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For Volunteer Day, we are telling the stories of the people who are part of Brightgrove and what they are doing to change Ukraine and its future for the better.
December 7, 2023

Today, we are continuing to tell you about the Brights and their volunteering, because one day is not enough to show everything our people do. 

The protagonist of this article, as he himself says, is doing his work thanks to all of us. This is Serhii Meleshko, who, together with Yevhen Gubanov, is in charge of our Bright Volunteers foundation. 

Serhii Meleshko, Product Manager 

I returned to Kharkiv in April 2022 and started volunteering after that, around May. At that time, our COO Yevhen Gubanov needed to take the drones he had purchased on behalf of Brightgrove to Dnipro. Yevhen and I cooperated, and it started to gain momentum. It was then that I understood I could be useful even if I could not do military service. 

When you realize that there is a difference when we all do something together and help, it makes a big difference. It just turned everything upside down in my head. All those material possessions and everything I used to save up for were nonsense.  

When I left Kharkiv, I understood that life can end instantly. And then you think, for example, what do you need that car for? It's just a vehicle. I'm from Saltovka, so I know many people who lost everything.  

In the early summer of 2022, I had an appointment with a doctor. I saw that he had arrived in a military vehicle, and that's how I found out that he works at a military hospital in Nova Vodolaha. There are many soldiers undergoing treatment there, so we started to help them.  

Later, we went there every month, regardless of whether there was a fundraiser for this. For example, for the money we collected together with other Brights, we bought a vacuum system for wound therapy and consumables for it, as well as many other things that helped in the treatment of the guys and made the work of medical workers easier. Sometimes, the hospital tells us that we have already helped so much that they are uncomfortable receiving anything from us.  

Now, of course, it has become difficult to collect money because everyone has people to send money to directly—friends and relatives. That's why we do fundraisers only in extreme cases. First of all, we can deny ourselves something and use these 5, 10, and 20 thousand for all the urgent needs of the defenders because they are essential.  

Later, Yevgen started delivering cars for the military, in addition to drones and other things, and he got me involved. At first, we picked up the cars ourselves from Kyiv and delivered them to the guys in Kramatorsk. Later, volunteers came to help us bring the vehicles to Kharkiv, and from there, we took them to the frontline together.  

Now, it is not entirely clear how we will bring the vehicles after the new year due to changes in legislation. So far, we have managed to purchase several cars in advance, which is very convenient because sometimes we get a request from the military, and we already have a vehicle under repair.  

We had a situation when we spent more than a month repairing a car, and the guys had only three days to use it before they came under fire. Everyone remained alive, and that's great, so you realize that even in this case, the vehicle did its job.  

Sometimes you see different situations and want to give up because there are so many obstacles in your way. You also see people who gradually become indifferent. But you understand that if everyone stops doing something, then what is the point of so many people dying and becoming severely injured? During each counteroffensive, during each battle, how many of our people died, and how many were injured?  

And I, for example, saw everything in Kharkiv with my own eyes—shellings, artillery fire. Now, when everything has been pushed back and Kupyansk is being destroyed, everything seems to be fine here. That's why it's very difficult now. But not everyone understands the price of this. After that, you try to help even more, although it's getting harder and harder because you run out of money.  

For me, volunteering has become a habit. For my part, I realized that I would do my best and would not allow the russians to do what they want on our land. The thought of this just eats away at me every time. That's why we need to constantly support our defenders and remember that they risk their lives to save ours.  

And we continue to do so. We have many people in Bright who do this on a regular basis. We all understand that everyone has their own life, and you can't always ask for help. It's understandable—it's very hard to live only for this, you have to breathe out somehow, plan something.  

I was actually pleasantly surprised by how many people responded in our chat. Everything we do, I think, is our common cause. I am just here and now, and I have a desire to do it directly. If no one helped us, we could have done 20-30 times less, so it's all a team effort.  

We already have plans for what we will do when everything is over. In general, now I really regret that I didn't start volunteering back in 2014, because the war didn't affect us directly then. Only now you realize what a fool you were not to understand the scale of it all. It's very hard, but everyone has the right to redeem themselves, and to do it with dignity, for a better life for everyone.  

