MUSCATINE, Iowa–Muscatine has a sister city in Drohobych, Ukraine. Many of our residents have been there, including me. I have to tell you that when I visited, it was such a wonderful experience. The people were welcoming, accommodating, and appreciative of every minute that we were there.
Four of the past visitors to Ukraine witness the current events there and are saddened by the reports, the damage, and the loss. These four of the past visitors met last Monday to take action to help in any way that we could.
On Monday Feb. 28, Walter Conlon, Dan Stein, Marshall McDonald, and I met over lunch with a simple objective, what can we do to help?
The group had three goals:
1. Increase public awareness of the humanitarian disaster.
2. Mobilize monetary support.
3. Prepare a place for refugees to live and work until it is safe to return to Ukraine.
Following a healthy discussion, everyone walked away with assignments. Brainstorming how to help took many creative paths. One thought was, if Muscatine receives folks fleeing the country, how might we house those folks? One creative idea was to house them in empty storefronts downtown. This would take some working with the city government on variances. Dan was handling the communication with the city. Furniture and normal day-to-day personal hygiene would present a challenge. Nonetheless, creativity is allowed when brainstorming. It is unknown if (and it is a big if) Muscatine would see any refugees.
Another option on housing would be to work with the college on using their dormitories. Marshall took care of the communication with the college. Depending on the number of folks we would receive, their needs would be of utmost concern. Learning English could and would be part of the Muscatine experience. The college would be an excellent resource there.
Walter handled communicating with the State Department on refugee placement. Walter also communicated with Sister Cities. Individuals will be interested in monetary support. Anyone wanting to donate may do so by sending a check to Muscatine Sister Cities Association Ukraine Relief, Attn: Marci Clausen, Treasurer, 2517 Forest Pkwy, Muscatine, IA 52761.
The possibility of refugees going to other cities throughout Iowa and across the United States is very much a possibility. I have read when many refugees have crossed the border into Poland, and then asked themselves and others, “what now?”
My responsibility was to start a Facebook Page and write this article. The Facebook Page, Muscatine Action Committee for Ukraine is up (thanks to Chris for his creativity).
I asked John Dabeet for his thoughts on helping Ukraine as president of Muscatine Sister Cities. He said, “as citizen diplomats, I encourage you to continue your work in building bridges of peace and mutual respect one individual, one community at a time.”
When I observe the momentum, the action, the commitment from everything that started from four individuals meeting over lunch, one has to be proud of citizen diplomacy – Muscatine style. We welcome contributions. Watch our Facebook Page for additional updates.