a better place when you do. 

Holly Richardson is a mom, an angsty humanitarian, a PhD candidate and the editor of Utah Policy. 

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