Alum leading aid effort for Ukrainian refugees

Members of PAH distribute aid from tents in Ukraine

With the Russian invasion ongoing in Ukraine, more than 2 million refugees have fled for border countries, including 1.2 million to Poland, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

It’s there where Dorota Serafin, a 2006 graduate of the Carlson School’s Warsaw Executive MBA (WEMBA) program, is leading the team at Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH) to provide critical humanitarian aid in both countries.

"On [March 4], our load of food kits and hygiene kits made it safely to Lviv [Ukraine] and is being distributed to central and western Ukraine,” says Serafin, PAH’s executive director, via email from her office in Warsaw. “This is a weekly supply for 2,000 people only, including infants and older children, but the humanitarian channels are still being created, so it is a good start.”

Serafin and her team at PAH, who have been working in Ukraine for eight years, are planning for “many, many more” kits to be sent. They are taking donations on their website as well as working with organizations, such as the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, to raise funds to support their work. 

In addition to the kits, volunteers are distributing food, hot drinks, hygiene items, diapers, blankets, transport information, and more to thousands of people at border crossings in Dorohusk, Hrebenne, and Zosin, including small children and teenagers who are stressed, frightened, hungry, and cold. Serafin says PAH’s focus is on four outcomes:

  • Enhanced ability of highly vulnerable, conflict-affected population to meet their basic food needs;
  • Improved access to safe water, dignified hygiene conditions, and minimal levels of sanitation provisions for conflict-affected population;
  • Increased access to shelter/non-food items for conflict-affected men and women;
  • and improved psychosocial well-being of conflict-affected population.

“With so many friends and colleagues in the regional offices in Ukraine, this is very personal to me,” says Serafin, who is a graduate and former managing director of the Carlson School’s joint executive MBA program with the Warsaw School of Economics. “However, I feel lucky to have PAH as my place of work at times like this. I genuinely can make a difference and help. The Poles are opening their hearts and wallets; we are also receiving loads of American help.” 

That includes private and business donations from Americans and U.S.-based companies operating in Poland as well as institutional donors, such as the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund in the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and others.

Throughout her career, and especially now, Serafin has embraced using business as a force for good. “We also seem to be living in a world where being a decent human being, a good person, makes a big impact.”

This story was adapted from the Carlson School of Management.