The inspiration came as Dinesh Ho-A-Hing was scrolling through Instagram.
There he saw a post from an old friend with a simple ask. The friend’s in-laws are doctors in Zaporizhzhia, a city of almost a million people in southeastern Ukraine, and in the midst of the ongoing war in their country, they needed financial assistance to help purchase medical supplies — stat.
That was the start of Dinesh’s great adventure. Raising money was something he could do. But was there more? Dinesh reached out to his friend, Harro Wiersma, and asked how else he could be of assistance.
The response: “If you want to try to go 10 kilometers to the border, we have people who can get the supplies into Ukraine.”
Going the Distance
Dinesh looked at his girlfriend, Marieke. She looked back at him. They’d come to the same conclusion. “We looked at each other and said, ‘yeah, sure.’
“We got the idea that somehow, we would try to sponsor one van,” Dinesh said. They’d need to raise 11,000 Swiss francs (about $11,300 or £9,000) in less than a week to make it happen.
They were up for the challenge.
Dinesh, who is based out of Arch’s Zurich office, reached out to friends and colleagues. Many chipped in to help raise the funds to fill a Volkswagen Crafter van with 200 medical bags, providing vital resources to doctors on the front lines of the war in Ukraine.
“I think within a couple of days, we’d already raised 8,500 Swiss francs. We managed to close it to 11,000 Swiss francs within that week,” he said. “About 80% of the total was sponsored by Arch employees. It really, really came together very quickly.”
Not that much later, the couple picked up the rented van. “We loaded it ourselves,” he said. “That thing was packed. There was not one more box we could fit in there.”
Laden with supplies and hope, Dinesh and his girlfriend tag-teamed the roughly 3,000-kilometer roundtrip drive (about 1,800 miles) to deliver the supplies. Their journey took them through Germany, Czech Republic and Poland on their way to meet organizers in Przemyśl, Poland, a town about 10 kilometers outside of the Ukraine border, who were ready to receive the donation.
“We made it in 29.5 hours,” he said. “We took turns driving 3.5 hour shifts. As she was driving, I took a nap and the other way around. We drove through the night and through the sunrise. The goods were in Ukraine the next day.”
Dinesh’s friend has established a formal charity, Association for Help of Ukrainian Doctors, to continue supporting medical workers assisting the Ukrainian people as they fight to maintain their homeland. The organization’s leaders has filed paperwork for recognition as a nonprofit organization and are now raising funds to supply ambulances to local medics.
“His goal is to send multiple shipments of medicines as the need arises and ambulances,” Dinesh said, noting that the current fleet of ambulances in Ukraine has sustained damage during the ongoing conflict. “They are driving their ambulances through war zones. (The Russians) have bombed hospitals as well.”
The team is working to source used ambulances that have been retired from service in other European countries but are still useable to transport patients in a war zone. Once those vehicles are ready, Dinesh said he plans to assist in the transportation of those as well.
Dinesh said the entire experience left him with the sense that he was able to truly make a difference.
“Normally you’d give money, but this was a very direct link to that situation.
“Harro’s in-laws wanted to stand by their oaths to take care of people and they needed supplies. That was very strong motivation to try to get these funds together and to do something with those volunteering days we get from Arch. When I saw this, I said ‘Yeah, this is a good cause to use that. That was my biggest why.’”
Arch Re | Zurich