Small nonprofits like ours fill the holes and meet direct needs. Without us, little things get left out. We will continue our mission, and NOTHING will stop us. So grateful for all our partners!
If anyone deserves praise, it’s this guy… Milo. He’s one of several crazy, awesome, big hearted Ukrainians that risk their lives to drive these vans into a war zone loaded with the backpacks that YOU give them.
On Thursday, BP4K traveled to two refugee centers on the outskirts of Cologne and handed out backpacks to children. Along comes Markus…
Marcus came to Germany with his mother/grandmother when his father told them to leave Berezivka…it was no longer safe. This little boy has never, in his life, owned a lego set. I didn’t see him open his backpack from BP4K, but I did hear a little boy yelling, ”LEGOS, LEGOS, LEGOS!! over on a sidewalk, so I went investigate. An Interpreter helped me understand what he was saying. He couldn’t believe on this particular day, that legos would come to him from America. I swiftly got up, walked 30 yards away behind the building and began sobbing uncontrollably.
It hurts to realize that these children are fleeing a very dark situation…but Marcus was smiling. How could that be? I usually keep it together, but this one hurt, and it hurt deep. After gaining my composure, I went back to the van and Markus was still there. He came up to me and hugged my leg. We finished up our trip by handing out a bunch of candy that you have provided and waved goodbye to Markus and the others.
The work being done here in Europe by hundreds of thousands of volunteers and thousands of NGO’s is difficult to explain. The official governments have very little control or influence on what small NGO’s can and can’t do. So in a way, its been a steep learning curve. But like most things in life, the cream rises to the top. The NGOs who are extremely focused and stay true to their abilities, are the ones that succeed. And more often than not they succeed because they partner with other NGOs that fill in the pieces of the puzzle. That is exactly what Operation BackPack4Kids has done. We have tapped the most talented and educated people in our ranks to oversee certain aspects if what we do, and we are succeeding in an amazing way.
Send us LEGOS, candy, coloring books, socks and underwear*… give us backpacks and money! I will personally promise you that it will NOT end up in some pile of stuff at a RedCross warehouse, but it will go into the hands of these children who appreciate it more than you can know. Operation BackPack4Kids has truly changed my life for the better, and it can change yours too if you let it.
With gratitude and appreciation to all who have made this possible,
A few weeks ago we brought you the story of a pregnant woman who came into Cologne and collapsed. (See below)
Well, good news to report, a healthy 7lbs baby boy was delivered this morning in Cologne! His name is Alexander… and when he leaves the hospital, he and his mother will have new clothes that you generously provided. The gift of compassion has never been stronger and you have once again demonstrated your depth of caring for those less fortunate.
A woman arrives in Cologne, alone.
Last night, a woman, 9 months pregnant, arrived by train into Cologne carrying only a purse, a dead cell phone, and 20€ cash. For security reasons, we will call her Kateryna though this is not her real name. She came to Cologne to join her mother and niece who fled Ukraine back in early March. Kateryna could have gone with them but she refused to leave her husband, brother, and several other family members who stayed behind. However, her hometown was becoming dangerous so a few days ago her husband forced her to leave. Kateryna was put on an army truck out of Zaporizhia to Kyiv, then to Lviv. From there she traveled by train to Poland, Berlin, finally arriving at the Cologne train station after a multi-day journey. Exhausted, she collapsed on a medical cot in the nearby refugee center.
What we do…
Kateryna’s mother and niece were quickly located and brought to the refugee center. After a brief reunion, Kateryna was transferred to a hospital where she will stay until the baby is born. BP4K’s Director of Operations, William Vaughan, met the family while they were still at the center and sprang into action, taking Kateryna’s mom and niece out shopping to get Kateryna and baby some basic necessities. For baby: 10 baby outfits, swaddle blankets, shoes, and baby towels. For Kateryna, 2 sundresses and a pair of sandals.
Why we do it…
Our motto is “a small act…. with a BIG IMPACT, and that is exactly what a small, laser focused nonprofit can do. No, we can’t provide a backpack to every child or buy clothes or shoes for every refugee… but we are spending the money you have given us when we see the need. No one else can do that. Every nonprofit from the biggest to the smallest has a hole to fill. Ours is small, but we get to see the results immediately and directly.
Today, you made a difference in this family’s life. Today, you helped someone in need. Today, we succeeded in providing hope and love to those who needed it.
Today in Zaporizhia, Ukraine (110 miles from Maripol) at one of the only schools still trying to function… This principal gave out 25 of our backpacks to kids who are still coming to school. They asked if they could have 10 more…. Because 10 kids didn’t get one. Let that sink in for a minute. 10 kids, living in a war zone, trying to go to school, didn’t get a backpack. (By the way, we can build 10 backpacks for $250.00 and have them delivered inside the Ukraine).
There are people working behind the scenes helping our little mom & pop grassroots operation that don’t have too. But we hit the ground in the early days of this tragedy and have since worked 24 hours a day to build a trustworthy logistics line that is working. These pictures prove it. When doors closed on us, we kept knocking until one opened. We captured over 80 contacts from people working in and around the border area in 48 hours… and it paid off. Now, several NGO’s are co-dependent on each other and the machine is running on its own. We also have direct contact with Polish, German, Ukrainian, and American government personal to insure we are not putting our people in direct danger.
