MriyDiy21 February 2023
Entrepreneurs’ club turned humanitarian aid powerhouse
Business-oriented initiative MriyDiy is now delivering crucial aid in Southern Ukraine.
“We never even considered leaving Mykolaiv,” Yevhen Klimov says in a conversation with EED, “We knew we wanted to help and resist the invasion.”
Yevhen Klimov is an entrepreneur from Mykolaiv, a southern Ukrainian city just half an hour away from the invading Russian army. With half a million residents, the city is a regional capital close to the Black Sea.
Yevhen is also a co-founder of MriyDiy, which brands itself as a civil society organization for businesses. The initiative, whose name stands for “Dream and Act”, unites responsible entrepreneurs in the city to develop social and infrastructural projects.
In more than four years of its existence, MriyDiy raised nearly a million Euros for humanitarian causes, organized various events, and carried out campaigns for improving the life and image of Mykolaiv. Through its crowdfunding platform, it raises funds to support 35 social projects across the region.
“We were supposed to celebrate our organization’s birthday on 25 February, a day after Russia started the big war,” Yevhen recalls. “We planned to have the governor and city mayor speak at the event, and we wanted to talk about our goals and new projects. The war, obviously, canceled that celebration.”
United by their love for the city
For a long time, Yevhen had wanted to create a space where business owners would meet, cooperate, and create something that would benefit the bigger community. He shared his idea with a friend, who then introduced him to Maksym Brevda, a local entrepreneur and together with a business owner, Kostyantyn Skorini, they decided to launch MriyDiy.
The trio managed to get more than 170 members into the organization – fee-paying businesses, whose representatives would get together, exchange, and network. With the money the team raised,, they would organise events on professional development and city planning. Their goal was to make Mykolaiv more attractive to investment and innovation, and the organisation developed a brand book and a logo for the city for free – which the authorities are using now.
“When we started out, it wasn’t about volunteering, but about better businesses in a better city,” Yevhen recalls, “So we organised conferences for entrepreneurs, we installed art spaces around Mykolaiv, and we installed air quality detectors on different streets. During Covid, we bought respiratory devices and supported local hospitals.”
The Russian-Ukrainian war changed their activities. After the full-scale invasion, the team became a major center for humanitarian aid distribution and they helped set up more than 70 bomb shelters in Mykolaiv.
Resisting the panic through volunteering
“We realised that it wasn't the time for infrastructure projects, but we had to help the community somehow,” Yevhen says.
“Our work is organized and systematic now, but at the start it was completely chaotic,” he continues, “If you asked me back then from where we were getting our humanitarian aid, I wouldn’t know what to tell you. We were getting it from everywhere. Lots of local entrepreneurs brought us things they bought or received from elsewhere. We’d collect everything in our storages, sort it, and then deliver it to large groups of vulnerable people. Over a tough year, we managed to systemise everything, so things run smoothly now.”
Thanks to its earlier work and its reputation in Mykolaiv, the team of MriyDiy obtained four storage spaces from the city authorities near their offices to store humanitarian aid.
“We’ve got an efficient system where we track everything we get and distribute, and we cooperate with different funds and regional authorities. We’ve got sixty volunteers and ten paid employees, and they sort, manage, and deliver,” says Yezhen.
Checking what the community needs
When Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Mykolaiv was in a very dire situation. Located in close proximity to Russia-occupied territories, the city was constantly bombed by the nearby Russian troops.
“Mid-year, Mykolaiv was beign attacked nearly every night,” Yevhen continues, “Many people slept in bomb shelters, so we decided to make these spaces more comfortable. We found beds, mattresses, toys, and desks for children, as well as fridges, microwaves, and other useful things.”
MriyDiy continues to deliver crucial aid to people in and outside of Mykolaiv. EED is currently their main donor in providing this assistance.
“We see that Mykolaiv itself does not have as much need in aid as before as there are lots of organisations helping out,” he says. “We decided to help where the need was greater – in the villages in the nearby Kherson region that were recently liberated, for instance. Some villages only have 30 buildings still standing, whereas before they might have had 900 and people are living in very difficult conditions. We reach out to local authorities and ask them about their needs. As we speak, our guys are delivering 20 tonnes of goods to a village in the region.”
MriyDiy also delivers drinking water to residents, distributing around 1,000 five-litre bottles each day. Due to shelling, the city water infrastructure was badly damaged, and locals only get what’s called a technical water, which is very salty and unsafe to drink.
As Ukraine continues suffering from electricity cuts, the government and civil society have started installing “invincibility points”, public spaces where people can charge their phones and warm up. MriyDiy set up two in Mykolaiv.
“Ours are a little different,” he says. “People can drink tea and charge their gadgets, but we’ve also got a nurse and a psychologist inside. So they can get some medical and psychological support too.”
“We need to bring people back”
Ever since Kherson’s liberation, and the retreat of the Russian army, Mykolaiv is experiencing a revival as the Russian army has retreated. Many Mykolaiv residents are returning home after they fled to other parts of Ukraine; and the city is also a host to many internally displaced people from the territories still under Russia’s occupation.
For Yevhen, the situation in the city is much better now than during the start of the invasion.
“I hope that after the victory, Mykolaiv will be reconstructed,” he says, “We need to fix our water system and rebuild what’s been destroyed by the Russian shelling. The key thing now is to bring people back home. This should be a priority.”
The team of MriyDiy is working toward this goal. While continuing to distribute humanitarian aid, it is also delivering trainings for other civil society groups, providing psychological assistance to volunteers, and teaching locals how to help others in case of emergencies.
This article reflects the views of the grantee featured and does not necessarily represent the official opinion of the European Endowment for Democracy, the European Commission or any other European State or other contributors to EED.