GOALS FOR UKRAINE: sport and charity by social media

Posted by on Dec 17, 2014 in Territorio e passato | 0 comments



Goals for Ukraine’s logo

It is born in the U.S.A. and we discovered it on social media.

Goals for Ukraine” is a campaign that every week encourages hockey lovers and supporters, who follow the NHL and follow the Washington Capitals on TV or live, to enjoy the game and the thrill of competition, and to make a donation to help people in Ukraine for every goal scored by Russian sports star Alex Ovechkin.

The donations are sent to the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, a U.S.A. organization that supports the Ukrainian people’s independence and self-determination aim.

The person behind Goals for Ukraine is Brian Allen, a U.S. government worker, journalist and freelance professional in Washington D.C. and a long-time  Capitals’ fan.

The charity campaign is spreading its message, quickly and with a huge response, all around the world. And we too got pretty interested about it. We asked Brian Allen and the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s spokesman some questions.

GFU for Mariella (22)

Brian Allen, the person behind “Goals for Ukraine”, in Washington D.C.

Mr. Allen, how many people in Ukraine have died and how many are in need because of the conflict between the Ukrainian Government and the Russian backed-separatists?

The United Nations estimates that, as of 15 December, more than 4,700 Ukrainians have died and that, as of 5 December, over 500,000 Ukrainians have been driven from their homes and remain in Ukraine (internally displaced persons or IDPs). There are hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians that have left Ukraine completely. Those numbers increase every day.

Ovechkin instagram (1)

Alex Ovechkin’s social web campaign supporting Russian’s military occupation of Ukraine

Your cause, Goals for Ukraine, is gaining popularity on the web. I think it is very smart in the way it blends a very popular sport in the U.S.A., your reply to this very popular sports star’s political statement, and charity. It was your idea, so I would like to know the story behind it. How did it start?

Alex Ovechkin, a very popular Russian sports star who  plays for the NHL’s Washington Capitals hockey team, participated in a Russian social media campaign in August 2014 on Instagram in support of the Russian military intervention in Ukraine. I am a big fan of the Caps and of Ovechkin the hockey player, but I could not be silent in the face of such outrageous propaganda when Ukrainians are fightingfor their freedom. So, I thought of a way to support my team and support Ukraine at the same time: I would ask people to donate money to help Ukrainians every time Ovechkin scores a goal in this season!

And now, in its first months of life, how is it working?

Since October, we have received several thousands dollars in monetary and in-kind donations (for example, an artist donated several works of art to sell to raise money), and the fundraising campaign has spread to more than 30 countries worldwide. We also appeared on Ukrainian TV.

How is the hockey world ( supporters, but also teams, players, people in NHL, Alex Ovechkin himself!) reacting to your initiative?

Hockey fans are very supportive, we have received no negative comments at all! But we have received no word from the NHL, the Caps, or Ovechkin. I think that they believe the best course of action is to do nothing and pretend the fundraising campaign does not exist!

You know how the perspective about what’s going on in Ukraine can change a lot according to what part of the world people live in. But there are also facts. You live in Washington D.C. and are a journalist too. What is your perspective, your point of view about the conflict, and what are the facts?

Russia agreed in 1994 to respect the international boundaries of Ukraine as part of an agreement under which Ukraine gave Russia the nuclear weapons that were left behind in Ukraine when the Soviet Union broke up. Because of economic and other internal problems in Russia, and Russian fears that Ukraine eventually join the European Union and the West, the Russians decided to ignore these commitments, and invade Crimea and cause military conflict in eastern Ukraine. Now, there is death and destruction in Ukraine, and people there may never get their lives back to normal because the conflict may become “frozen” and continue for many, many years.

Are there any meaningful stories that you have gathered that can give us a better idea about the drama of the people you’re trying to help with your fundraising?

