Nataliia Yakushko knows what being a Volunteer means. A doctoral student and graduate research assistant in the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business, Yakushko is the only Ukrainian student on a visa at UT. Whenever she is not performing her duties at Haslam or researching her doctoral dissertation topic, she is coordinating relief efforts in the wake of Russia’s invasion.
Yakushko traveled to Poland on spring break, bringing clothing, medical supplies and other items for Ukrainian refugees there and those still in the country.
“It’s time-consuming, so I try to arrange the trip when I am going to have some extra time available,” she says.
On a recent trip, she brought 118 pieces of luggage filled with bulletproof vests, helmets, medical supplies and other materials. To do research for her doctorate, she plans to travel to Poland again on June 6, when she hopes to bring additional aid for her homeland.
To help identify what equipment is needed and to raise money to purchase it, Yakushko works with nonprofits, including Baranova27, United Help Ukraine and Support Ukrainian Defenders. A group of her friends from Ukraine who are now in the United States also assists her. Volodymyr Voloshyn, a childhood friend of Yakushko’s from Ukraine and now a clinical director at Dental Care, who lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, is among this group.
He volunteers at Baranova27 in Fort Lee, NJ, collecting and sending donations of first aid and medical supplies, equipment and tactical gear for soldiers, childcare and baby supplies, hygiene products, nonperishable food and new clothing. As part of her spring break trip to Poland, Yakushko first flew to New Jersey to collect supplies from Baranova27.
“It’s amazing to see Nataliia’s empathy for the people of Ukraine,” Voloshyn says. “No matter where she is located, or what she is doing at the moment, she is always thinking of the war in her country, and the brave Ukrainians that are fighting for their freedom. I encourage everyone to support Nataliia in her initiative – to help those in need.”
Yakushko has only been in the U.S. a few years and is a recent arrival at UT. As a newcomer, she was surprised at how the management and entrepreneurship department embraced her efforts to help her home country.
“It’s wonderful how the faculty are so willing to help me,” she says.
To assist with her volunteer work, David Gras, assistant professor of strategy and entrepreneurship, and others in the department helped Yakushko set up a GoFundMe page, which raised more than $6,000 for Yakusko’s efforts. If you would like to support her volunteerism, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or Venmo funds directly to her at “@Nataliia-Yakushko.” According to Gras, Yakushko has the department’s complete support.
“Nataliia has been a central facet of the faculty’s conversations since we learned of her endeavors to support her fellow Ukrainians,” he says. “We are all so proud and truly in awe of all that she has been able to accomplish on the other side of the world while remaining a full-time, highly productive doctoral student. We are happy that we have an opportunity to get involved in the Ukrainian crisis through Nataliia, and we fully support all that she is doing for Ukraine.”
Others may see Yakushko’s humanitarian work as noble; she sees it as a calling to help her homeland.
“People are fighting and dying for my country,” she says. “UT students are called ‘Volunteers’ for a reason, and I am trying to do my part as a Volunteer.”
Scott McNutt, business writer/publicist, email@example.com