After elevating $100,000 in donations for Ukraine, two Stanford MBA college students will donate ambulances and walkie-talkies to a metropolis on the entrance strains of the struggle Wednesday, which marks Independence Day for the embattled nation.
Andrei Molchynsky MBA ’23, who was born and raised in Ukraine, has been concerned in activism with the Ukrainian Scholar Affiliation at Stanford for the reason that struggle’s inception in February. Molchynsky joined forces with Military veteran Alex Clark MBA ’23 after the violence continued and the 2 wished to discover a approach to assist.
The pair first met up at Stanford’s Bass Biology Analysis Constructing “over stiff drinks and cigars” close to the tip of spring quarter. They rapidly confirmed their mutual intent to name off their summer time internships and go to Ukraine then determined to collaborate.
“We thought we might doubtlessly amplify one another’s contribution,” Clark mentioned: Molchynsky would contribute his connections in Ukraine and expertise with fundraising and procuring assets, whereas Clark would add army expertise and entry the community of United States veterans.
The pair formulated their plan to journey to Ukraine amid the demanding schedule of a Stanford finals week. At instances, the courses had been a welcome escape from a a lot harsher actuality.
“My winter and spring quarters had been tough,” Molchynsky mentioned. “It’s most likely the primary time in my life I really felt how training may be an escape from a really tough life state of affairs. I used to be truly trying ahead to highschool as a result of it offered me that window, a number of hours the place I don’t must verify my cellphone.”
As soon as the college 12 months ended, Molchynsky and Clark ramped up their efforts. The pair known as their mission Mission Independence Day and set their objective to reach at their goal metropolis on Aug. 24, Ukrainian Independence Day.
The workforce’s vacation spot could be Molchynsky’s hometown of Kryvyi Rih, a metropolis close to the middle of the nation on the entrance strains. Kryvyi Rih, which can also be the birthplace of the nation’s president, now homes many refugees from close by Jap Ukraine.
The town’s medical system has been struggling below the load. In notably excessive demand are 4×4 ambulances, Molchynsky mentioned, including that “Some autos break down, and lots of autos are attacked on objective by the Russians, so transportation is a big want.” Walkie talkies, which assist medical personnel enter areas the place there isn’t any sign, had been additionally much-needed, he mentioned.
Subsequent got here the fundraising. “We set our elevate for $100,000 as a result of we thought that will get us the 4 ambulances,” Clark mentioned. To bolster their fundraising efforts, Clark recruited the assistance of some pals.
In June, Clark reached out to his former West Level classmate Brian Bui, an MBA scholar at Harvard Enterprise Faculty who served as an intelligence officer in South Korea. When Clark known as to clarify the undertaking, Bui was instantly onboard. “Earlier than he even completed his spiel, I’d already mentally dedicated,” Bui mentioned.
Jonathan Klein, a masters scholar in worldwide affairs at Johns Hopkins, can also be an previous pal of Clark. “I’ll do it, however I need to be in Ukraine,” he instructed the workforce. Klein, a former infantry officer within the a hundred and first Airborne, additionally contributes tactical expertise to the mission.
The fifth and closing member going to Ukraine is Ross MBA scholar Sam Ashley, who met Clark via their summer time internship.
The workforce is small by design, mentioned social media director Sierra Duren, who will likely be aiding the mission from the U.S. “There’s a purpose why this explicit group of fellows are going, and it’s as a result of they’ve in depth army coaching to have the ability to hold themselves protected,” she mentioned. “You’ll be able to’t convey a complete workforce of 20 folks, utilizing up all of your cash on simply that, and go on a social media binge in a war-torn nation. That’s not what they’re about.”
Subsequent, Mission Independence Day arrange donation transactions with the Ukrainian Freedom Fund (UFF), whose Chief Working Officer Nicholas Woods obtained his MBA from Stanford in 2021. The workforce additionally organized fundraisers with Salesforce, Boston Consulting Group and Bain and Firm, in addition to British-Ukrainian Support and European Financial institution of Reconstruction and Improvement.
“It’s important to be on the market and it’s important to be a bit shameless, in each negotiating and asking for donations,” Clark mentioned. “For the dearth of a greater phrase, lots of hustling.”
The hustling has paid off: As of final week, the workforce handed their fundraising objective, although they plan to proceed accepting donations via Wednesday.
The workforce met nightly on Zoom conferences from throughout the nation this summer time, however deliberate to satisfy Monday face-to-face in Jap Europe. The crew plans to obtain their tools after which journey as a caravan to Ukraine for supply.
“Whereas a convoy does have a bigger footprint and signature which will draw consideration, I believe there’s undoubtedly security in numbers,” Bui mentioned. “We undoubtedly need to be collectively and with Ukrainian contact companions, who’re in a position to assist us navigate a few of these conditions.”
Although the workforce is assured of their preparations, they defer to Ukrainians’ information of the state of affairs on the bottom. “On the finish of the day, we’re gonna be in there for a couple of week, however there’s individuals who need to dwell there each single day,” Bui mentioned. “We need to take heed to that and use them as a useful resource.”
The workforce additionally confused the significance of flexibility: “An strategy that I’m attempting to take just isn’t being too dedicated to 1 a part of the plan,” Klein mentioned. “It’s solely pretty much as good as one little velocity bump, and impulsively you’re taking one other plan of action.” The workforce has a number of distributors lined up in case of a change in stock and is open to adjusting their timeline.
The workforce additionally plans to doc their journey on social media with what Clark calls “radical transparency.” The crew will movie progress updates on the bottom, then ship the footage to social media director Duren, additionally a senior video editor on the Stanford Middle for Skilled Improvement, who will publish them to the undertaking’s social media.
But, Duren is cautious of how a lot she shares. “With an initiative like this, and particularly with an enemy that could be very social media savvy, we now have to be very cautious about any and all media that exit,” Duren mentioned. “Russia does goal civilians first, they usually goal ambulances and well being care employees on the high of that listing.”
Whereas Mission Independence Day is a high-stakes tactical mission, for Molchynsky, it’s additionally a homecoming.
“Final time I used to be in my hometown was for my cousin’s wedding ceremony pre-COVID,” he mentioned. “Since then, he has had two youngsters, who had been born in late January. So I’m excited to see my nephews, I assume. However once more, it’s very surreal.”
Regardless of the sacrifices he’s made to help Ukraine, Molchynsky thinks little of the affect on his personal life.
“Frankly, I don’t actually suppose a lot about my psychological well being due to the whole lot that’s happening on the bottom,” Molchynsky mentioned. “My family and friends are concerned within the struggle effort, so that you at all times put your self of their sneakers. Sure, issues could also be hectic on my finish, however they’re not as hectic as for them, so that you don’t actually have a proper to complain.”
The workforce mentioned they’re optimistic that the aid mission will likely be profitable. However Bui added, “You don’t need to go to Ukraine to make a distinction.”
“Discover small methods to present again,” he mentioned, whether or not that’s by donating funds or volunteering time.