Last week I was at the Forbes 30/50 Women’s Summit with the First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska. Throughout the week I had the great privilege to spend time with her and to hear her speak about the impact of a year of war on her country and her people, and while doing so I was overcome with emotion. Just over a year ago—only a few weeks after Russian troops began the largest assault in Europe since World War II—I visited the Polish-Ukrainian border and experienced the daily arrival of refugees, and the extraordinary response already underway.
While over the course of the war the world has witnessed countless atrocities, we’ve also seen the best of people and communities. In opposition to the unjustified Russian attack, the Ukrainian people have demonstrated the best of the human spirit, and they continue to meet the ongoing offensive with astonishing bravery and fortitude. President and First Lady Zelenska’s bravery, compassion, and leadership have also galvanized a global network of support, inspiring governments, NGOs, the private sector, and individuals everywhere to rally around the people of Ukraine.
During my visit to the region a year ago, I saw that refugees were being met by a network of people dedicated to helping—making resources available, offering food, clothing, and safe places to stay. Cisconians in Poland quickly opened their arms—and in some cases their homes—to colleagues from Ukraine, and our people all over the globe responded with financial support and volunteered time to relief efforts.
The dedication and generosity I witnessed during that visit and in the weeks following hasn’t waned over the course of the year. We have mobilized technology support for government entities and critical infrastructure in Ukraine and Poland totaling approximately US $15M and will continue to do so as the war continues. Through the Cisco Foundation and matching funds donated by our employees, we have provided approximately US $8M in cash grants to NGOs such as UNHCR, UN World Food Programme, and International Rescue Committee, Norwegian Refugee Council, and Vispala. Cisco’s Crisis Response teams, supported by 50 employee volunteers, have been working to complete 29 installations of critical technology in 6 countries in the region. And through Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration program’s Medibuses, we have been able to offer medical services to approximately 6500 refugees in three cities across Germany.
Building in-demand digital skills
The war has also shown us that we are more interconnected and interdependent than ever before, and the social and economic shocks continue to reverberate everywhere. Those displaced and impacted by violence need support to stabilize, build, and rebuild their lives, and our actions have been focused on offering skills and tools to foster new educational and job opportunities as people find their footing in new homes. Through our Networking Academies, we are offering programs designed to support Ukrainian refugees. The Start IT.Cisco4Ukraine program is a partnership with Cisco Networking Academy and the University of IT and Management in Rzeszow focused on supporting Ukrainian refugees in building in-demand digital skills. More than 750 learners have already benefited from the pilot program.
Cisco’s technology has always been focused on connection, and the war has only highlighted the tremendous power that connectivity holds—for personal connection, education, job opportunities, and as critical infrastructure. As we look ahead, we will find new ways to support the resilience of the Ukrainian people and all impacted communities. At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Cisco leaders met with Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine and Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, Mykhailo Fedorov, to commit to launching our Country Digital Acceleration program in Ukraine as a first step.
As we look back over the past year and its profound impacts, we are heartened by the strength of the Ukrainian people and their fight for their liberation. We are heartened by the cooperation between public and private sectors, and the NGOs working tirelessly on the ground. We at Cisco continue to stand as part of this network, and we have hope. We hope for the swift end to this war, and we hope for a future in which the people of Ukraine have the freedom to decide their own destiny, individually and collectively.
As First Lady Zelenska recently shared, “Today we are not commemorating a year of war, but we are celebrating a year of resistance to aggression, a year of courage, a year of mutual assistance and rescue of each other, a year of humanity, and a year of friendship.”
Learn more about the people behind Talos’ efforts to protect Ukrainian
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