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United Way Blog

Helping Ukrainian Refugees Rebuild

More than 6.4 million Ukrainians – mostly women and children – have fled their homeland since the Russian invasion started in February. United Way and its partners in Poland, Hungary, Romania and Germany are responding to urgent, immediate needs, and working to help evacuees rebuild their lives.

The women and children who’ve been displaced need so much: food, shelter, emotional support, health care, treatment of wounds, medicine, hygiene and sanitary supplies, COVID protections like masks and tests, support with documents and translation, and transportation.

“We are seeing a lot of pain, hurt and great trauma,” Adriana Dobrea, Executive Director of United Way Romania, told me. “We offer whatever they need, and we embrace them with love and support.”

For so many, protecting their children is the toughest struggle. As Kincső Adriány, CEO of United Way Hungary, shared with me, “the children are shocked at the beginning. These children will be hurt for the rest of their lives.”

Five-year-old Ania thinks the 1,000 miles she and her mom, Maria, travelled from Kyiv to Romania by train and bus was a holiday trip. At the border, her mom managed logistics for the trip’s final leg to a host family in Bucharest while Ania took part in children’s activities provided by United Way Romania. She drew, modeled play dough, had a snack and played make-believe with toys.  It’s not home, but it makes the trip more maneagable for both mother and child.

As the world’s largest privately funded charity, United Way has a presence in 37 countries and territories. We galvanize communities to tackle local problems with local solutions. But we don’t do it alone. Our partnerships, volunteers and donors are fueling the change we drive.

So far, United Way has mostly focused on responding to immediate needs of Ukrainian refugees. But as we do across the world during any disaster, we’re also mapping out longer-term recovery and how best to help refugees reimagine and rebuild their lives.

Thousands are expected to stay in Hungary, and will need support for housing, health care, education, language support, jobs, and social integration. United Way Romania is coordinating efforts to identify and underwrite interim support. That may include access to education and educational activities for Ukrainian children; or facilitating job training, coaching and placement for adults; or connecting families to health and mental health resources.

Our partner in Poland, Fundacja Dobrych Inicjatyw (Good Initiatives Foundation), is working with leaders across sectors to make intermediate- and long-term plans to help Ukrainians living in Poland build productive lives, and help their children thrive in the new environment.  Meanwhile, the foundation continues to send humanitarian aid to Ukraine, provide comprehensive support to the hundreds of children coming to orphanages in Poland because of the war, and technology support to Ukrainian students in Poland.

As of early May, 368,000 Ukrainian refugees have migrated to Germany. PHINEO/ United Way Germany has experience working with refugees as a result of a partnership with the German government during the Syrian crisis in 2015-16. The team has identified ways to address gaps in the German support system. Current plans include:

  • Founding a startup incubator, with a focus on Ukraine startups to support refugees.
  • Helping a self-help network of refugees from Ukraine who provide legal advice, housing and integration. PHINEO/ United Way Germany is supporting with human resources, project management and implementation.
  • Mobilizing private funds nationwide and scaling up successful initiatives through WE AID, by providing legal, administrative structure, and charitable status. For instance, Airbnb offers digital travel credits to PHINEO/ United Way Germany to be used by call center agents to make bookings for displaced individuals.

No one knows how long the war will continue. United Way’s support of Ukrainians – and all refugees – is a long-term undertaking, and we are committed to being there for the long haul. To help, please donate to United For Ukraine.