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  • Writer's pictureDesign for Leisure

Sauna-Aid Brings Hope to Ukrainians this New Year

At this time of year, we at Design for Leisure like to show our gratitude for all the support the industry has given us during our 30+ years in operation. This year, we are proud to support the Sauna-Aid initiative in Ukraine.

Since February 2022, Sauna-Aid has been hard at work creating innovative solutions to help Ukrainian soldiers as well as refugees outside of the Ukraine find solace in sauna bathing. On a very small fundraise, the organization, which is a multicountry initiative sponsored by the International Sauna Association (ISA), has been able to deliver two moveable saunas to Kharkiv (in use 24/7 by Ukrainian soldiers) as well as set up initiatives in nearby Lithuania to help refugees visit local bathhouses.

“We want Ukrainians to have access to the familiar healing comfort of sauna, something they cherish,” said ISA president Risto Elomaa.

To learn more about Sauna-Aid, including how to donate time, funds, skills or equipment, see the full article below.

“There is No War in Sauna”

Sauna-Aid Brings Message of Hope, Peace and Shared Sense of Humanity to War-torn Ukraine

Global charity raises €20K in first year; Appeals to sauna lovers worldwide to help reach fundraising goal of €100K in 2023

Sauna-Aid brings the warmth and comfort of sauna to Ukraine and its refugees

The International Sauna Association (ISA), along with numerous national sauna associations, is calling on sauna lovers to support Sauna-Aid, a nonprofit focused on bringing the healing power of sauna to war-torn Ukraine and its fleeing refugees.

“We have a very simple message for our efforts in Ukraine: There is no war in sauna!” said ISA president Risto Elomaa. “Sauna is a social event that promotes peace and a shared sense of humanity in a healing atmosphere.”

To date, Sauna-Aid has raised approximately €20,000 thanks to generous donations from sauna lovers around the world. The organization urgently requires an additional €15,000 to cover basic equipment costs and delivery of a container sauna generously provided by Slovakia-based Pixxla Sauna and already in use in Kharkiv. To donate, visit

“Sauna bathing means different things to different cultures. In Ukraine, as with much of Eastern Europe, the sauna (aka banya or laznia) is not considered a luxury, instead, it’s an essential part of everyday life. It brings joy, healing and a sense of belonging,” said Mikkel Aaland, Sauna Aid volunteer and author/host, Perfect Sweat documentary. “What other human activity combines the physical, social and spiritual under one roof?”

Sauna-Aid Background

On February 24th, Russia invaded Ukraine, and, within a week, the Sauna-Aid initiative was up and running. Inspired by the actions of the Japanese Sauna Society, an ISA member, that provided a tent sauna to victims of the Fukushima tsunami and nuclear plant disaster, Sauna-Aid founders Aaland and Elomaa mobilized volunteers and, almost immediately, had partnered with Lithuanian bathhouses to facilitate refugee bathing sessions.

A mother who had recently fled Kyiv and was able to join a Sauna-Aid session at SPA Sauleja with her son expressed her gratitude: “The very atmosphere of the bathhouse is warmth - filled with aromas of the forest and heart-to-heart conversations. After all we had been through, it provided almost mystical rehabilitation. Thank you.”

Next up was delivering moveable saunas to serve Ukrainian soldiers remaining in the country, two of which are now in situated at a Kharkiv lakefront thanks to cooperation from the local government.

2023 Sauna-Aid Goals

The organization aims to raise €100,000 in 2023 to fund continued efforts in Ukraine and to lay the foundation for global action.

“Our intention is to take Sauna-Aid global, bringing the healing power of sauna wherever manmade or natural disaster strikes,” said Aaland. “And are working to build a fleet of saunas in standardized shipping containers that can be shipped all over the world, ready to use.”

Sauna-Aid is already collaborating with local and global NGOs to expand sauna deployment in Ukraine into schools and churches. The organization is also developing standards and blueprints for home-grown tent sauna manufacturing to speed up deployment wherever Sauna-Aid is needed in the world.

In addition, it is expanding its sauna trauma training program for bath attendants and planning to create and maintain a database of volunteer bath attendants and participating bathhouses ready to support Sauna-Aid’s efforts in the Ukraine and globally.

To learn more about how to donate, help raise funds, volunteer or offer materials, please visit

Sauna-Aid – USA and Rest of World

Mikkel Aaland

Sauna-Aid – Europe

Risto Elomaa


Sauna-Aid is a multicountry initiative, sponsored by the International Sauna Association (ISA) based in Helsinki, Finland, to provide movable sauna facilities and supportive services to people facing natural and man-made disasters. To donate money, go to: Follow Sauna-Aid on Facebook or Instagram.


The International Sauna Association (ISA) is a non-profit association of over 20 national sauna societies. The ISA was founded in 1958. Its goal is publicizing the sauna and promoting its use on a global scale by rallying supporters of sauna activities in different countries as well as promoting the scientific studies of the history, sociology, and medical benefits of the sauna.


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