Charitable Choices: Taisa Mysakowec of Help Us Help

Taisa Mysakowec, Senior Program Manager at Help Us Help, shares insights into the organization’s impactful work in Ukraine. From her early experiences volunteering to her current role, Mysakowec discusses the mission of Help Us Help, which is dedicated to supporting Ukraine’s disadvantaged children and conflict-affected veterans. Reflecting on the organization’s evolution since its inception in 1993, she highlights the transformative power of programs like annual summer camps and scholarship initiatives.

Help Us Help

Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.

Growing up, I was immersed in programs facilitated by volunteers and non-profits, which significantly influenced my values and identity. This upbringing instilled in me a deep commitment to giving back, leading me to volunteer extensively and share the gift of service with others. I’ve contributed to various children’s camps in Ontario, served as a scout leader and counsellor at Plast Canada, and engaged in other impactful programs that shaped my journey and inspired me to continue the cycle of giving.

What problem does it aim to solve?

Help Us Help is dedicated to equipping Ukraine’s disadvantaged children and conflict-affected veterans with the tools, training, and resources they need to thrive and integrate fully into society.

When did you start/join it?

Although Help Us Help was established in 1993, my journey with the organization began during high school, where I volunteered in support roles at events and local initiatives and fundraisers. It was in 2018, during my first summer camp experience with the charity at their Annual camps for orphan children, that I truly connected with its mission and impact on the lives of vulnerable populations in Ukraine. Since then, I’ve been involved in multiple camps and projects, including two summer terms employed at the charity through Canada Summer Jobs during my undergraduate studies. My dedication to the mission of Help Us Help led me to join the team full-time as a Senior Program Manager in October 2023.

What made you want to get involved?

Growing up within the vibrant Ukrainian-Canadian community of Toronto, volunteerism has always been a fundamental value for me, starting from the young age of 14. The unique opportunity presented by Help Us Help’s Summer Camp, combining my passion for working with children, connecting with diverse communities, and contributing meaningfully to Ukraine’s development, resonated deeply with me.

What was the situation like when you started?

When I initially joined, the organization was in the midst of a significant transition, moving from a family foundation to a non-profit entity. This transformation was catalyzed by a generous endowment aimed at professionalizing the organizational structure and broadening its impact

How has it changed since?

Help Us Help was born out of a deeply personal experience when founder Ruslana Wrzesnewskyj and her husband adopted a child from Ukraine and witnessed the dire conditions in orphanages. Their initial response, organizing a grassroots relief effort from their garage, has evolved into a robust organization celebrating its 30-year anniversary this year. Over the decades, Help Us Help has grown into a vital entity, touching the lives of hundreds of individuals and families annually through diverse programs in Ukraine. These include two annual camps for orphaned children, a Scholarship program, rehabilitation initiatives for Veterans and their Families, and ongoing support tailored to the evolving needs of communities in Ukraine. You can explore our journey through the years on our website’s timeline: Help Us Help Timeline.

What more needs to be done?

Given the evolving situation in Ukraine, there is a pressing need to continue and expand our support for the country and its people. While Help Us Help has made significant strides in the past, there is still much more that needs to be done. The ongoing conflict, coupled with socio-economic challenges, underscores the importance of sustained assistance and intervention.

As Ukraine navigates through these challenging times, it is crucial to enhance our programs and initiatives to meet the evolving needs of vulnerable populations, especially orphaned children, veterans, and their families. This includes bolstering our camps, scholarship programs, and rehabilitation efforts to ensure comprehensive support and empowerment.

Furthermore, with the anniversary marking three decades of our organization’s impact, we are inspired to redouble our efforts and expand our reach. We must leverage partnerships, advocacy, and innovative solutions to address emerging challenges and create lasting positive change.

In essence, as we celebrate our progress, we recognize that the journey ahead requires continued dedication, resources, and collaboration. Supporting Ukraine and its people is not just a mission; it is an urgent imperative, especially in these critical times.

Help Us Help

How can our readers help?

There are several meaningful ways readers can help support Ukraine and its people, even from abroad:

– Stay Informed and Share Information: One of the simplest yet powerful ways to contribute is by staying informed about the situation in Ukraine and sharing accurate information with others. Amplifying voices and stories from Ukraine helps keep attention focused on the ongoing challenges and the resilience of its people.

– Support Charities on the Ground and Abroad: There are numerous reputable charities and organizations both within Ukraine and abroad that are actively providing assistance and support to those affected by the conflict. Consider donating to these organizations or volunteering your time and skills to contribute directly to their efforts.

– Raise Awareness: Use your platforms and networks to raise awareness about the situation in Ukraine. Share news articles, personal stories, and calls to action on social media, in your community, and among your circles of influence. Spreading awareness helps mobilize support and solidarity for Ukraine and its most vulnerable populations.

– Advocate for Ukraine: Advocate for policies and actions that support Ukraine’s sovereignty, peace, and prosperity. Engage with your elected representatives, participate in advocacy campaigns, and support initiatives that promote dialogue, diplomacy, and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine.

– Stay Engaged: It’s crucial not to let attention dissipate from Ukraine. Stay engaged with developments, participate in discussions, and continue to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Every act of support, no matter how small, contributes to a collective effort to make a positive difference.

Do you have any events coming up?

We have two summer programs in Ukraine coming up:

Annual Summer Camp:

This July 28 – August 12, 2024 in Western Ukraine, Help Us Help will be welcoming 160 orphan children from across Ukraine to participate in a two-week summer camp. These camps provide life skills training, psychological rehabilitation, and a fun and safe space for children to grow and experience the joys of summer camp. Join us in making a difference! Your donation to Help Us Help Summer Camp can transform the lives of orphaned children and those affected by conflict in Ukraine. By providing financial support, you contribute directly to their well-being, education, and future prospects.

Code For Ukraine Pilot Project:

Help Us Help in partnership with Code.X is launching a one-year coding program for children in Ukraine aged 14-15 aimed at providing life-changing technical education and personal skills development to Ukraine’s war-affected youth. The program focuses on empowering these young individuals with the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in the digital age, preparing them for future career opportunities and enabling them to become agents of change within their communities.

Other Events:

– Bloor West Village Ukrainian Festival (September 2024)

– 30th Anniversary Gala (November 2024)

– Follow us on social media and subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date on our projects and upcoming events!

Where can we follow you?

Website | Instagram | Facebook

PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?

Saint Javelin! Saint Javelin is a social enterprise created by Christian Borys, a Canadian who worked as a journalist in Ukraine from 2014-2019. It all started as a one-person effort to raise $500 to support Ukraine ahead of the looming full-scale invasion in February 2022.


About Emilea Semancik 100 Articles
Emilea Semancik was born in North Vancouver. Emilea has always always wanted to freelance her own pieces and currently writes for the Vancouver Guardian. She is also a recipe author working towards publishing her own series of recipe books. You can find her recipes on Instagram. @ancestral.foods