The best options for supporting refugees

How Can I Help Ukrainians?

POLAND

Poland shares a long border with Ukraine and for a variety reasons – geography, culture, language, history – has played the biggest role among all countries in accepting and housing refugees. With this in mind, I’ve placed Polish groups at the top of my list. The Polish response, so far, has been amazing and heartening to watch in real time. These are some of the main Polish organizations working to house, feed and care for refugees (to calibrate donations, $100=435 Polish złoty):

Polish Humanitarian Action

PAH has been active in Ukraine since 2014 and supports Ukrainian refugees with food and medical supplies, among many other activities.

Polish Medical Mission

Provides medical assistance across all territories in need

Polish Center for International Aid

They send medical supplies to regions in need and missions to help on the ground and now have a dedicated Ukrainian donation fund.

Pomagam.pl

They also have a dedicated humanitarian fund for Ukraine and all proceeds are transferred to Ukrainian charities that work locally.

Homo Faber

Based in the southeastern Polish city of Lublin, not far from the Ukrainian border, they help to organize legal, psychological and medical assistance for incoming refugees as well as help new arrivals to find accommodation (scroll down the website for English).

HumanDoc

Polish NGO that’s been working in Ukraine since 2015. The group is focused on helping to evacuate children and the elderly from Mariupol' and other cities under Russian attack and bringing them to safety in Warsaw.

SLOVAKIA

Like Poland, Slovakia borders Ukraine and has long-standing cultural and political ties with the country. Between the two world wars, Czechoslovakia’s frontier extended into parts of modern-day Ukraine (Zakarpatska oblast), meaning that some of the very oldest residents here were at one time Czechoslovak citizens. For this section on recommended Slovak aid organizations, I’m partly indebted to former American diplomat Keith Eddins, who kindly left a comment and suggestions on this post (for calibrating donations, $100=90 euros).

Kto pomôže Ukrajine

"Who Will Help Ukraine" is an association of leading NGOs and civil society groups providing food and hygiene parcels as well as drinking water to threatened populations in Ukraine. Offers emotional support for children dealing with war trauma and logistical support for refugees once they’ve crossed into Slovak territory.

People in Need (Človek v ohrození)

The Slovak branch of this highly respected Czech NGO (see "Czech Republic" below) is focused primarily on supporting refugees directly on the Slovak-Ukrainian border.

Magna

Supplies badly needed medicines and supports the work of doctors on the ground in Ukraine, including in the cities of Kyiv, Chernivtsi and Mariupol'.

Good Sports International

Run by former American major league baseball player Tom Johnson. They’ve set up a special fund to aid Ukrainians and are using their presence inside the country to provide assistance.

Camp Žilina

Private initiative raising money to provide refugees with short- and long-term accommodation — beds, toilets, showers, toiletries, a kitchen and food — at a campground in Žilina and in Bratislava.

UKRAINE

I would naturally have placed Ukraine, where the need for assistance is greatest, at the top of the list. The problem is I don’t have many direct contacts with local organizations there. The Ukraine Crisis Media Center website offers a very good roundup of ways people can help support local groups. I would appreciate it if readers could leave additional suggestions in the comments section. Here are two suggestion for helping people in Ukraine directly (for calibrating donations, $100=3,000 Ukrainian hryvnia):

Bake4Ukraine

A nonprofit run by a baker who makes fresh bread, soup and other foods to hand out to those in need in Kyiv for free.

Come Back Alive

This group works directly with the Ukrainian military, delivering thermal-vision cameras, night-vision goggles and other supplies, including medicines.

Lonely Planet, the guidebook publisher for which I’ve written  guides in the past, has targeted two Ukrainian groups (below) to support and serve as a model for readers who may want to do the same. Find Lonely Planet’s company statement on supporting Ukraine here:

Go Fund Me for the "Kyiv Independent"

Local English-language newspaper doing critical on-the-ground reporting for a world-wide readership.

Nova Ukraine

A 501(c)(3) nonprofit focused on raising awareness and providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

ROMANIA

Romania has the longest border with Ukraine (640km, 400 miles) of all EU/NATO-member countries. The main crossing, at the town of Siret, links Romania to the large western-Ukrainian city of Chernivtsi (Czernowitz). Many refugees also make their way to Romania through neighboring Moldova. My Romanian friends tell me the daily UNHCR refugee map at the top of this post significantly under-counts the numbers of new arrivals. For this list, I’m indebted to Monica Suma, my friend and travel-writer colleague based in Bucharest. (For calibrating donations, $100=450 Romanian lei):

Code for Romania

Highly recommended NGO focusing on creating digital solutions, including building a highly useful, multilingual platform for Ukrainians coming to Romania.

