Mriya Aid was disheartened to read the Ottawa Citizen article published yesterday and the ensuing Twitter attacks directed against Mriya Aid and other reputable organizations and individuals helping Ukraine.
In consequence, precious time and energy continues to be diverted from the urgent work at hand. As the Kremlin drives up the stakes of the information war, Ukraine needs its partners to work in unison, to remain level headed and focused on victory, to respect international laws & norms, and of societal rules of conduct, ethics & civility. We feel that, in light of the aftermath of the unfortunate publication, it is important for our donors and supporters to hear directly from us. Transparency is a fundamental value to us.
First, it is important to distinguish between Mriya Aid and the Mriya Report, and to understand that we are two fully separate entities. We are not the same organization, despite similar names. The representatives of each are bound by a different set of standards and expectations according to their separate organizational structures and financial obligations, and according to different priorities as outlined in their distinct codes of conduct & ethics.
In early March 2022, the volunteers of the newly formed Mriya Tech and Trident Aid came together to create Mriya Aid to leverage a volunteer network to help Ukrainians defend themselves and their country from the illegal, immoral and brutal invasion by the Russian Federation.
In the early days after the invasion, a Twitter space gained popularity and worked to raise funds for Mriya Aid to procure and deliver aid to the frontlines. However, in July 2022, the Mriya Report became its own recognized entity on Twitter, and the cooperation with Mriya Aid remained.
At that time, to avoid any confusion between the two organizations, the distinctions between Mriya Aid and the Mriya Report were formally recorded and solidified in distinct governance and policy documents and practices. Entirely separately, the Mriya Report has recently obtained the 501c3 charity status in Delaware, USA.
From May through to July 2022, efforts to obtain a 501c3 designation, for Mriya Aid, under the titled project - “Mriya Aid USA” - in the United States were explored. Advice was gathered from many different sources who volunteered to help with this idea. After researching this avenue, Mriya Aid chose not to proceed. Of the many reasons that were considered in our final decision, the suggestion from a prominent fundraiser in the US, that a salary of high six figures in addition to health insurance, was appropriate for such an endeavor, weighed heavily. In good conscience and prudence for our donors' funds and our mission to be a volunteer only organization, we could not support going forward in this direction.
The current statement and its references to Mriya Aid pertain only to Mriya Aid registered in Ontario, Canada, and represented online by its official website, Twitter and other social media accounts. All other uses of “Mriya Aid” are unauthorized, unfounded, and unrelated to our representatives, activities, and legal structure. Mriya Aid bears no responsibility for what the Mriya Report representatives say or do, and neither organization meddles in or influences the governance, objectives or activities of the other.
Mriya Aid understands that some supporters continue to confuse and conflate the two organizations. We recognize that supporters of Ukraine are diverse in their communication styles and in the level of engagement in support of Ukraine. The realities on the ground, wherever we may find ourselves, are extremely difficult and therefore extraordinary efforts are required by all to remain respectful and to not undermine the safety, dignity and reputation of others. At Mriya Aid, we are adamant in our commitment to engaging exclusively in a civil and professional tone and manner - and we have done so in all instances. Moreover, we condemn all manner of disrespect and harassment by any individual or entity, whether they support us or not. In fact, last night we reported a post that we worried undermined the personal safety of, as it happens, someone who has been unfair and disrespectful towards us.
Our response to defamatory aspersions and falsehoods against us is guided by our insistence on respectful communication. The article published in the Ottawa Citizen provided a platform to amplify the voices of those wishing to undermine Mriya Aid's integrity and impact, and to do so in a deeply disrespectful manner. We spent a significant amount of time working to provide clear, transparent responses. Much of this unfortunately did not make it into the article. In response to some of the questions raised again following yesterday’s publication, we’d like to reiterate and expand on previously-issued responses.
The two problematic situations referred to in the article (i.e. a temporarily delayed medical shipment & problems with a shipment of NVGs) occurred in the first months of the war and were addressed publicly 6 months ago. Neither problem represented a scandal or unethical conduct, and both provided us with valuable lessons learned. As we stated publicly on Aug 3, 2022, we take every opportunity to improve our practices and we work actively with partnering organizations to develop and apply best practices on an ongoing basis in all of our activities. If something didn’t go as planned, as it sometimes doesn’t, we correct it and get better. In both cases, all efforts were made to address the issues swiftly and transparently.
