Helping Hanna Survive the Bitter Winter

Imagine facing a long, unforgiving winter without heat or warm clothing. This is what awaited Hanna, an 84-year-old Ukrainian with disabilities who was forced to flee her home in Kramatorsk due to the Russian war.

The Chilling Reality

Despite the harsh cold, homes and shelters in Ukraine often have insufficient heat—or none at all—due to damage from the war or a lack of maintenance. And many displaced people can’t afford to replace the warm clothing and blankets they had to leave behind when they fled the invasion. As a result, Ukraine’s bitter winters can be life-threatening – especially for older people like Hanna.

Identifying Needs

HelpAge conducted a needs assessment through focus group discussions with older people and community leaders in a key area of Ukraine, the Chernivtsi region, where around 300,000 forcibly displaced Ukrainians have relocated. This is how we found out that 90% of the displaced respondents urgently required warm clothing and bedding. As soon as we knew what was needed, we moved quickly to provide assistance.  

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Empowering Through Vouchers

To allow older Ukrainians to maintain their dignity and independence, we distributed vouchers that let them personally select and purchase the items they needed to stay warm. Our volunteer social care workers played a pivotal role in this process, helping recipients understand the process and overcome barriers.

Hanna's No Longer Suffers From the Cold

84-year-old Hanna is just one of the many people who have benefitted from this work. Oksana, a HelpAge social care worker who regularly visits Hanna to provide psychosocial and practical support, gave her the voucher and explained how it could be used. While poor health prevented Hanna from traveling to stores in the city of Chernivtsi, her daughter helped her select an electric blanket online. Then, using the voucher, Hanna’s daughter purchased the blanket along with a sleeping bag and shoes for her mother.

“These will help me stay warm in bed not only in winter but also on cool autumn evenings. I’m very grateful for the care and support.”


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