Art boxes for Ukraine

The news that Russia had invaded Ukraine hit us hard. We were busy with a series of theatershows celebrating freedom in The Netherlands. We were programmed to play on liberation-festivals and such. Literally on the day that we received the equipment (lights and such) for that tour, we woke up with the news that Russia had attacked Ukraine. I knew I had to do something. I visited demonstrations and manifestations. The people inspired me to make art-boxes for young Ukrainians. So that they could draw and paint. To raise money I made bracelets which I sold on the street and unicycled sponsored tours. This is the story of the art boxes for Ukraine.

My mom is born in Charkiv and that was one of the first cities under attack. On live streams we saw missiles and bombs destroying the city-center, killing a lot of Ukrainian civilians and destroying my mom’s childhood-memories. The square on which she played guitar with her friends and the ice cream parlour that she use to visit with her grandmother were no more.

We protested in a lot of cities, like Amsterdam and The Hague. But also in my hometown Zwolle. The picture above is from a protest in Amsterdam.

Remember Belarus?

For us it was a redo of our protests during the Belarussian uprising that started 2 years earlier (2020). Belarus is a harsh dictatorship in the heart of Europe controlled by Putin. Hundreds of thousands Belarusians demonstrated for freedom for almost two years. Remember how the government responded to the peaceful protests in Belarus? The Putin way, with violence. Tenths of thousands were put in prison without trial. People were beat up, tortured, (sexually) abused and worse. Thousands were killed (maybe more).

A lot of young people fled the country when they risked being locked up. Can you imagine that? Leaving everything behind, like your family and friends. Just to escape being put in jail. Hoping that you once will be able to return … someday. Whenever?

One of those people is my best friend. I see her as my big sister and my fashion adviser, cat-spammer and my Mc Don … well, never mind. But formally she is my lovely, lovely aunt. I love her to the moon and back, and really like it that she now kind of lives nearby. But I do wish that she also can go back soon (don’t want her to go of course, but she should have the option).

Belarus, it’s almost from our radar … but people there still vanish. Let’s not forget about Belarus, it’s in the heart of Europe. If Putin has his way, he will make a second Belarus from Ukraine.


Back to the art boxes for Ukraine. The idea was to create a box full of paper, paint, pencils and so on and ship it to Ukraine. The box had to be full enough so that any person between 4 and 12 years old could have a lot of fun with it. But it had to be small enough so it could be taken with couriers to orphanages and refugee-centres in the east and south of Ukraine. I tried some boxes with a set of art-supplies and created a manageable standard.

In 2022 I put out an ad asking people to sponsor my first 20+ km unicycle ride. Lots of people responded and donated money for the achievement. Most were ordinary Dutch people. Hard working people. Mothers. Fathers. Pensioners. Even kids. It was heart warming. It ignited the art box project.

The art box

The first donation target was a Dutch emergency shelter. There were a lot of kids there, with a few mothers and some grandparents. There were no fathers, as they were fighting or dead. Besides art boxes I donated books (in Russian and English), toys and bicycles for kids. All those things were on a ‘urgently needed’ list.

When the emergency support was done, more focus could be put in getting the art boxes to Ukraine. That’s also a heavy task with volunteers driving trucks from The Netherlands to Kiev to bring aid literally to the stricken villages.

Those trucks are being filled with goods donated by numerous organisations. They organize events, sell cookies and (eg) Christmastrees to get money to buy blankets, coats, heaters and such. The art boxes tag along in those trucks.

Today’s batch of 27 art boxes went to Meppel helps Ukraine. We drove them there ourselves. A volunteer of ‘Meppel helps Ukraine’ picked them up and brought them to a distributioncenter in Kraggenburg. Tonight the art boxes will leave in a huge truck to Kiev. Once in Kiev they will be distributed to kids in emergency shelters in and around Kiev and Charkiv.

Cool right?

Want to help? 100% of all donations is converted into art boxes. Transactioncosts (etc) are sponsored. Donate here for Art Boxes.

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