We reiterate here the context and outcome regarding the NVGs specifically. At that time, there were significant delays in processing Export Control Permits in Canada. To avoid those delays and avoid paying unnecessary shipping to and from Canada Mriya Aid decided to accept the supplier’s recommendation of having the NVGs shipped directly from Hong Kong to Poland. The supplier who assured us of quality, offered to broker and plan out the logistics from the manufacturer directly to an EU based point of delivery. Since the End User of these devices was not Canadian and the origination of the items were not North American this was deemed the most efficient way to deliver valuable kit to the front. Mriya Aid accepted this recommendation. All units that could be reached directly were contacted by Mriya Aid to discuss the issue and options.
The article in the Ottawa Citizen mischaracterized Mriya Aid’s statement regarding the audit. Mriya Aid did not put a dollar figure on material, goods and products donated to Mriya Aid as donations-in-kind. Engaging an independent evaluation of the financial value of those materials would not have brought any value added to our process nor any benefit to its recipients, but would have resulted in an ineffective use of donor funds and volunteer time. As such, Mriya Aid saw no requirement to spend donated funds and delay delivery on this activity: if Mriya Aid was a registered charity in Canada, under the Charity Act Canada, and if Mriya Aid sought to issue charitable tax receipts for the donation of material, goods and products, then this would apply and we would do so.
The NVG shipment represents less than 2% of aid delivered to date. The impact Mriya Aid has had for Ukrainians fighting on the frontlines has been modest compared with bigger organizations, but significant in that we fill gaps and give diverse donors across the globe a chance to help Ukraine. The aid that we provide helps to protect and to save lives. Delivering medical aid and EOD training and equipment is vital and with it, we will redouble our efforts to support Ukraine.
Mriya Aid is governed by a strong Code of Conduct and Ethics. We strive to work with partners who conduct themselves in the same manner (respectfully and professionally), and do not tolerate any form of personal slights against anyone. We act with integrity and honesty. Support is appreciated, inappropriate behaviour is not accepted, and harassment is never tolerated.
Despite the misrepresentations of Mriya Aid this week in the public domain, we are proceeding as usual with our aid programs in step with our mission to procure and deliver medical aid, non-lethal tactical gear & humanitarian aid to units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The Mriya Report team raises funds for various organizations including Mriya Aid. Mriya Aid has always procured and delivered aid, while The Mriya Report has not done so as it is beyond the scope of their mandate. Mriya Aid has policies and procedures to ensure that project proposals and fundraising initiatives are systematically reviewed by all members of the Mriya Aid Board of Directors. These are continuously being strengthened as lessons are incorporated. We are currently solidifying our operating procedures with regards to partnerships and interfacing with other organizations. Financial donations made to Mriya Aid are collected only through Mriya Aid's website and decisions as to disbursements are made by the Mriya Aid Board of Directors based upon tested criteria for project proposals. Donated funds are used exclusively for the purchase and delivery of aid. No funds are ever used or diverted to the personal benefit of any volunteer or Board member of Mriya Aid. On the contrary, many volunteers have invested considerable personal funds, in addition to time, for the cause.
It is a shame that the author of the article did not highlight any positive aspects of Mriya Aid and its volunteers who work tirelessly and selflessly to help Ukraine. The unbalanced presentation of facts as well as the bias, misrepresentation and accusations made against us will not lead to the results hoped for by those making them. On the contrary - we will continue to apply lessons learned, to grow stronger, and to double our efforts in face of the obstacles we encounter; despite the unwarranted and unfounded attacks we endure. We are proud to be working with many partnering organizations across the globe and in Ukraine who see the outcomes and impact of our work as well as the quality, rigor and integrity on which it is founded. The Mriya Aid team is grateful for the support of our donors and all who truly work in a focused and positive manner for Ukrainian Victory.