When russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine first started, Taco Potze, CEO at a Netherlands-born open source community building platform Open Social, couldn’t stand aside. For him, the matter was personal: a large part of his development team is made up of employees of Lemberg Solutions, a Ukrainian tech consulting and engineering company that creates IoT products, Digital experiences, and AI solutions.
In mere days, Taco and a number of volunteers from Open Social organized an initiative called “Twente voor Oekraïne,” which as of March 23 had collected over 20 trucks worth of humanitarian aid for Ukraine. The total count of the initiative’s volunteers has exceeded 250.
None of Open Social’s employees had any previous experience with organizing fundraisers or humanitarian initiatives. As the first step, Taco decided to arrange a warehouse for the collection of goods in Enschede (Netherlands), where one of Open Social’s offices is located, and asked a few developers to build a website that would explain the point of the initiative, present a list of required items, and have a link for donations. In the morning of February 28 reporters from local newspapers and TV channels invited by Taco came over to help spread the word about the initiative.
Until 3 pm, everything was quiet around the warehouse. What happened after 3 pm exceeded any expectations the team may have had. Dozens of people started pouring in with warm clothes, canned food, pet food, sleeping bags, mats, and medicine. As a result, the first truck was ready to set off the next day.
The driver of the first truck deserves a special place in this story. Two days before the initiative’s official start Taco’s friend had met a Ukrainian trucker at a parking lot in Enschede. The driver was from Kharkiv, where his whole family — a wife, two kids, and a brother suffering from epilepsy and running short on meds — were stuck under constant bombardment. He readily agreed to take the collected goods to Lviv with the hope of finding a way to rescue his family once he was back in Ukraine. In addition to humanitarian aid he was also taking epilepsy treatment for his brother, which Taco had managed to obtain from his doctor. Having made it to Lviv, the driver transferred his cargo to volunteers from Lemberg Solutions. Then, a happy, unexpected reunion took place: it turned out that while he’d been on the road, his family had managed to arrive in Lviv on an evacuation train. Now they’re all trying to build a new life in a new place, together.
This driver was not the only Ukrainian trucker who happened to be in the Netherlands when russia started the war. He shared the initiative’s contact information across his network, and after that finding more truckers has not been a problem. In Lviv, Lemberg Solutions employees receive the cargo and forward it to the Charitable Foundation of Serhiy Prytula, which then distributes the goods among the military and civilians.
The Embassy of Ukraine in the Netherlands has also joined the initiative in addition to residents of Enschede and other Dutch towns. They have provided three trucks and also help with documentation necessary for the delivery of aid.
Twente voor Oekraïne volunteers continue working 14 hours a day without weekends, updating itineraries, engaging partners, collecting and packing goods, and coordinating truckers. They know that their tiredness is nothing compared to the suffering of tens of thousands of Ukrainians and hope that their efforts will make the lives of war victims at least a little better. Meanwhile, Open Social continues their cooperation with Lemberg Solutions — the company’s management knows that at this time, supporting the Ukrainian economy is no less important than sending humanitarian aid.