From Volunteer to NGO Founder
December 18, 2022
“This is a real drama, a lot of real pain. I am aware of the situation by talking to displaced people and refugees. We work closely with people in Ukraine. We love them a lot, appreciate and support them as much as we can. This is the reason I am here,” -Hayley Smith
- Thanks to reporting by Sergey Panashchuk, Manifest Mira presents this special feature regarding the Executive Director of one of our wonderful partners, Lifting Hands International -
It All Started In Greece
Hayley Smith, 39, a founding director of Lifting Hands International, a charity organization, who has been doing charity work across the whole world since 2016 after witnessing what problems refugees face in a Syrian camp in Greece, shared her experience helping Ukraine.
US citizen Hayley Smith has been doing charity work since 2016 after witnessing what problems refugees face in a Syrian camp in Greece.
“Their conditions were extremely bad. Because I spoke Arabic I had lots of people coming up to me and saying “we need socks, we need underwear. During the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe, we also helped refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and the war-torn countries in Africa,” she said.
Today Lifting Hands has two community centers in Greece while operating two refugee camps with about 1,500 people.
“We arranged women’s space, children’s space, language classes, an art and recreation program, and some aid distribution in the camps. From 2017 until now we have distributed 1,300 goats to hundreds of families so they could feed their children
“I did not have a particular career in mind and just wanted to explore the world and enjoy my life.” Hayley said.
After receiving a school education in her hometown El Paso, Texas, she studied in London and graduated in English literature. Her master’s degree was in Middle East study.
“When I was in London I took advantage of cheap travel across Europe and traveled a lot. Then I moved to Egypt and lived in Cairo for a while. I speak Arabic and I have a lot of experience living in the Middle East. I love Arabic culture, people, and language,” she said.
Smith and Lifting Hands in Ukraine
“I take the situation in Ukraine very seriously. I spoke to a lot of people here and saw their pain. I want them to know that I share their pain and we do as much as we can to support them,” said Hayley.
When Russia started full-scale war, she connected with a number of Ukrainian volunteers and charity organizations. Using their assistance, she started to distribute aid within the war-torn country.
Hayley said: “We connected with a network of organizations in Ukraine and started helping to fund them. The organizations demonstrated incredible work, regarding the tough circumstances.”
During her visits to Ukraine, Hayley met Ukrainian war migrants who had lost their homes and usual lives after the Russian troops had rapidly advanced deep into the country, destroying whole cities and infrastructure.
“This is a real drama, a lot of real pain. I am aware of the situation by talking to displaced people and refugees. We work closely with people in Ukraine. We love them a lot, appreciate and support them as much as we can. This is the reason I am here,” said Hayley.
One of those Ukrainian groups that Lifting Hands supports is Manifest Mira. Based in Odesa. Manifest Mira delivers food and other aid to families in hard to reach places within the Odesa region. Many people who escaped Russian occupation have relocated to other regions, like Odesa. Lifting Hands also supports other groups located in Krivyi Rih, as well as helped to organize a shelter for migrant families in Lviv.
“We contribute so that organizations and volunteers, who drive east to deliver aid, could be empowered and do what they do best,” she added.
Manifest Mira thanks Lifting Hands International for their ongoing financial support of our work. As well as their support for the people of Ukraine.