I have been home from Ukraine for about a week and a half. This was the first time I have been in a war zone, though not directly on the front lines, and as many of you, my friends, know from experience, describing the experience is a challenge.
The best way to understand is to hear enough stories to build up a sense of the diverse experiences of people who live through it.
However, if I could sum up the situation in Ukraine in one word, it would be Complex. The politics are complex, the strategies are complex, the emotions are complex, the struggle for survival is complex, and the traumas are complex.
Many of you have asked how you can help. How can you be involved?
When trying to answer this question among our team at The Novi Community, we have a few guiding principles that I'll share before offering some specifics:
First, make dignity the highest filter. We do not want to offer "help" that undermines people's sense of dignity, cultural significance, or sense of personal agency.
Second, work and make plans with locals. When traveling to other cultures, locals will have deeper insights into local values, effective communication, and for the second and third-order consequences of our actions. Our best "help" may be unacceptable without local collaboration, or worse, actually harmful. Working with locals is generally more effective and financially efficient unless that skill is in short supply.
Third, work with the broader community in mind. We always try to buy from local suppliers, hire local workers, and shop in local businesses. This supports the people and economy that naturally support the people we plan to help. Bringing in foreign supplies and workers weakens the overall environment when those same resources are available locally.
That said, here are some ways you might consider helping:
1. Volunteer your in-demand professional service. Ukraine needs doctors, surgeons, physical therapists, psychologists, counselors, and translators. Refugees likely need legal counsel, career counselors, and language teachers. Find out where your profession is needed and volunteer there.
2. Host Ukrainians. This is becoming less needed as western Ukraine stabilizes and people return home, but there are still many who have no homes to return to. Alternatively, the US has opened a special study visa program for Ukrainian university students. To qualify, they need a host family. That could be you!
3. Hire Ukrainians. The Ukrainians living in your community (refugees or not) are probably already using their resources to help their families. Hiring them will give them more resources to funnel back home.
4. Donate to organizations that have a strategic focus. There are many fantastic organizations working in Ukraine. Some are large bureaucracies with huge reach, but suck up huge percentages of your donations. Some have lots of heart but unclear focus. Every organization has its pros and cons, the key is to do your due diligence and work with those who share your values. If you choose to donate to Novi, we would be honored to have you join us!
5. Keep talking about Ukraine, and other areas around the world that are in active conflict. Places like Myanmar and Yemen. Our attention easily shifts these days, and it will be easy to forget as the news cycle rolls along. The more we talk about it, the more we spread the message that people aren't made for war.
Battle lines don't only run through the land, they run through the psyches of people. And once treaties are signed and trenches refilled, the nightmares and hatred will continue until the people experience healing.
Why should we care about the children suffering in war and conflict? Because we are all in this together ....