Refugees.ro

Runs a multilingual aggregator website where refugees can easily find the kind of support -- accommodation, food, transportation, etc -- they need at the moment. To support this site, click the donation button at the top of the page: “I want to help.”

Patrir

Cluj-based organization focusing on efforts to restore peace and to provide humanitarian assistance, including necessary supplies and transportation, to those fleeing the fighting.

#Solidar Social

Led by renowned Romanian chef Adrian Hadean, this group works with World Central Kitchen (see "Moldova" below) to provide hot meals at the border. Hadean posts daily updates to his personal Instagram account. Find donation options, including via PayPal, on the left side of the webpage.

Social Incubator

Raising money to provide transportation, accommodation and food for refugees. They work in collaboration with the Romanian travel site Vola.

MOLDOVA

Tiny, relatively poor country — bilingual in Romanian and Russian — borders southwestern Ukraine. It’s taken in the most refugees per capita yet lacks the resources to provide sustainable care. Moldova was the site of an earlier separatist war in the early ‘90s that killed at least several hundred people. It remains de facto divided and vulnerable to this day. Recommended groups here include ($100=1,800 Moldovan lei):

Friends of Moldova

Organization of return Peace Corps volunteers raising money to support shelters around the country and provide food, water, hygiene products, clothes and toys for children.

Moldova For Peace

Volunteer group working in conjunction with international NGOs to provide transportation from the Ukrainian  border as well as essential foodstuffs and clothing.

World Central Kitchen

Serving hot meals to people in need on the Polish border with Ukraine as well as in Hungary, Romania and here in the Moldovan capital of Chișinău.

CZECH REPUBLIC

The Czech Republic does not share a border with Ukraine, nevertheless Ukrainians know the country well and many people have family and friends here. Around 300,000 Ukrainians have made their way to Prague and other large cities and the number is still growing. The Czech Republic has an impressive NGO infrastructure and the donation process is secure and highly developed. The website Darujme.cz contains a list of leading NGOs operating both locally and directly in Ukraine. Prague.eu, Prague’s main tourist website, has published a helpful article on how people who love the city can help in efforts to provide assistance. Leading relief groups based in the Czech Republic include the following ($100=2,300 Czech koruna):

Post Bellum

This organization has been active in Ukraine for several years as part of the “Memory of Nations” oral-history project. It’s now working to provide medicines, protective vests, helmets, gloves, sleeping bags, tents, radios, batteries, drones, infrared technology and food to help Ukrainians defend themselves.

People in Need

Arguably the Czech Republic’s best-known and most-effective aid group. “Člověk v tísni” -- through its “SOS Ukraine” campaign -- has a large contingent in Ukraine and is doing very good work there.

Caritas for Ukraine

The local Czech chapter of this Catholic charity is working with long-term partner, Caritas Ukraine, on providing food, water, sanitation and shelter to populations in Ukraine immediately impacted by the war.

To Help Animals in Ukraine

Donations go to support animal shelters in Ukraine and purchases of feed, leashes, collars and crates for border crossings. The group also supports animal welfare in bordering regions outside Ukraine (to assist animals brought out of the country).

Freedom Boxes

Prague-based group that ferries essential food and goods to the Polish-Ukrainian border for distribution within Ukraine, and then transports refugees back to safe areas. The website is transparent and offers several donation options.

RUSSIA

Russia presents a challenging donation environment. The crisis in Ukraine, of course, also adversely affects Russia and individual Russians. Russophobia is a natural human reaction to the atrocities, but ultimately it's unhelpful. The most effective way of countering the Kremlin’s pro-war propaganda is to support one of the few independent media groups Russia still has left. Meduza is one of the best:

Meduza

A friend and former journalist colleague who spent years living in Ukraine said this about Meduza: “It’s an absolutely vital (independent) source of information inside Russia (via Telegram and VPNs).”

INTERNATIONAL GROUPS

As I wrote in the intro, the big international aid organizations are a crucial part of the overall humanitarian effort. These larger groups are particularly important in helping smaller countries like Moldova, which are now accepting large numbers of refugees but lack the financial resources to offer sustainable support. Perhaps the most visible of these groups is the UN’s own refugee agency, UNHCR.

“The Washington Post” recently published a helpful article aimed at American readers who want to support war-relief efforts but who may not know about or be familiar with the many smaller, local organizations. For readers here who may not subscribe to the newspaper, I sincerely hope the Post doesn’t mind me reprinting and paraphrasing some of the article’s contents here below:

CARE

This well-known group has partnered with “People in Need” (see above) and plans to build a fund to reach four million people, especially families, women, girls and the elderly.

