The Local Leaders on the Front Lines in Ukraine and Around the World


Photo: Outreach for Women and Girls in Post-Quake Nepal with GlobalGiving © Aura Freedom International

When a small group of entrepreneurs in Chișinău, Moldova raised thousands of dollars to turn an abandoned tobacco factory and farm into a shared kitchen for local food businesses, they dreamed of bountiful organic crops, shared knowledge, and nutritious, sustainable meals for their neighbors.

When bombs rained down in bordering Ukraine, everything changed.

Katalyst Kitchens pivoted to feed, serve, and shelter hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the war. Alongside deliveries of food, their vans were crammed with mattresses and household goods—families running from violence desperately needed a place to sleep. Their kitchens converted to refugee shelters.

Today, Katalyst feeds up to 750 displaced Ukrainian families every day. From a new food bank in downtown Chișinău, they give out veggies, fresh bread, grains, and legumes. On the outskirts of Chișinău, they drive from county to county, delivering produce and meals from their food truck.

“We think it’s important to provide opportunities to exercise control, like choosing what’s for dinner,” reported Katalyst leader David Jesse.

His new dream: build a Katalyst playground. Children make up half of all refugees from the war in Ukraine.

Photo of 2015 Nepal earthquake damage courtesy of Gavin Gough

Rebuilding From Within

The quick adaptation of this Chișinău kitchen into an emergency response center illuminates how the best of humanity shows up in the worst of times. It is a story replaying again and again, community by community, crisis after crisis. Local organizations like Katalyst are often the first—and most enduring—responders. They are agile, networked, and tapped into their community’s wisdom and strengths. The problem: They’re chronically overlooked and underfunded. Historically, humanitarian aid directed to local organizations hovers around or below a troubling two percent.

That leaves determined community leaders like Carlo André Oliveras Rodríguez in Puerto Rico under-resourced.

Carlo witnessed firsthand the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria, considered the third costliest U.S. hurricane on record, causing more than $101 billion in damages and the tragic loss of many lives.

“No one is coming,” he recalled thinking after the storm. “No one is coming to save you. No one is coming for your family. You have to save yourself.”

As a former leader at La Maraña, a nonprofit focused on including Puerto Rican voices in the island’s recovery, Carlo worked to bring the power of imagination to rebuilding.

“The work of imagination is the most powerful tool that we have; it enables us to envision a different, better environment,” he said.

In one community where a school was serving as a storage unit, La Maraña worked alongside locals to clear the debris and transform the structure back into a learning environment. In another, La Maraña used the scraps left behind from the storm to design and create a new structure, enlisting the help of local children to bring the vision to life. Imagine the possibilities for their brighter future, if only they had adequate funding.

Shifting Resources

Changemakers across the globe are helping those most in need and using their creativity to build solutions where there are none. From Ukraine to Puerto Rico, in every part of the world, there is no shortage of local heroes ready to make a difference—but funding and support is often the missing piece in their success. GlobalGiving is a nonprofit that is shifting resources and decision-making power to communities affected by disasters and crises. GlobalGiving makes it easy to support local changemakers anywhere in the world. Since 2002, the nonprofit has helped raise more than $762 million for community-led change in more than 175 countries.

Originally known for being the first and largest international crowdfunding platform for nonprofits, GlobalGiving today is known as a trusted destination for emergency and long-term disaster recovery. Disasters often strike with little warning and devastate entire communities. With thousands of vetted local partners around the world, whom GlobalGiving works with 24/7, there is no platform better positioned to deliver critical resources from donors to people in disaster-affected communities.

GlobalGiving forms life-saving connections between people who give, nonprofits that lead the recovery, and people in need. As part of their response, the GlobalGiving team considers the strength of their network in the affected area, the requests for help from local partners, the scale of the disaster, and the number of people affected. In each and every situation, the needs of the disaster-affected communities come first, as do their solutions.

Who better, after all, to lead in community recovery than the affected communities themselves?

Photo: Humanitarian Aid for Rohingya Families by BRAC USA

The Wisdom of Community

GlobalGiving works to put decision-making power into the hands of community leaders and local changemakers who can best decide where the funds should be used to build a high-impact, sustainable recovery plan. It’s an improved take on disaster philanthropy and one that doesn’t end when the cameras move on to the next big crisis. In partnership with changemakers and nonprofit organizations within crisis-affected communities, the GlobalGiving team prioritizes local knowledge in their response.

This method creates change that is deeper and lasts longer—it’s simply more effective when communities are in the driver’s seat of change. This is especially true in communities that build on deep-rooted knowledge to prepare for and mitigate the damage caused by natural disasters. In Mexico, for example, the local nonprofit Cooperación Comunitaria A.C. revived adobe materials and age-old, seismic-resistant building techniques to restore homes crushed in a 2017 earthquake.

“We build something adapted for the culture,” explained Cooperación Comunitaria A.C. Executive Director Isadora Hastings.

Many of GlobalGiving’s partners around the world have long-standing methods and traditions, passed down over generations, to reduce vulnerability in their communities.

For donors, GlobalGiving provides a way to help quickly and effectively, with the peace of mind that each nonprofit has been vetted, and their funds are delivering high-impact solutions for local communities.

For communities, GlobalGiving gets behind the local organizations, ensuring they have access to the resources they need to drive the recovery and better prepare for future disasters. The only way we’ll rebuild better and make the future brighter is if local changemakers and communities are in the lead.

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GlobalGiving is a nonprofit that supports other nonprofits by connecting them to donors and companies. Since 2002, we’ve helped trusted, community-led organizations from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe (and hundreds of places in between) access the tools, training, and support they need to make our world a better place.


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