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Sunflower Stories: Alexis Gurvits

Sunflower Relief’s widespread network of volunteers is fundamental to its ability to reach the most difficult-to-access areas in Ukraine. Alexis is one of Sunflowers’ dedicated volunteers. Based in Lviv, Ukraine, she is an integral part of the on-the-ground network that keeps humanitarian aid flowing in Ukraine.

Please tell us a little about your background.

I live in Lviv in Western Ukraine. I was born here and have lived here ever since. I graduated from Uzhgorod National University with a master’s degree in International Relationships and now work for a trading company that deals with the import of printing materials for printing houses in Ukraine.

I’m a mediator between our company management and foreign suppliers, helping to control deliveries from order placement to arrival at our warehouse. It involves coordinating numerous colleagues – the main decision-makers, project managers, accountants, lawyers, logistics, etc. There is a distinct similarity to Sunflower’s casework.

Like many volunteers at Sunflower, I speak several languages. Russian is my mother tongue, Ukrainian is my country language, English is my working language, Yiddish is my singing language, and Polish is my understanding language.

When did you first get involved with Sunflower Relief? What initially attracted you to the organisation?

When the war broke out, the company I work for needed time to decipher their next steps and closed for a month while they figured it out. I wanted to use my skills to be as useful as possible. I joined the team of Sunflower translators and enrolled in a Telegram chat initiated by Irra Ariella Khi – CEO of Sunflower – specifically for volunteer translators.

I admire that people from all over the world are willing to do so much for Ukraine. Many of those volunteering have Ukrainian roots, which drive them wholeheartedly into volunteering. It feels like they do a lot for Ukraine from overseas.

What is your role within Sunflower?

I started off translating text for Sunflower. I was very active in the translator Telegram channel and Sunflower invited me to join them as a Team Lead. I sent them my CV and prepared myself for the role. However, by the time I was able to formally start Sunflower’s casework, my company reopened and my full-time job restarted. I’m also pregnant and found balancing work with volunteering very stressful.

Irra was incredibly wise and kind. She realised I was struggling and reduced my workload to relieve the pressure I was under. Her attitude is amazing – she is very humane and understanding, but at the same time purposeful.

I was involved in one case, which involved the delivery of surgical instruments for the Orthopaedic Department in Kyiv Hospital. I was the only person in Sunflower located in Ukraine and communicated with local case participants to help coordinate everything. The people involved were well-organised and the negotiations all went smoothly. Unfortunately, the case is still ongoing, limited by the availability of funds.

Volunteering is hard work. It requires endurance as well as skills, abilities, and knowledge. And working with other volunteers is hard as you can't make them do things, you can only ask.

In your opinion, what is the most important work Sunflower does?

The work Sunflower does is important to the people suffering in Ukraine. People in Ukraine have lost everything. Knowing someone is out there and cares is really valuable. Sunflower succeeds in helping these people; they are doing a fantastic job! It requires a lot of time, effort, communication, logistics, reports, people, and creativity.

Which contribution are you most proud of?

I’m not proud of anything. It's not about pride. It’s just nice to know that I can help.

Do you support any other organisations?

No, I don’t formally support any other organisations. I prefer to help the people I know directly.

Do you have a final message to share with everyone?

Once at the Eurovision contest Ukraine was represented by Alyosha who sang "the message is so clear: don't turn all the Earth to stone because this is our home."

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