What we have pulled off is beyond extraordinary. Just a bunch of pilots with big hearts and tears in their eyes who said… “Nope, done laying down on this one! I’m doing something about it.” And you have. You delivered backpacks to children in a war zone. We were told it will never work, you don’t have the necessary tools for this, leave it to the big boys to do the humanitarian aid… Aren’t you glad we didn’t listen to that?
If you have donated money, time, or backpacks… Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I honestly had no clue this would unfold the way it did, but it has been the most amazing thing I’ve seen a pilot group do in my 28 years of flying. If you haven’t donated, there’s still time… because there are still 10 school kids in Zaporizhia that need a backpack.
I am also forever grateful to the IPA pilots I work with, and their families…
Operation Backpack4kids launched our in-house donation platform on Tuesday via backpack4kids.org. “Bringing donations in-house allows BP4K to significantly reduce the fees associated with mainstream crowdfunding platforms,” says Bill Vaughan, BP4K’s Global Director of Operations. Donors will initially be able to use any credit card of their choosing to place a donation. PayPal and Venmo options are also available. Persons interested in donating can visit: backpack4kids.org/donate-now or fill out the form below.
From BP4K’s Director of Operations, Bill Vaughan:
*** GIANT THANK YOU TIME***
It was kinda sad to see Cassandra walk to the train station this morning as she makes her way back home. We lost count of the hours she donated, but without a shadow of doubt, she gave 14-16 hours a day, EVERY SINGLE DAY she was here. She walked 8 miles a day or more shopping for the backpacks, and it only took her about 40 minutes to figure everything out, and run with it. Not only did she give up her life to come over to Cologne and run the daily refugee center/studio 7 room, she made the whole process better. I will say it again, she left us in a better position than she found us. And for that we will always be grateful. Cassandra, from all of us at BP4K, thank you, thank you, thank you!
Here is a little photo gallery from Cassandra’s time in CGN.
The team at Backpack4kids is pleased to announce a partnership with Venmo for donations to our organization. This is the first of many planned donation options being made available to you in order to maximize the efficiency of your contributions. Stay tuned for more….
Our Ukrainian partners, who have helped deliver numerous backpacks of ours in Poland and Ukraine (in addition to their own humanitarian efforts), have pushed even deeper, even closer to the front lines in Ukraine. Only 30 miles outside of Mariupol, where some of the most intense fighting is taking place, these people with big hearts risked their lives to deliver the aid you provided – a dozen of your backpacks to Ukrainian refugee kids who need them!
I asked them the following question: “Why is it so important that you deliver these backpacks? Shouldn’t you just take food and medical supplies?” Their answer dropped me to my knees:
“We don’t know you, and you don’t know us. We are fighting for our country and many Ukrainians have died. We know that many more will die soon. We see and hear things about countries that support us [lighting up buildings, flying the Ukrainian flag, etc.], but no one has sent backpacks for our children. Americans are truly crazy people when they do this. And we ask why, but we feel that they care about our situation here. When parents and children see this with their hands, they believe America is a good place.”
There is nothing more to say…. Here are the photos.
– William Vaughan, Executive Director of Global Operations, BP4K
Our first FedEx shipment of backpacks has arrived in Cologne, cleared customs, and has been delivered to the RedCross warehouse.
From humble beginnings with just an idea to help these suffering children anyway possible… Operation BackPack4Kids has transformed into a Global operating NonProfit Corporation in less than sixty days! And we haven’t even scratched the surface of what is possible. When people like you, open up your hearts, time, resources, and wallets… BIG things can happen.
In those first few days the questions were asked, “how can you do this and make it happen? The odds are against you, you aren’t a 501c3, and you have no corporate partners.” ….
Not only did YOU make it happen, you did it in grand style. And the odds? We didn’t beat them, we crushed them!
Our partnership with NGO groups continues to grow through our networking skills on the ground. A small, but much needed shipment of humanitarian aid arrived this morning in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. Some of the heaviest fighting yet is taking place there. We were lucky enough to have 14 backpacks delivered deep into the Ukraine where families are fleeing for their lives. These shipments are dangerous for the men taking them, but we are grateful for their courage and desire to help the needy.
We will continue our mission to supply our backpacks to children throughout Europe who have been displaced and we won’t stop as long as we receive the money and donations to make this happen.
With bags flowing to refugees daily, keeping our backpack building supplies in stock can be a challenge. On Wednesday, April 20th, 2022, Cassandra Zelesnikar, OB4K CGN operations manager, FedEx pilot Matt Corey, and IPA 747 pilot Andre Fairbanks hit the streets of Cologne, Germany looking for supplies.
Ikea is always a gold mine for us. Finding large numbers of small sized stuffed animals and water bottles can be difficult but Ikea always seems to have some for us.
With a truck load of supplies the team headed back to our operations center at the Marriott Cologne to unload and restock our shelves. Backpacks will be built over the next few days using these supplies as we also prepare for the arrival of our first shipment of backpacks from Louisville, KY.
We must thank the Marriott Cologne once again as none of this could be possible or economical without their generosity.