As a devastating humanitarian crisis unfolds in Ukraine, hundreds of thousands are fleeing the warzone seeking refuge in neighboring countries. This has included thousands of Indian nationals, mainly students, who have been left stranded amid the conflict.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally called BAPS to assist the government's efforts for the safe passage of Indian nationals from Ukraine. Pujya Brahmaviharidas Swami reassured the Prime Minister: "We have also been instructed by His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj to mobilise BAPS volunteers."
Volunteers from the USA, UK, Ireland, France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Austria and Poland swiftly sprang into action to support the emergency relief efforts on the ground. This has included setting up a mobile field kitchen in the south-eastern Polish city of Rzeszów, which has begun feeding around 1,000 hot vegetarian meals daily to refugees of all faiths and nationalities. BAPS is also arranging accommodation facilities and coordinating medical assistance and is working closely with the Indian government and local partners.
Volunteers travelled from Robbinsville, NJ to Rezszow, Poland and to Budomierz, Poland, on the Ukrainian border to help distribute humanitarian supplies to and facilitate the transport of international students and others fleeing Ukraine.
Darshan Patel, an attorney by profession serving at the refugee camp said, "Seeing the need to help students and refugees leaving Ukraine, I took a flight to Poland to serve them. The least we can do is make them comfortable during this stressful time by providing them food and basic necessities."
Shailesh Bhavsar, a lead BAPS volunteer from Paris, explained the process at the camp: "Once they arrive at the camp, we work on registering them, providing them with meals, giving them a place to stay and rest before processing them to go to the airport for a flight home."
"Helping others through selfless service — 'seva' is a fundamental principle of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha," Dharmik Sheth, a pharmaceutical professional, said. "I am following my faith – and my family tradition. My father also volunteered during humanitarian crises when I was young."
"Our volunteers are inspired by the ethos of HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj, who personified the motto 'In the joy of others lies our own', and there has perhaps never been a more opportune moment to embody this selfless spirit of public service by providing the basic needs for those severely impacted by the conflict," said Pujya Nilkanthsevadas Swami, Head Swami at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Robbinsville, NJ. "We are working with local members of the Ukrainian community and our volunteer forces on the ground in Poland to send necessary humanitarian aid via our logistics partners. The volunteers who flew from New Jersey have been communicating information about supplies needed on the ground. We are trying our best to supply them."
Vijay Kumar Singh, former Army Chief of Staff and current Minister of State for Transport and Civil Aviation, observed the tireless efforts of the volunteers first-hand in Rzeszów and commented: "I would like to personally congratulate and commend BAPS volunteers. You are helping everyone with a sense of unity, without any expectations, and without worrying about yourselves. The people of India are indebted to your swift, selfless and organised action."
Robbinsville Mayor Dave Fried immediately commended Ravi Patni and his fellow volunteers: "On behalf of Robbinsville, we are very proud of BAPS and their efforts to help the Ukrainian people. Hopefully, we can find a way to have the Township work together to help those people who are going through an unimaginably difficult time."
His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj has also prayed for the welfare of those affected: "We offer our deepest gratitude to these volunteers. We also offer our prayers that peace prevails, and those who are suffering are provided support, strength and courage."
Major news coverage included: