Promoting Free Societies

Delivering life-saving aid to the heart of Ukraine

Tom Palmer Impact Header 1

When the Kremlin forces massed on Ukraine’s border began their long-planned assault, it was an attack not only on Ukraine’s sovereignty, but also on the progress the country has made over the past several years toward greater economic opportunity and individual freedom. Alongside a growing Ukrainian identity came land market reform, lower barriers to entry for businesses, and an increased focus on addressing the corruption that has plagued the post-Soviet state for so long. When Atlas Network launched its Ukraine Freedom Fund in March 2022, it aimed not only to save lives, but to protect the reforms and institutions that made those lives freer and richer.

From one conflict to another

Just last year, Atlas Network Executive Vice President Dr. Tom G. Palmer worked to connect partners in Afghanistan with resources to help them escape the Taliban’s advance. Now, he’s again working near the front lines of an emerging conflict. This time, however, he’s not just trying to get people out of the country. He and a team of other volunteers have purchased old, used vans, and, many times over, packed every square inch with supplies and driven them from Poland deep into Ukraine, where they meet with contacts who can take the materials to their final destination. Once emptied of supplies, the vehicles are used to transport the elderly and infirm to the Polish border and safety. In this way, Dr. Palmer’s efforts get supplies to places where most organizations wouldn’t dare to go, and by working with Atlas Network partner organizations and other contacts, he’s able to direct aid to where it’s most needed. He has tapped into what he calls a “network of networks” that enables a bottom-up structure to his efforts. This enables specific, focused efforts that maximize every dollar spent.

Dr Palmer and Ukrainian refugees

“We have our partners inside Ukraine, and they identify the needs in this hospital, this clinic, this town, this is what they need there urgently. When they identify it, we have our partner organizations and friends in the rest of Europe who go find those things and get them into vans and buses and across the border.”

- Dr. Tom G. Palmer

A special purpose

The most immediate goal of the Ukraine Freedom Fund was to get the staff of partner organizations to safety and enable them to continue doing what they do best—working for a better Ukraine. They are continuing to succeed in improving policies, and they are having an immediate impact. When Dr. Palmer first crossed into Ukraine with a vehicle full of supplies, he spent over three hours at the border completing paperwork and navigating the bureaucratic process. That’s because he had purchased the van outside Ukraine, and regulation at that time made it very difficult and expensive to import a vehicle. Atlas Network partner Institute for Economic Leadership worked for years to simplify and streamline this bureaucracy, and in the midst of the ongoing crisis they finally succeeded. Last time he crossed the border, Dr. Palmer spent less than 15 minutes on paperwork.

Ukrainian emergency responders

The fund is also being used to provide specific and urgently-needed medical equipment and other life-saving materials to the people that need them. Because of the network of networks in place, Dr. Palmer has been able to work with contacts to source and supply critical supplies like specialized bandages to treat gunshot wounds, chemotherapy treatments, insulin, and other specialized drugs that are in short supply. Kremlin snipers have targeted aid workers, medics, and local neighborhood patrols, so our friends in Europe have supplied hundreds of sets of body armor to help protect these individuals, with many more on the way.

Medical supplies for Ukraine

Looking ahead

The Kremlin’s invasion created both a humanitarian crisis and an unexpected opportunity for better policy. With Dr. Tom Palmer’s on the ground expertise and support from generous donors, the Ukraine Freedom Fund is addressing both of these situations. Ukraine has a long road ahead, both to reach the end of the war and to rebuild once it is over. Atlas Network and our nine partner organizations in the country are dedicated to making sure a better, more prosperous future comes quickly, and our ongoing efforts are already helping bring that future closer to reality.