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Joining forces to help communities

Published on April 20, 2023

2 minutes

When the conflict in Ukraine started in February 2022, Internationaler Bund Polska, a social action organization, which provides a variety of reintegration services, rapidly mobilized to help the influx of refugees arriving in Poland. A local Air Liquide employee contacted the NGO to see what could be done to help. Consequently, Air Liquide supported the charity’s project with employee volunteering and a grant from the Fondation Air Liquide.

Maria Wojtacha is Director of the Fundacja Internationaler Bund Polska.

What was the situation like for your organization when the conflict in Ukraine started?

We are a small, local organization helping people in difficulty. When the conflict started, the international NGOs didn’t arrive immediately, so in a very short time and on a major scale we had to organize ways to help those fleeing. We had 2,500 people show up to our center. Two days later, we opened the first warehouse to distribute material aid. And during the most intense period, we had 10 locations open in Krakow.

How did you manage? And how did Air Liquide get involved?

We opened a huge warehouse, which at one point had 300 volunteers from 24 countries working there. In the midst of all this, Paweł Świątkowski, an Air Liquide engineer, came to my office and asked, “What do you need?” At the time we critically lacked women’s underwear and hygiene products, and he told me, “OK, we’ll take care of it.”

What is the most important way companies can help?

We helped 174,000 Ukrainian refugees in 2022, and it was invaluable to have a partner that listened over the long term and adjusted the type of support given as our needs changed. They also gave employees time off to work with us1 – one day all our warehouse volunteers were from Air Liquide! What truly makes the difference is everyone coming together – individuals, businesses, other NGOs – to offer help.

1. Employee volunteering that took place in the framework of Citizen at Work. By 2025, this Air Liquide program will offer all Group employees the possibility to support, during work hours and on a voluntary basis, their local communities by participating in initiatives organized or identified by their entity.