ukrainian childUkrainian families and children crossing the border into Romania to escape conflict. Save the Children Romania provided humanitarian assistance for 350 children, out of which 60 were in the refugee centres. The assistance was given at the following border points: Sighet, Siret, Giurgiulești and Isaccea. Save the Children Romania also helped 400 women at the border points. Photo by Save the Children.

Spurred by the heart-wrenching images of Ukrainian refugee children fleeing their homeland carrying only a small backpack and concerned that these children have access to basic necessities in the coming weeks and months, Florida philanthropist and humanitarian Lois Pope decided it was time for her to spring into action.

That action was manifested today when she announced her $1 million donation to Save the Children, the global humanitarian organization working to meet the urgent needs of children and families fleeing escalating violence in Ukraine. Mrs. Pope’s gift – which she will use to establish a fund through her foundation called Lois’ Care for Refugees – will help provide children impacted by the Ukraine crisis with food, water, hygiene products, medicine and other humanitarian assistance as they seek safety, often in neighboring countries such as Poland, Romania and Lithuania.

“What these innocent children are now going through, being ripped from the safety of the only homes they know by a war they cannot really comprehend, is devastating,” said Mrs. Pope.  “I couldn’t sit idly by in the comfort of my own home when the plight of these children is so perilous.  Their needs are so great, from nutritious food and clean water to medicine and healthcare products.  My goal in creating this fund to support Save the Children is to help meet these needs today and moving forward throughout this humanitarian crisis.”

Mrs. Pope, who hopes to see Save the Children’s work in Poland in the future, said she hopes her gift to Save the Children motivates others with the financial means to respond in similar ways to what could become Europe’s worst humanitarian and refugee crisis in decades. To date, more than three million people from Ukraine have fled into neighboring countries seeking safe haven, and there are still millions living in fear and without access to the proper necessities in Ukraine.

“There are more than enough high-net-worth people here in Palm Beach County and across the country who have the capacity to make significant contributions that would be life-saving for these children,” she said.  “I’m urging my friends and peers to open their hearts, as well as their pocketbooks and wallets for the cause.  How can you not do so when you see the photos and videos of these desperate children? As a mother and grandmother myself, I can’t imagine not wanting to help.”

Established more than 100 years ago, Save the Children is the world’s leading independent organization for children. A leader in child health, education and protection, Save the Children has been working in Ukraine since the start of this escalating conflict in 2014. The organization is now scaling up its operations to support children and families impacted by this devastating crisis, distributing critical emergency supplies, and establishing safe spaces for children where possible.

“Save the Children expresses its deepest gratitude for Mrs. Pope’s much-needed support during this time of crisis in Ukraine,” said Luciana Bonifacio, Chief Development Officer, Save the Children. “This generous gift will help us protect children from harm, and provide immediate assistance to children and their families who are in grave danger across Ukraine and the region.”

The Save the Children donation is the latest by Mrs. Pope to ensure the welfare, health and well-being of people most impacted by discrimination and inequality, with a particular emphasis on children and family, food, water and health insecurity. At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when schools closed and low-income, underserved children in Palm Beach County had no access to the free or reduced fee meals they were receiving there, she made a $1 million donation to the Palm Beach County Bank to create Lois’ Food4Kids. The initiative, which has been expanded through subsequent donations from Mrs. Pope and supporters of her foundations, has provided thousands of nutritious meals to children when they are not in school, on weekends, holidays and during the summer.

Through personal contributions and donations from supporters to her various foundations — LIFE, Leaders in Furthering Education, the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, and the Disabled Veterans LIFE Memorial Foundation — she has also built a clean water system in a Guatemalan village, assisted women impacted by the genocide in the Sudan, provided college scholarships to low-income students aspiring to be doctors in public health centers, and sent more than 125,000 underserved children to summer camp, among numerous other philanthropic and humanitarian endeavors.  Of special note, she ideated and spearheaded the creation of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, the nation’s only permanent public tribute to the now 4.2 million living disabled American veterans and those who died.