Meet The CEO of Sunflower Relief: A Company Supporting Civilians Suffering The Humanitarian Crisis In Ukraine

We chatted to Irra Ariella Khi, CEO to hear more about the company and how it’s Ukrainians on the ground…

Tell us about Sunflower Relief

Sunflower Relief is a grassroots not-for-profit social enterprise endorsed by the office of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, working with Ukrainian NGOs and the national health and digital ministries. It is a 100% civilian humanitarian relief organisation that maximises the efficiency of emergency resource delivery to Ukraine. We match foreign aid and support with the exact needs of people on the ground.

Sunflower Relief has worked non-stop for the last three months. The team has grown, now comprising over 220 full- and part-time volunteers in Ukraine, London, and across Europe, dedicating over 50,000 volunteer hours to date. Most balance volunteering with bill-paying day jobs and family commitments.


What makes Sunflower Relief unique?

It’s clear that many local relief strategies face severe linguistic and logistical limitations – we address these by flipping the aid model on its head and transforming delivery of humanitarian relief to the refugees inside Ukraine. This includes Eastern Ukraine, which is often cut off from aid delivered to the West due to lack of infrastructure and danger travelling to these regions.

We start at the end and work backwards: we source, identify, and verify high integrity organisations and recipients in Ukraine then match them – and their precise needs – with foreign aid looking for a way in. We have developed robust (yet very quick) verification procedures (people need aid now), reduced border hold ups, and created a huge on-the-ground network.

Citizens in Ukraine can contact Sunflower directly via social media or messaging apps to highlight aid they need. We source these and arrange delivery. We have created unrivalled efficiency by matching the support delivered to a region to the exact needs of the people there.

The linguistic skills of our operational team and volunteers set us apart from other organisations. I speak Ukrainian, Polish and Russian, as do many of our team. We have broken down communication barriers to expedite border crossings and create a strong logistical network on the ground.

Without any prior humanitarian relief experience, we have matched over £1,250,000 to NGOs – helping over 130,000 people trapped in Ukraine.


How does Sunflower raise awareness of events in Ukraine?

We work resolutely to extend the reach of Sunflower, raising both money and awareness. We extract information from areas too dangerous for journalists to access.

We have built a digital library of first-hand accounts from adults and children on the ground in Ukraine. This is available for journalists to use in exchange for support for Sunflower’s work.

What can we hope to see from Sunflower Relief in the future?

No one knows how long the war in Ukraine will last. Civilians remaining in the country need ongoing support to prevent worsening of the humanitarian crisis already unfolding there.

Our work doesn’t end when the fighting stops; large areas of Ukraine have been destroyed by Russian artillery and need rebuilding. Phase 1 is emergency aid, phase 2 rebuilding the country. We will be here supporting Ukraine until the very last brick is laid.