Supporting Ukrainian Refugees: Masterclass of Cooperation and Flexibility

Last year Estonian Human Rights Centre faced an unexpected situation: the need to offer fast and effective support to refugees arriving from Ukraine. In cooperation with partners we decided to start organizing events to provide a time out to those arriving to Estonia, as well as an opportunity to get acquainted with the local community.

122 events, 458 interviews, 3300 participants

Four coordinators were responsible for bringing our plan to life. Together they organized 122 gatherings across Estonia for the empowerment and integration of the Ukrainian community. In order to involve people with different backgrounds, we constantly tested new activities and scoured for inspiring partners. In the end, our events were attended by almost 3300 participants!

To map the needs and opportunities of refugees as well as assess risks and be able to offer crisis management, we conducted 458 interviews. The issues that emerged were plentiful and multifaceted, from school bullying to developing digital skills necessary for living in Estonia and using local services. On the basis of the information we collected, we involved specialists who, for example, introduced the Estonian health care system, guided youth to youth centers, organized a football training for men, and tea nights or excursions (link to UNHCR video) to retired people, etc.

Those in need of help become helpers themselves

Some of the most inspiring moments of the project were the ones when those in need of help became helpers themselves. We supported tens of Ukrainian refugees, who took initiative and organized exactly the kind of events that met the needs of their companions. Some read Ukrainian fairy tales or gathered in workshops in support of mental health. Others cooked home-made pierogi or crafted motanka dolls that have served as Ukrainian family talismans for 5000 years.

The events were mostly attended by women, among whom two thirds had had to flee home together with their children. They had left behind their partners but brought along trauma from war. Searching for a new place to live and work, school or kindergarten, etc. as well as creating a social network is an incredibly difficult challenge in such situation. The local diaspora as well as representatives of municipalities and social workers all came to aid and share experiences. Thanks to the efficient cooperation, in many places we could witness the rise of an active and connected community.

A huge thank you to our coordinators Diana, Kristel, Oleksandra and Yuliia, who traveled across Estonia despite the week day or the time of day and put their hearts into this project. Дякую!

The project was financed by the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR.


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