Going into Mother's Day weekend, we wanted to share an inspiring story of how one mother at our school named Britni Erez has made a huge difference by volunteering with an organization called The Hummingbird Effort Foundation. It provides humanitarian relief and housing to Ukrainian mothers and children now in Poland. How she came to get involved is what makes the story so compelling.
A few years ago Britni met Dorota Applebaum when their children were in another school together. This March, Britni reached out to Dorota, since she remembered her family lived near the Ukrainian boarder. Britni then found out Dorota had started an effort to house and care for the overwhelming number of refugees from Ukraine. That is when Britni jumped in to help.
Dorota Applebaum is a real estate investment banker and investor. The Hummingbird Effort Foundation, which she founded, is a nonprofit that has no operating expenses. Volunteers like our parent Britni donate their own time and resources and 100% of contributions go to helping Ukrainian families.
Britni recently answered some of our questions that we wanted to share with our entire school community.
How did you become involved in The Hummingbird Effort?
Dorota and I have stayed in touch since my older daughter was in PreK and K. I would have never gotten through COVID-19 distance learning without her. We were in the boat together trying to manage working and educating our kinder kids.
I knew her family was from Poland, so I randomly sent her a text in early March asking how she and her family were. She responded with something to the extent of “I started a foundation and there is so much to do.” At that point, I asked if she needed help. She asked if I could be on the board and that same day we jumped on a Zoom and the rest is history.
What is your role in the organization?
This is a true start-up, so there are no defined roles and responsibilities per se. There is so much work to go around that the approach is to just go out and do whatever we think needs to be done. When I was younger, I helped start a disaster relief organization in Thailand doing tsunami relief, and hence I have experience in this and understand it is an all-hands-on-deck endeavor.
Here are a few examples of how I have helped:
- Since I have a finance background, I was adamant that we had to set up rigorous donation tracking and spend tracking.
- For the other organization I am on the board of, we use Twitter heavily so I know the power of that platform and recently learned how to tweet & retweet. Hence I started a Twitter account for Hummingbird.
- I knew we needed to file a 501c3 application, so I was in charge of assisting Dorota. I did pre-research and we did a zoom where I projected and we did it together. She could have done it but having support for someone to take charge and get a task done helps. The application was just approved.
- On Facebook, I joined groups where Ukrainian refugees post when they need help. I was helping to post to inform them they could get help at Hummingbird. We would be coordinating with them or family members through whatsapp to get them to us.
- I spent a few hours learning Weebly so I could give feedback on the website. Sharing information about these women’s stories is part of the mission.
Probably the most value-add role I play is providing a sounding board for Dorota, a support to her, and to just be willing to get my hands dirty and do whatever is needed at that time. There is no task too big or too small, but we are a team with the same shared goal and no egos.
We both have full-time jobs so we coordinate in “downtime.” For example, all through spring break with my kids, I spent the whole time on this. On my way to pick my kids up from school, I normally call Dorota to coordinate. Being a working mom, you are used to multitasking and it is something I am good at so this is another thing that I picked up and matters.
Keep in mind, being part of causes like this benefits the person doing it sometimes even more than the recipients because it brings purpose.
The other important factor for me is that I know that every dollar raised goes to the cause. My experience working on the ground in Thailand taught me that these small grassroots organizations make such an impact. Having on-the-ground knowledge is so so critical. And I 100% trust Dorota. Even in the first week or so that people were giving her money to her personal account, I 100% knew that every dollar was going directly to refugees. She is capable and trustworthy. That is very important.
What help do you need in case readers want to get involved?
- More of us. People who will come up with an idea and go do it. I can pitch an article to a journalist, and I will just go do it. I can run a fundraiser, I will go do it.
- Website help. Someone to constantly update the website with content.
- Social media help. Someone to manage our Twitter and Instagram. Help us get up and running on Tik Tok. Help spread the word about what is happening and the stories of these women.
- Run a fundraiser.
- We also need help on the ground to send back updates from the families we are helping, taking in more families, securing new housing, etc.
From The Hummingbird Foundation Website:
For the first time for many of us, we are witnessing the humanitarian cost that war has on people’s lives. We are experiencing the plight of the refugees first-hand, fleeing across the borders and into our own country. People just like us, pulled abruptly from their everyday lives and deprived of absolutely everything they once had: food for their families, clean clothes, warm beds, education, and medical help. Innumerable people arrive with their newborns, their children, and their entire lives packed into one small backpack.
Seeing all of this has brought about an urgent call to action: in the name of humanity, civility, and solidarity towards others, as well as that of our own Western culture. An unquestionable desire to assist these refugees in beginning new, independent, and self-sufficient lives, in the safety of new countries. A belief that a powerful impact can be brought about through a shared collective effort.
If you want to get involved, you can find out more at The Hummingbird Effort Foundation.