Volunteering becomes your calling. You can't do it without it, you try to help as much as possible. You think much less about yourself. Of course, you have to live, but that's what we're all about—to ensure that everyone has a free, high-quality life.  

We already have several specific areas of work. These include helping the military, hospitals, and children from de-occupied Balakliya. Every month we set aside time for planning and try to pay attention to everyone with the help of our families, friends and Brights. 

When we first came to Balakliya, it was tough because we saw not just children who had survived the occupation but their fears and the consequences of all this.  

First, the pandemic stole two years of their lives, and then the russian invasion. These are years of life that cannot be returned. Psychologists and therapists from UNICEF worked with them. It was very nice because, thanks to this, the children gradually returned to normal life and had fun together. The same cannot be said about their parents, with whom it was very difficult to communicate because many of them had experienced horrible things.  

When we visit the children, they generally see us as some kind of magical dudes. With toys, candy, and other godies. Once, they invited Yevgen and me to dance, and we danced with them for twenty minutes to TikTok songs.  

And it was so cool, I just got away from reality for a moment. And it seemed everything was fine; I had no problems at all. And then the children hug you and ask if you'll come back. Because they remember you, they are waiting for you. So every time you leave, you feel like you've known these kids for five years.  

Every time, there is a negative side. For example, I was in Balakliya about a month ago, in a part of the town that was more impacted by the fighting and occupation. There is still burnt military equipment and places where our guys died there. And there are no words because when you see this and hear what people have been through, you realize you had no problems. It is important to be able to listen to people and support them. 

There is a separate situation with our defenders. The first time Yevgen took me to see the guys, I felt awkward, couldn't look them in the eye. One of the soldiers came up and called me. I said, "I'm ashamed that you guys are doing such an unimaginable job, and I'm not. They told me that I have another superpower and I am also doing a great job. 

The main thing is not to forget about the military, and they will be very grateful for it. The guys said they see us visiting and helping them all the time, which is important. We constantly see both people we already know and new guys who thank us. After that, I feel a little bit relieved about the question of whether I am doing something useful.  

In general, there is a lot to tell, but it has just become a part of life for me. And I think it's the same for everyone. Because every knowledgeable person understands that if you don't serve, you can donate or help locally in some way. There is a role for everyone; everyone can do something.  

When it gets difficult for me, the best thing for me is to be surrounded by close people. I am a very sociable person, so when there are some issues that I cannot resolve, I turn to my friends and my wife. She is always very supportive of me, but of course, she is also very concerned. The worst was when the fighting near Kharkiv was still in a more active phase, and we were constantly visiting the guys. She was very worried about us but supported me and my choice.  

People who actually volunteer are also very inspiring. For example, Yevgen—when I look at him, all my hesitations go away, because I see how much he sacrifices: money, time, even the time of his family. And it's not just him; there are many people like him.  

After that, I talk to myself, as strange as it may sound. I evaluate what I've already done and what else I can do. And in general, if you are sitting here in a warm house, fed, it is because someone is giving their life for you now. When you think about it like that every doubt disappears instantly.  

Over time, you become a bit of an influencer yourself, and a particular circle of people who constantly donate to you is formed. Even when it's hard, when there are financial problems, everyone still tries. It helps a lot because you realize you have someone to rely on. In general, it's very easy to quit. But how will you live with yourself afterward because you quit?  

This applies not only to individuals but also to companies. It happened that someone helped for free and then asked to pay because the conditions changed, and so on. Commerce is taking over, but people just don't understand how important this help is to others.  

Am I going to continue? Well, I am going to our hospital again this week because our help is always needed there. In addition to the injured soldiers, there are people with serious illnesses and cancer. And when we see doctors and nurses doing everything there, we just think: "Okay, how can we save more money this month to bring something here again?"  

And the patients, even the bedridden ones, say we should take pictures so people won't have any questions about where the money is going later. However, we want to avoid bothering them with this. We take photos only when it was in fact a fundraiser, and we need to make reports. 

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