Despite Covid and a cost-of-living crisis, Kiwis have donated more than $4 million to the New Zealand Red Cross special appeal for Ukraine, with one business community alone donating $800,000

New Zealand Red Cross secretary-general Sarah Stuart-Black has been blown away by the generosity of Kiwis donating to Ukraine when so many people have had their own incomes impacted in the past few years.

The invasion of Ukraine escalated in February and Red Cross’ international organisations have deployed specialist delegates to the area and neighbouring countries in the months since.

“Through Covid we’ve seen people’s personal circumstance have changed with reduced hours or businesses closing and people being impacted. We weren’t sure if we’d see that translate into the way people are fundraising or donating to appeals, but we’ve been amazed with the generosity,’’ Stuart-Black told Newsroom.

Three special appeals, which require meeting strict criteria, were launched by the New Zealand Red Cross in a short space of time in the last year to raise funds for the impacts of Ukraine, the Tongan volcanic eruption and Afghanistan evacuees.

“There’s no administration fee, no clipping the ticket so to speak.” – Sarah Stuart-Black

Afghanistan and Tonga’s appeals collected $300,000 and $2.6 million respectively, while the Ukraine donations have tallied $4.2m to date.

“With the Ukraine appeal we saw a self-mobilisation of people in communities saying they were fundraising for Ukraine but were going to give all the money to the Red Cross. It’s clearly resonated with people, and we’ve seen that with the generosity of donations,” Stuart-Black said.

That includes a donation from VeVe co-founder David Yu, on behalf of the gaming community, which gave $800,000 to New Zealand Red Cross for the Ukraine appeal.

Special appeals require that all the money collected go direct to the cause.

“There’s no administration fee, no clipping the ticket so to speak,’’ she said.

Of the money collected, $2m has already been passed on to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation, which are overseeing the response on the ground in Ukraine alongside the various national Red Cross bodies.

That money has gone towards the direct response to help with the “really sharp end of the response”.

“One of the things we wanted to immediately provide the money for was the cash voucher programme, for those arriving in neighbouring countries with very little on them and being able to give them the real dignity of actually having money themselves,” Stuart-Black said.

Many other national Red Cross organisations have also successfully fundraised large amounts for the same purpose.

“So now it’s about recognising the needs are changing and for some people they have been out of their home location for months now.”

It’s about working out how the remaining $2.2m will make the biggest difference as the conflict evolves and directing it where it will have the greatest impact, Stuart-Black told Newsroom.

Because of the “complex environment” and fighting on the ground in Ukraine it is too dangerous for many of the usual not-for-profit organisations to provide aid like they might do when there is a severe weather event or natural disaster.

As a result, the New Zealand Red Cross and its international arms have had a lot of donations and fundraising efforts passed on due to it physically having people present in Ukraine.

Jo Moir is Newsroom's political editor.

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