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The colour of reality: Global Guardian Project aims to stop the bleeding in Ukraine

Sep 8, 2022 | Featured, News, Canada

Global Guardian team

Ulana Pidzamecky for NP-UN.

Now six months long and counting, Russia’s devastating and deadly war in Ukraine continues to impact millions of men, women, and children…civilians, volunteers, humanitarian workers, territorial defenders, and soldiers. Injury and death are a daily occurrence. But a newly launched grassroots charity in Ontario’s Durham region, The Global Guardian Project, hopes to empower people in Ukraine and save lives.

The Global Guardian Project is the brainchild of a talented team of five dedicated individuals: sisters Violetta and Anastasia Pioro (originally from Ukraine), Matthew Binkley, Lon Appleby, and Thomas Bezruki (more about each of them and their contributions, below), all of whom are selfless volunteers from diverse cultural and professional backgrounds. The Project is supported by Ontario’s Durham College, its cutting-edge Rotary Global Classroom and Ukraine Action Plan (https://durhamcollege.ca/globalclass/), as well as a growing number of key partners: Stop the Bleed (https://www.stopthebleed.org/), Durham Region Rotary Clubs, CTOMS (https://ctomsinc.com/), UCMAO Foundation, UhelpUkraine, and others.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February of 2022, Pioro family members in Ukraine immediately began to volunteer on the front lines. Soon, Violetta and Anastasia started to receive requests for combat-grade medical supplies. At first, they tried sending supplies as parcels through various international shipping organizations. But war-related logistical disruptions prevented the supplies from getting to Ukraine in a timely manner.

Meanwhile, time was absolutely of the essence and people in Ukraine were pleading for bulletproof vests, warm socks, combat boots, medical supplies, and other items necessitated by the war.

For these reasons Violetta and her life partner, Matthew, decided to travel to Ukraine to volunteer with humanitarian organizations, which included bringing 67 bags of military supplies (bulletproof vests and helmets) from Second Front Ukraine Foundation, and $10,000 worth of combat medical supplies thanks to donations from family and friends. They quickly became very familiar with the grim reality and urgent needs of the front line.

During those chaotic first weeks of the war, they encountered more than their fair share of difficulties and trauma. The truck that was carrying their supplies was taken over in Kyiv and the supplies, destined for a bomb shelter, were stolen. During their journey, the beleaguered duo, along with desperate migrants trying to flee the country, found themselves stuck in different parts of Ukraine and Poland before finally making it out.

Upon their return, Violetta and Matthew decided they needed a better plan. And so, joined by Anastasia, Lon, and Thomas, the team established their own charitable organization and got to work, starting from scratch. With their knowledge of the Ukrainian language, Ukrainian territory, and conditions there, and a broad network of local connections, the Global Guardian Project team set out to buy and deliver 2,000 tactical medical kits in September of this year. Why tactical medical kits? According to Violetta, the central issue is people bleeding out after shelling and bombing without having access to emergency medical supplies. According to the charity’s website, life threatening injuries need treatment in the first 3-5 minutes. Research shows that tourniquets used by US soldiers in Afghanistan saved an extra 2,000 lives. A military study of people with potentially survivable wounds in Iraq found that 80 per cent died from hemorrhaging, compared to being killed on the spot. GG partner organization Stop the Bleed notes that 20 per cent of people who die from traumatic injuries could survive with quick bleeding control. Surgeons have sent Violetta photos of tourniquets that came from Canada saving someone’s life…not just a limb, but a life. This is why these tactical medical kits are crucial.

The medical kits in Ukraine

Violetta serves as the communication and operations director of Global Guardian, while Anastasia is the marketing and education operator. The Pioros have been fortunate to attract a range of highly experienced and enthusiastic team members to help bring their dream to fruition. Violetta’s life partner, Matthew Binkley, the management and operations director, is a business, film, and TV professional, who became involved in financially supporting the humanitarian effort in Ukraine and volunteering with Violetta. Thomas Bezruki, the charity’s medical consultant, oversees emergency management for Durham College and Ontario Tech University and is using his military background to help design the medical kits. A retired veteran with over 12 years of experience in combat tours overseas, Thomas is also a national ambassador for Stop The Bleed, a life-saving training initiative developed by the American College of Surgeons. And Lon Appleby, who serves as Stop The Bleed Education Development and Research Director for Global Guardian, is the founder of The Global Class and an award-winning documentary producer, journalist, and professor in the Faculty of Liberal Studies at Durham College. Together with his Global Class, he is leading the way in education, providing a platform for people in war-stricken zones everywhere with Stop The Bleed training and support.

