Polish Humanitarian Action staff and volunteers assist Ukrainian refugees at a border corssing in Poland.

Carlson School alum leading aid effort for Ukrainian refugees in Poland

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Dorota Serafin
Dorota Serafin, '06 WEMBA and former managing director of WEMBA program

With the Russian invasion ongoing in Ukraine, more than 2 million refugees have fled for border countries, including 1.2 million to Poland, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

It’s there where Dorota Serafin, ‘06 WEMBA, is leading the team at Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH) to provide critical humanitarian aid in both countries.

People provide aid for Ukrainian refugees at Polish border
People prepare items to distribute to Ukrainian refugees at the Polish border.

"On [March 4], our load of food kits and hygiene kits made it safely to Lviv [Ukraine] and is being distributed to central and western Ukraine,” says Serafin, PAH’s executive director, via email from her office in Warsaw. “This is a weekly supply for 2,000 people only, including infants, and older children, but the humanitarian channels are still being created, so it is a good start.”

Serafin and her team at PAH, who have been working in Ukraine for eight years, are planning for “many, many more” kits to be sent. They are taking donations on their website as well as working with organizations, such as the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, to raise funds to support their work. 

In addition to the kits, volunteers are distributing food, hot drinks, hygiene items, diapers, blankets, transport information, and more to thousands of people at border crossings in Dorohusk, Hrebenne and Zosin, including small children and teenagers who are stressed, frightened, hungry, and cold. Serafin says PAH’s focus is on four outcomes:

  • Enhanced ability of highly vulnerable, conflict-affected population to meet their basic food needs;
  • Improved access to safe water, dignified hygiene conditions, and minimal levels of sanitation provision for conflict-affected population;
  • Increased access of conflict-affected men and women to shelter/non-food items; and 
  • Improved psychosocial well-being of conflict-affected population.

“With so many friends and colleagues in the regional offices in Ukraine, this is very personal to me,” explains Serafin, who is a graduate and former managing director of the Carlson School’s joint executive MBA program with the Warsaw School of Economics. “However, I feel lucky to have PAH as my place of work at times like this. I genuinely can make a difference and help. The Poles are opening their hearts and wallets; we are also receiving loads of American help.” 

That includes private and business donations from Americans and U.S.-based companies operating in Poland as well as institutional donors, such as the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund in the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and others.

PAH is celebrating its 30th anniversary in December. Their efforts now continue building on the public’s trust in the commitment to serving those in need. Throughout her career, and especially now, Serafin has embraced using business as a force for good. “We also seem to be living in a world where being a decent human being, a good person makes a big impact.”

Media coverage of Serafin's efforts included reports by KARE 11 and FOX 9.