Please meet ISP Parent, Kimberly Bianchini, founder of AMITY, a non-profit organization established last March to provide housing and support for Ukrainian refugees during the crisis. Kim is a mother of five children, all ISP students or graduates (Ronnie Class of ‘18, Christoph Class of ‘22, Stella in Grade 11, Julian in Grade 10, and Sophie in Grade 5).
Kim is a passionate human rights activist who leads from the heart and exemplifies the ISP mission of being a compassionate changemaker.
As you read Kim’s inspiring story please also consider making a donation to AMITY to support the many Ukrainian families still in need this winter.
Let’s jump right into AMITY. Can you tell us more about how this incredible non-profit came to be, and where you are with it now?
Establishing AMITY wasn’t really a constructed decision, but more of spontaneous support my husband and I provided to a few families. Initially, I didn’t have a plan to start a non-profit. I am a registered nurse in the US. When the conflict began, and Ukrainian refugees started arriving in Prague, I volunteered at the train station anticipating that there would be medical needs I could help with. However, that wasn’t really the case so I began researching other ways I could help.
My husband and I have a real estate company here in Prague, and when I began hearing about families needing places to live, we decided to offer our vacant flats and secure other flats through our contacts in the real estate market. The need for flats and housing grew exponentially, so I decided to establish AMITY as a non-profit organization to expand our capacity to help more families in need.
Currently, AMITY is supporting 31 Ukrainian families in need – just over 100 women and children – in 29 flats in Prague.
Many people wanted to help last year when the war started. What inspired you to take the leap from volunteering on the weekends to starting your own non-profit?
I’m the type of person that lives by following my heart. Sometimes I should use my head a little bit more! However, I saw that there was a huge need and that I was in a position where I could help. So I jumped right in and did what felt right at the time.
I didn’t know exactly what it all entailed, but I figured I could handle it being a mom of five – what could be more difficult than that?!
What is your goal with AMITY?
Originally, I thought AMITY would just help with housing, but I soon realized that just helping someone find an apartment wasn’t necessarily going to help them become self-sufficient in a new country, and that’s really the goal of our organization.
We want to provide the families we help with the tools they need to become an active part of the community and give back to the local community that’s already given them so much.
Our mission is much broader than just housing. These women needed employment and their children needed to enroll in school. They also needed food and medical assistance, as well as emotional support as they acclimated to a new environment under difficult circumstances.
So AMITY grew quickly into a team of 14 people. Friends and colleagues graciously offered their time and came on board to help support these families. Together as a team, we each cover different areas helping to support our families in all aspects of their daily lives.
I am happy to see the acclimation and growth of the families we help – they have come so far since they arrived. Currently, all of the women are employed and contributing toward their rents, and all of the children are attending local schools.
Every month or so, we organize social events with the families to help them connect with each other and build community. At ISP, there is an Upper School Community Service Club that supports AMITY and those ISP students help at these events by providing activities for the children. They also help with fundraising and collect needed items for the families, such as clothing.
What is your vision for AMITY moving forward?
Well, in the beginning, no one knew how long the war would last, but it’s clear now that it’s going to be longer than we all expected. My current goal is to help these families with housing and all-around support until the one-year mark, so six more months of assistance.
While all the families are now contributing towards their rent, we still have a long way to go to cover all of the costs required, especially with rising electric bills expected this winter.
As for the long-term future of AMITY after this crisis is over, I would like our organization to offer help to local women and children in our community that are in need. Using the structure that we have in place, I feel we can support women who have found themselves in difficult situations for various reasons and need support to rebuild their lives and take care of their children.
What can the ISP community do to support AMITY?
I want to first thank the ISP community for all of the donations last school year – for the clothing drive in the spring and also for the material items and monetary donations. We could not have set up these apartments without the donations of our ISP families. We even had an ISP family graciously offer their support through their private medical company, Concierge Medical. Initially, some families experienced problems registering with local doctors and pediatricians. Concierge Medical offered to work alongside our families and helped us to bridge this incredibly important gap. It is amazing how supportive the community has been. The Ukrainian families are so grateful and so are all of us at AMITY.
For now, there are two ways people can help, again with our focus being on the next six months:
- First, the ISP Upper School Community Service Club will be organizing another clothing drive for winter. ISP families can choose a child and fill a box with gently used clothing, new clothing, or even gift certificates so that parents can purchase warm clothing for their children for the winter. It will be a wonderful way to give this holiday season and support our children at AMITY.
- Second, we need to financially support these families to get through the winter. Currently, we need help covering a portion of 17 of the 31 families’ rents and utilities for the next six months. This is really the area of greatest need. If our ISP families would consider making a financial donation towards rent for a Ukrainian family, we would be extremely grateful. We need to raise a total of 225,000 czk a month, for the next 6 months, to sustain our families in their homes until the end of March. Please scan the QR code to make a donation, email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.amity.ngo and click on DONATE.
Or please use the following Beneficiary account number to make your donation: 1480453002/2700 (Paycode for Nadacni fond Amity).
This is really the area of greatest need. If our ISP families would consider making a financial donation towards rent for a Ukrainian family, we would be extremely grateful.
How has your life changed since starting Amity?
Before Amity, I was not working as much as I am now, and the work I was doing was not nearly as rewarding and fulfilling. My kids were used to me picking them up every day from school and having me around a lot more. In the beginning, when I was setting up the organization, I was working close to 20 hours a day. That was a big change for my family! And in the beginning, they pushed back, but then they started to realize that what I was doing was making an impact. They felt proud of me and wanted to start getting involved themselves.
That’s when Stella, my daughter in 11th grade, offered to help promote the organization with her friends through their Community Service Club. They are doing an amazing job!
Since founding AMITY I feel like my work has a real purpose.
You are an incredible role model for your children and a living example of the ISP mission of being a ‘changemaker’. How does that feel?
I don’t know if I consider myself a ‘changemaker’… I just wanted to help these families, that’s the bottom line. I’m pretty strong-willed when I wholeheartedly believe in something and I don’t take ‘no’ for an answer easily, especially when it comes to someone’s human rights. That’s what I’m trying to teach my children. I know it can be hard sometimes, but I encourage them to be leaders and stand up for people who need our support. Others will follow you.
I feel really grateful for the life I have and lucky to be where I am today. I don’t know if that’s change-making – I just needed to take action and knew I could make a difference.