Global Guardian’s collaboration with Durham College has been foundational. The College provides tax receipts for donations received by The Global Guardian Project, which has been a great help. Meanwhile, The Rotary Global Classroom, with its particular blend of educational technology, pedagogy, and curricular scope, is the first of its kind in the world. The RGC facilitates connections between students and thought leaders from around the globe in real time to discuss issues of importance and to collaborate on solutions by sharing knowledge and skills. The RGC hosts The Global Class, a course founded by Appleby, dedicated to expanding students’ understanding of world issues and creating action-based community collaborations. The Global Class Ukraine Action Plan is an interactive digital program linking public leaders from Ukraine with students of Durham College, as well as partner institutions world-wide, to work together to formulate action plans that ordinary people outside Ukraine (Ukrainians and non-Ukrainians alike) can use in purposeful ways to help Ukraine and Ukrainians now and once the war is over. It so happens that The Global Class is where Anastasia, as one of its students, first ventured the idea for Global Guardian through a presentation given by her sister, Violetta. Everything moved ahead swiftly from there.

Fundraising efforts continue. Some $30,000 has been raised so far. Major contributions include $7,500 from the Coburg Rotary Club and $6,000 from Ellen Cowan, Clarington Buick GMC. Interestingly, the donation from Ms. Cowan was prompted by her encounter with one of her newest employees, a current refugee from Ukraine. Most recently, the GG charity held its first golf tournament at Kedron Dells Golf Course (organized by Durham College employee, Kevin Jones), which brought together 30 motivated players who donated $2000 to the cause. It is examples like these of unexpected generosity, kindness, and support which demonstrate how Global Guardian brings together all kinds of people to build hope for Ukraine’s future.

The Global Guardian Project medical kits cost approximately $150 each and will consist of the following components: Hemostatic Dressing, Chest Seal Entry/Exit, 2 Israeli Bandages, Combat Tourniquet, Medical Shears, Kit Bag, Marker, and Medical Gloves. There will be two types: one for paramedic use, the other for civilians. Each will have a link to a Stop The Bleed video (currently being translated into Ukrainian by dedicated volunteer Maria Norris), explaining the proper use of each item and in what situations.

But there is more. The Global Guardian team plans to expand its activity, in cooperation with the Rotary Club of Scarborough, to provide an English-language study program for 93 Ukrainian orphans who, for safety reasons, are now living near the city of Uzhhorod in the Carpathian mountain region (https://zn.ua/ukr/SOCIUM/diti-vijni.html). The Free Reading Program (Be Reading in Ukraine: https://www.bereading.org/ukraine/?fbclid=IwAR3fUu5gb8xkQg2ITPsd-dPqtRAnG_UJhNU-AcWhWwah9r3dEiEB6s3HAOg) was developed in Toronto and is now used in over 185 countries with children and adults to learn English. The goal of Global Guardian is to deliver 20-30 iPads and notebooks (funded by Scarborough Rotary) for the use of the orphans, so that they can access this program. The Durham College Rotary Global Classroom will provide classroom-style learning as part of this important project.

Thanks to their growing number of volunteers, supporters, and their network in Ukraine—and their real-life experiences to date—The Global Guardian Project team anticipates a much smoother return to Ukraine in September to deliver the greatly needed medical kits and iPads.

Interested in helping? Donations are always welcome since the need is ongoing: https://www.globalguardian.ca/take-action. But there are other ways to lend a hand, including spreading the word on social media, so that non-Ukrainian audiences are reached, as well. Your efforts can help to fight disinformation, raise awareness, and save lives in Ukraine.

Ultimately, The Global Guardian Project intends to grow its community collaborations in the hope of going truly ‘global’ and helping to provide medical supplies to active war zones around the world.

Charitable Registration Number: 86418 3769 RR0001

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