“Inspired, in shape, in service to humanity.” The World Dance for Humanity (WD4H) motto aptly describes the Santa Barbara nonprofit’s immediate call to action to assist the people of Ukraine, who have faced attacks and atrocities at the hands of Russia’s Vladimir Putin for more than two weeks, with no end in sight.
World Dance classes and charitable endeavors are usually focused on the 28 rural cooperatives it supports in Rwanda, but the nonprofit has pivoted temporarily in response to the crisis in Ukraine.
“The violent invasion of Ukraine is a nightmare beyond comprehension — horrifying, inhumane and heartbreaking — requiring our undivided attention and immediate help,” said Janet Reineck, WD4H executive director.
“World Dance classes are about sharing our common humanity and deepening a connection to and compassion for people in peril. Since day one of the invasion, we have been dancing to all Ukrainian music in all of our classes in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, bringing body, mind, spirit into a unified focus and intention.”
All World Dance class proceeds and designated donations are going to Ukraine. This first round is through the Ukrainian Church in Goleta, which is sending funds directly to sister churches in Ukraine to help the people most in need.
“I’ve been thinking of Ukraine, wondering how this could be happening. How do we humans come to treat each other with such cruelty?” said longtime World Dancer Juanita Johnson.
For her, honoring the Ukrainian people with music and dance helps Johnson cope with the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that many are experiencing.
“The simple act of dancing for the people of Ukraine lifts us all to the higher place where community, hope and compassion have power beyond our understanding,” she said. “As someone wrote on the Berlin wall in 1990, ‘Many small people, who in many small places do many small things, can alter the face of the world.’”
Tatyana Taruta, a Ukrainian who lives part-time in Santa Barbara, was a former advisor to Ukraine’s environmental minister and now manages several businesses there. She is from Mariupol, one of the cities hardest hit by Russian forces.
“All of my closest friends and family are there, being held hostage by Russian troops for almost 10 days now,” she said. “They do not have water, food, electricity. There is no medical help, no humanitarian aid can be delivered into the city.
“Thirteen hundred civilians in Mariupol have been killed within the last 14 days, including women. Russia does not let anybody leave the city or enter the city. I want to share with you the video about my hometown, so you can see how beautiful Mariupol was and what horrific things Putin is doing to it now.”
To see the video, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ce-HeBVZwZg&list=PLB7K4QajeAjfQcsk3v-mapEJbnn00XnI8&index=5.
“Putin is destroying Ukrainian cities and there is no end in sight,” said Christo Artusio, Tatyana’s husband. He has worked at the State Department, negotiated at the Paris Climate Talks, and was managing biotech and environmental projects in Ukraine up until the invasion.
“A million Ukrainian civilians could die in the next week. But our tendency in America is not to get involved in things that seem distant,” he said. “That’s what happened in World War II. It took so long for Americans to grasp the larger implications of what Hitler was doing.
“Putin’s ambition isn’t limited to Ukraine. He is trying to rebuild the Russian Empire, and tyrants with territorial ambitions around the world are watching to see how we respond.
“President Biden showed strength cutting off oil and gas, the revenue from which goes straight to the Russian military — knowing what higher prices mean to Americans. And America and NATO allies are providing defensive weapons.
“But what we are providing is like offering a knife for a gunfight — with what we have given them, the Ukrainians can’t shoot down the cruise missiles or bombers the Russians are using to kill thousands of civilians,” Christo Artusio said.
“It’s hard for people to understand how important freedom and democracy are if they’ve been swimming in it their whole lives. It’s like fish who don’t understand how important being in water is … until there’s no more water. Then you understand, and you empathize more deeply, and are willing to pay $5.50 at the pump or send money and get involved.”
For now, what World Dance for Humanity can do for Ukraine is raise awareness and funds. Since its inception in 2010, the organization has earned the trust of its donors by showing them how their contributions have changed lives.
World Dancer Theresa Yinger said: “I have a friend who wanted to send money to help the people of Ukraine, making sure that it went to those who were most in need. She had pen in hand and a blank check but needed direction. I recommended that she donate through WD4H. I said they know how to get resources to those most in need; that’s what they’ve been doing in Rwanda for a decade.”
Donor Regina Feiner said: “I was debating on which organization to donate to for Ukraine. When I saw WD4H was raising funds, it was a no-brainer where to give.”
To donate through World Dance for Humanity, visit https://worlddanceforhumanity.org/donate/.