The “Goals for Ukraine” supporters in Ukraine are very grateful that people around the world are thinking of them. For example, one wrote to us, “Hello from Ukraine. Heard in the news about your campaign. I just wanna say thank you very much and that we appreciate your efforts. Thanks that you know that Ukraine and Russia it is different countries”. “Goals for Ukraine” is still collecting for its first transfer of aid to Ukraine, but the U.S. Ukraine Foundation (which the fundraising campaign is benefiting) is putting other money to work continously by purchasing medical supplies and other aid (food, clothing) for distribution in Ukraine.

The fundraising through your Facebook page and website goes, in facts, to the U.S. Ukraine Foundation. How did your collaboration start?

I took my idea to the U.S. Ukraine Foundation here in Washington D.C. (we had never met until that moment when I walked into their offices), and they put the plan in motion. They designed the website and manage it from a site in Ukraine. I maintain the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/GoalsForUkraine) and Twitter account ( https://twitter.com/GoalsForUkraine) in Washington D.C.

What kind of stuff is mostly needed, and to which places/cities is this stuff going to be delivered?

The Foundation transfers money to its partners who purchase the aid. They purchase food, clothing, shelter, medical supplies, and similar items for distribution in Ukraine to IDPs, who are largely from eastern Ukraine and have moved west to avoid the fighting. Many live in temporary camps and will have to spend this winter there and probably longer.

How can Italians help Ukrainian people through your site?

Spread the word to all their sports friends! I am not aware of any other Ukrainian relief efforts directed at sporting fans, and certainly not at the Lega Italiana Hockey Ghiaccio, which manages professional ice hockey in Italy (Serie A and Serie A2 http://hockey.fisg.it). But “Goals for Ukraine” (http://goalsforukraine.org/goalsforukraine) accepts Pay Pal, and any assistance that we could get from Italians who love sports and support freedom would be amazing!

La collaborazione del'USUF con l'ex presidente ucraino Viktor Yushchenko attraverso il progetto di Partnership comunitaria.

USUF worked with then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko through its Community Partnerships Project

The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation was created in September 1991 at the time of Ukraine’s independence movement. The Foundation’s aim was to support the democratic aspirations of the people of Ukraine.

Who are the people behind the Foundation and how they are involved in the charity operation?

The Foundation is supported by those people and entities who have both an interest in Ukraine and who support the Foundation’s mission for Ukraine. They can be involved by being part of the leadership – through the Board of Directors and the Board of Advisers, for example – by collaborating on projects and conferences/events, by volunteering their time, and by supporting the Foundation through financial gifts.

In what way are you assessing the Ukrainian people’s needs and the situation, and who is there in Ukraine to bring them help?

With regard to the current humanitarian need in Ukraine, with the need being quite staggering, it is not difficult to identify those hospitals where people are being treated for their injuries. Our donated medical  supplies are being sent to hospitals that are treating those injured throughout the war in eastern Ukraine. We have contacts (people “on the ground” and who are also volunteers) in Ukraine who assist us in this manner.

How can people help from Italy?

Of course, their generous financial help is needed right now, that would be very much appreciated! Such gifts can be made to the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation at http://usukraine.org/goalsforukraine or http://usukraine.org/donate.shtml .

But in addition, we need people to write and communicate their support for democracy in Ukraine and their disapproval of Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s actions. This communication can be directed to others online and to newspapers and other print publications. Urging Italian and European organizations and government to materially support Ukraine’s cause is desperately needed too.

This should be understood very well: for the first time in history, the people and the government of Ukraine want to be a part of  the European community. They want to join other nations that have an ethos and culture of Western democracy. They are rejecting ties to Russia that go back centuries. It is in the interest of Italians and all Europeans, who are already integrated with the West, to support Ukraine’s shift toward the Euro-Atlantic community.

Your support is requested! For example, the Foundation has a newsletter, called “Update”, and we will be glad to post letters of support. Our website is http://usukraine.org and our email address is info@usukraine.org .

Mariella Dei