Shelter Ukraine: united by the will to help

At the beginning of the full-scale russian invasion, many Ukrainians fled abroad, and the activities of most charitable organizations, especially international ones, were aimed precisely at their support. Nevertheless, some of the people who lost their homes due to russia's aggression were looking for shelters within Ukraine and needed some help as well.

The Shelter Ukraine initiative emerged to organize comfortable conditions for living in safer regions of Ukraine and reduce the outflow of Ukrainians abroad. It united four organizations — SILab Ukraine, “Teple misto”, Valores Foundation and VPLYV FUND.

The Shelter Ukraine initiative started working on the third day of the full-scale war. Even before, the SILab Ukraine team had considered various scenarios of events and decided that if the war began, they would be ready to help Ukrainians.

In addition, the head of the board at SILab Ukraine, Anna Gulevska-Chernysh, already has the experience of implementing a humanitarian campaign during the Revolution of Dignity. SILab also engaged the Polish organization Valores; later, the "Teple misto" team and VPLYV FUND engaged to join the Shelter Ukraine initiative.

"Our teams share common values ​​and broad experience in implementing social initiatives. In such a critical situation, only by joint efforts can we work out the best solutions in the interests of people. Each partner strengthens the initiative with its expertise," says Vita Mykolayuk, VPLYV FUND representative.

VPLYV FUND is a charitable organization which has been active in Ukraine for seven years. During this time, it implemented many social initiatives, e.g., those aimed at helping people find funding for treatment and providing assistance for children with visual impairment.

One of the critical management tasks for the Shelter Ukraine project is fundraising. It was clear that 90% of internal Ukrainian resources went to the army, as it is the #1 priority for the country. Thus, to support internally displaced persons, it was necessary to look for resources beyond Ukrainian funds. The SILab Ukraine team undertook this task.

Valores Foundation was the first to respond to the request. It became a co-founder of the Shelter Ukraine initiative and from the beginning set an ambitious goal of 1 million euros to raise for Ukraine. Foreign philanthropists started to support the initiative. Although the goal is not being reached yet, Valores's support gave Shelter Ukraine a notable start. During the first days, the project members collected crucial data about the actual needs of shelters and the amount of required assistance and established internal cooperation processes between organizations. Thanks to this, the initiative was subsequently supported by Razom for Ukraine, 1 to 4 and ChildFund.

Each of the Ukrainian partners takes care of the activities of the shelters in the designated areas. Thus, "Teple misto" accepts applications for assistance in Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv, Zakarpattia, Volyn’ and Chernivtsi regions. VPLYV FUND is responsible for the projects in the central part of Ukraine: Vinnytsia, Zhytomyr, Kirovohrad, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Rivne, Ternopil, Khmelnytsky and Cherkasy regions. SILab Ukraine handles aid for Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kyiv, Luhansk, Poltava, Sumy, Kharkiv, Kherson, Chernihiv regions and the city of Kyiv.

Anna Gulevska-Chernysh, the head of SILab Ukraine, says:

"We realized that with powerful connections in the public sector, developed over many years, we can respond promptly to people's needs. In the first days of the war, we helped with evacuation and medical supplies in those regions that felt the first blows of the enemy. And we continue to help all regions of Ukraine."

SILab Ukraine is a professional platform focused on developing the ecosystem of social entrepreneurship and innovation. The platform provides training programs, guides, accelerators and other activities for future and acting social entrepreneurs and promotes impact investment. Since 2020, SILab Ukraine has become a co-founder of the Ukrainian Social Venture Fund.

For organizations that support Ukraine, it is important to understand what their funds are used for. Thanks to joint work and communication between partnering organizations, it is possible to collect all reporting documentation, process it, analyze it and provide clear and relevant reports to donors. It helps to build trust in the Shelter Ukraine initiative and encourages new donors to join.

"The main thing you need to know about Shelter Ukraine is that we are not waiting for any command "from above" - ​​whom and how to help. This is what makes us strong, like the entire Ukrainian society. We see a problem, exhale and start working to solve it," says Anna Gulevska-Chernysh. — "Each, even small, support provided by Shelter Ukraine is an important contribution to joint victory. It helps us not to give up and move forward."

At the start, Shelter Ukraine worked through the recommendations of an already developed the network of contacts. But with the constant support from “Razom for Ukraine”, at the end of May, the project announced an open call for applications. Hence, the opportunity to apply for the competition became available for every shelter.

In just ten days, the initiative received 400 applications and paused the open-call to process each request for help. Using "standard tools" to evaluate a project is challenging regarding shelter support because this is a request for help, not a full-fledged project with aligned activities. Currently, each team of Shelter Ukraine processes applications and contracts purchases – this stage directly depends on the support of donors.

"We often see that shelters, on their initiative, equip children's rooms and leisure areas, study rooms, provide mental support for shelter residents. That is, they care to ensure more than just basic support, as it was at the beginning of the war," says Yaryna Melnyk, a "Teple misto" representative.

"Teple misto" is a charitable organization aimed at creating new opportunities for self-realization of the residents of Ivano-Frankivsk and sustainable city development. Among the projects launched by "Teple misto" are the public restaurant Urban Space 100, the urban platform METALAB, and the cultural initiative "Chytai".

The growth of activity in the public sector shows that people care and are ready to help. We all have much work ahead to restore Ukraine, so it is vital to preserve and develop such initiatives.

"Challenges related to a need to accommodate a significant number of forcibly displaced people in Ukraine highlighted several peculiarities in our communities. Shelter teams said that such infrastructure as a public bath, laundry, social dining room or kitchen would also be useful for the community in peacetime. Possibly the experience of working with shelters will become a basis for the specialization of those organizations that are currently volunteering. We consider all these services to be fruitful directions for social enterprises or services provided by the public sector," says Yaryna Melnyk.

​​Organizations that have made a conscious choice to help others now have the potential to develop and scale in professional charity, working in the interests of the community and the country. Together we can do more.

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