San Diego Humane Society President Gary Weitzman left San Diego on March 27, bound for Przemyl, Poland with antibiotics, animal medications, syringes and gloves for a 10-day humanitarian mission at the Ukraine border crossing.
Weitzman, who deployed as part of non-profit Greater Good’s humanitarian efforts, will be donating the supplies he brought to Poland-based animal rescue Centrum Adopcyjne.
Although Weitzman said he and other volunteers, including Polish veterinarians, are working to help set up a border crossing veterinary clinic and support pets impacted by the war in Ukraine, he will be there “doing anything I can do as a humanitarian” and will be working where he is most needed.
“If they need vets, I can be a vet; if they need shelter workers, I can be a shelter worker; if they need someone working at a soup kitchen, anyone out there doing humanitarian relief, I can do that too.”
Although he was going solo on this particular trip, he said there might be a way to overlap his return trip with a subsequent veterinary team. San Diego county is “coming into a busy time of year” Weitzman said, but he has about 20 staff members who said they were also interested in going to help in Europe.
“The plan for the next few months— well, like any disaster, we don’t know what’s going to happen. What we do think is that it’s not going to end that quickly,” Weitzman said.
Between now and July, Weitzman said, he anticipates there will be about five more teams of volunteers gearing up to follow in rotation when he returns to San Diego county. The response was quick, but is likely to last at least three to six months.
“As soon as the war broke out in Ukraine, we started looking for ways to support people with pets and animals left behind by this tragedy,” said Weitzman, which led to working with Greater Good.
Greater Good Director of Field Operations John Peaveler, on location in Rzeszow, Poland, said “there’s a lot of stress on everybody” but everyone there is doing whatever they can to help with both volunteer hours and donations in combination with partner organizations.
For example, on March 25, partner volunteers with Save the Dogs brought over one ton of pet food to the Ukrainian-Romanian border to help refugees crossing the border with pets as well as stray animals left behind in Ukraine.
The United Nations Refugee Agency estimates more than 3.8 million people from Ukraine have crossed international borders into neighboring countries including Poland and Moldova since Feb. 24 with over 60% of those refugees entering Poland.
More recently, on March 28, packs with basic survival supplies for homeless, or imminently homeless people and their pets were delivered to refugees in an effort to keep people with their pets. The backpacks typically include essential items for people like socks, a warm blanket and reusable water bottles, but also include dog food and a collapsible food dish among other items.
Visit www.greatergood.org for more information on donating to humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, Iraq and other disaster relief projects, and visit www.sdhumane.org for more information on Weitzman’s volunteer work in Poland.