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Catching Up with Past Village Awardees: Razom for Ukraine

Every year, Village Preservation honors through our Village Awards local people, community groups, institutions, projects, and places that make our neighborhoods extraordinary and the world a better place. We are preparing for our 34th Annual Village Awards ceremony, which will take place on June 12 at Cooper Union, and for which we are accepting nominations until March 11 (submit yours here). Since 1991, we have given awards to over 250 honorees nominated by the public. Few of them go on, thus awarded, to rest on their laurels. We nonetheless like to check in on them and learn of the many ways in which they have gone on to validate their selection.

In 2022, we were thrilled to grant a Village Award to Razom for Ukraine, an organization devoted to providing humanitarian aid to the people of that country. The group had been founded in 2014 in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the war in the Donbas region, and the deadly protests that led to the Maidan Uprising, all of which transpired that year. The size of its operations, however, entered a new phase in 2022, when Razom had to address the devastating effects of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24 of that year. The group’s tremendous efforts during the few months between the invasion and the 2022 Village Awards more than merited recognition. But since then, those efforts have only multiplied, as have the challenges posed by Russia’s ongoing aggression. The war in Ukraine just entered its third year, and the brutality of Russia’s incursions and occupation has shown no signs of abating. Neither, however, has Razom’s determination.

Razom just launched the celebration of its 10th anniversary. During its ten years of existence, the group has grown from an all-volunteer organization with a $200k/year budget, to a professionalized, transcontinental operation with a formal governing structure, twenty-eight staff members (in addition to scores of consultants), and the capacity to raise $100 million (from over 200k donors) in order to run programs out of three cities — New York, Washington DC, and Kyiv. Much of this growth happened just this past year. But it is a testament to the group’s long standing effectiveness and to relationships and partnerships developed over the course of a decade.

Razom organizes its work across five categories:

Razom Heroes delivers aid to front-line medics and first responders.

Since the time of the 2022 Village Awards, it has delivered over 500 tons of life-saving supplies totaling over $40 million and including 40,000 first aid kits, hundreds of generators, and almost a hundred refurbished cars that have been used to evacuate over a thousand individuals. 

Razom Health supports hospitals and healthcare facilities that serve the Ukrainian civilian population.

During just the first half of 2023, it trained 147 medics in evacuation zones, delivered 86 devices, such as hospital-grade generators, and retained 69 medical staff members who have since performed over a hundred critical surgeries. 

Razom Relief provides grants to Ukraine-based NGOs that provide humanitarian assistance to war victims.

In 2023, it distributed over $3 million in grants to dozens of organizations. 

Razom Advocacy promotes bipartisan foreign policy that supports the survival and safety of a democratic, independent Ukraine — work that involves both government and public engagement. 

And lastly, Razom Connect works to raise awareness of Ukrainian culture through education and the arts.

Impressive though Razom’s accomplishments have been in terms of measurables, they seem even more so in light of the wartime conditions that the group has had to confront. The devastation caused by the Russian invasion and the constant state of insecurity in which many Ukranians live has led to widespread cases of shell shock. In response. Razom Health has opened centers throughout the country, close to the front lines, that provide free mental health services.

Nearly 30% of the thousands who have received treatment have been minors. In addition, Razom Relief has supported children’s camps that offer specialized pediatric psychological support, and it has led a toy drive initiative for children whose parents have been injured or killed during the war.

In the face of the extensive destruction of areas liberated from Russian occupation, Razom has supported the rebuilding of civil society by distributing reconstruction kits and seeds and by offering job training to war widows and agricultural instruction. When the Russian attack on the Kakhovka Dam created a human and ecological calamity, Razom mobilized resources through its network to, within hours, evacuate and provide shelter and emergency supplies to 1,000 evacuees. And then, within days, it arranged for the installation across the affected region of 10 water purification systems that can provide drinking water for up to 36,000 people per day.

And, as a final example, to call attention to the Russian abduction and deportation of over 20,000 Ukrainian children as part of a campaign to erase a distinctive Ukrainian culture, Razom has sponsored screenings throughout the country of Uprooted, an award-winning documentary that investigates this war crime.

The picture that emerged from our review of Razom’s activities over the past year and a half is that of an organization expanding in leaps and bounds its capacity, reach, and ambitions. Even as the world keeps finding new ways to divert our already distracted focus away from the ongoing victimization of people in Ukraine, Razom keeps finding ways to remind us of the costs and stakes of the battle in defense of independent Ukraine. And, in doing so, it also makes evident its own role in that struggle and the extent to which the call heroyam slava refers at least in part to them.

Much as we would love to honor past Village Award winners every year, we can’t do so without neglecting the unawarded many that deserve the recognition. In order to identify them, we depend on public nominations. Don’t wait to make yours today. And if you find yourself in need of a little inspiration, check out our many prior Village Awardees and Awards presentations (past videos here), or view and share the short video below.

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