Doctors Without Borders

Has partnered with volunteers in Ukraine to secure access for people to health-care facilities and medicines.

GlobalGiving

This U.S.-based crowdfunding platform has launched a “Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund” page, where donations support humanitarian assistance in affected areas of Ukraine and surrounding regions.

International Rescue Committee

According to its website, the IRC is on the ground in Poland and working to help displaced families. The site offers helpful suggestions on how one can assist Ukraine.

International Committee of the Red Cross

Geneva-based group has been working in Ukraine since 2014 to supply emergency assistance and support hospitals with medical equipment.

(Last week, I wrote about the special historical significance of watching the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine from here in the Czech Republic. Find the story here.)

Comments

  1. As a former American diplomat in both Prague and Bratislava (separate tours), I welcome this, but note that you leave Slovakia out. I had reached out to friends in the NGO community there with a similar request (how can I support Slovak efforts to aid Ukrainian refugees?) and got the following suggestions:

    ‘Kto pomoze ukrajine’ is a joint effort of multiple (respected, known) Slovak NGOs:
    https://www.donio.sk/kto-pomoze-ukrajine?lang=en&fbclid=IwAR3h7-TueDnrYCzm6KnczddQfxh6mMh5DL_dT0MojFcVmlgCcvL6rCjPzK0

    People in Need (Slovak version; you’ve recommended the Czech version, but I believe the Slovak one will focus on refugees coming across the Ukraine-Slovak border):
    https://clovekvohrozeni.sk/help-to-ukraine/?fbclid=IwAR1yP9_7OUowjh7NzskBVOphMWGn6lXEpUTCo2ZH0uZer2j_F9hFdeCqJdk

    Partners Foundation (I know less about this one, but it was recommended by a Slovak friend whom I trust completely):
    https://integra.darujme.sk/p2p/e725b854-29ee-4325-9180-86d0b62482e4/partners-pomaha-ukrajine/?fbclid=IwAR36ttjvFa-3DjEe8lZL_GUgC1rsjvclFogQjVYUboXstxgheEXiMSW9ylU

    Good Sports International (this is bit of an outlier, but it’s a group I know and trust, run by a former American major league baseball player (Tom Johnson); they have set up a special fund to aid Ukrainians and they’re using their on-the-ground infrastructure to provide assistance: https://secure.egsnetwork.com/donate/1193F70CE0F74AE

    Thank you for doing this.

    • Hi Florina, Help me improve the list. Which Romanian NGOs are the most effective ones for private donors to support? Thanks, Mark

  2. Since posting this, I have received several notes from friends asking me to add other worthy NGOs that are helping in Ukraine and with Ukrainians fleeing the war.

    SLOVAKIA

    Camp Žilina
    Thanks Mark. May I nominate Camp Žilina for Slovakia as well. They were the first, that I know of, who started helping the foreign nationals fleeing Ukraine, mainly students and that’s how they came on my radar. They are on FB and their transparent account can be found here: bit.ly/3C8hQZj

    CZECH REPUBLIC

    Freedom Boxes
    This organization brings necessary provisions to refugees on border regions and helps to organize the transport of people to safe cities, like Prague. The donation process is user-friendly.
    https://www.freedom-boxes.com/

  3. Hi – I work with the global refugee app RefAid. This is a great list – we are also looking for the refugee-facing information for these and other organisations – would you have the contacts or info that the refugees need to get help from them? Or a contact person so that we can research that? Thanks.
    Jill Hodges
    http://www.refaid.com

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About the author

Mark Baker

I’m an independent journalist, travel writer and author who’s lived in Central Europe for nearly three decades. I love the history, literature, culture and mystery of this often-overlooked corner of Europe, and I make my living writing articles and guidebooks about the region. Much of what I write eventually finds its way into commercial print or digital outlets, but a lot of it does not.

And that’s my aim with this website: to find a space for stories and experiences that fall outside the publishing mainstream.

My Book: ‘Čas Proměn’

In 2021, I published “Čas Proměn” (“Time of Changes”), my first book of historical nonfiction. The book, written in Czech, is a collection of stories about Central and Eastern Europe in the 1980s and early ‘90s, including memories of the thrilling anti-communist revolutions of 1989. The idea for the book and many of the tales I tell there were directly inspired by this blog. Czech readers, find a link to purchase the book here. I hope you enjoy.

Tales of Travel & Adventure in Central Europe
Mark Baker