Photo credit: Irina Marica
Since Putin launched a military invasion into Ukraine on February 24, 2022, fighting has caused over one hundred civilian casualties and caused the displacement of 1.2 million Ukrainians. Despite the horrifying circumstances, there is hope in how quickly humanitarian aid was organized, for instance through civil society welcoming refugees from Ukraine. Humanitarian aid collection points were rapidly organized to collect items such as medical and civil support material, as well as food and hygiene products. People also volunteer to offer their translation services to refugees and organize Telegram and Facebook groups to connect people in need with the help of volunteers. However necessary these group chats are, they are very chaotic and difficult to follow. As donations are arriving in the country, local associations and governmental leaders are then organizing efforts to distribute and allocate the goods. In such situations, Homa Reto can be a tool for these actors to communicate, and share relief resources effectively. We aim to be a central platform to organize resources and make them accessible as widely as possible.
Ukrainians who are deciding to flee the conflict, especially women and children, are also supported by local solidarity efforts once they make it across the Ukrainian border. Most of the refugees thus far seem to have a place where they are going, often to friends, family, or acquaintances who are part of the Ukrainian diaspora in the European Union. In neighboring countries (Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania), locals and citizens of other European countries are offering to drive refugees to their destinations. Transportation companies such as the German railway and FlixBus are also responding to the wave of solidarity by offering their services for free to the refugees. The Homa Reto software intends to connect these efforts through its map, with the goal of improving the organization of local helpers. In addition to logistical assistance, support to refugees is also provided by volunteers at the border in the form of free psychological help for people in distress from the conflict and their forced displacement.
During their journeys, the refugees are in need of accommodation. Here too, local people are coming out to offer practical help by making available beds in their own homes. Locals are adding their accommodation to a list if they are ready to help, and Airbnb has joined the effort by offering free accommodations to people in need. In some villages neighboring the border, local officials also requisitioned public spaces such as schools to accommodate the numerous refugees. Homa Reto’s App includes a resource mode that is aimed to provide help-seeking individuals with the necessary information on where to find these resources. By integrating all these offers on one central platform accessible via phones, the support would be all the more effective.
Special attention has to be given to cases of racism and transphobia in the wake of the crisis. There have been mounting reports of black people at the border being sent back to the line, or LGBTQIA+ having difficulty in finding safe accommodation. The humanitarian mission of Homa Reto does not allow for such discrimination and gives special attention to making equal and safe access to relief a priority. Homa Reto supports refugees and people in need regardless of age, ethnicity, ancestry, gender, national origin, disability, race, size, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, or any other status.
The unprecedented wave of solidarity across Europe and particularly at the level of local communities, civil society, local governments, and ordinary citizens has also put aside political resentment in countries such as Poland. This made way for a coordinated network of mutual aid. In addition to its resource mode, Homa Reto offers an action mode that provides users who are willing to help the opportunity to find where they are needed. It aims to be able to support and coordinate these local initiatives that are helping refugees on their arduous journey. As the humanitarian crisis might worsen in the weeks to come, these needs will more than likely continue to increase. This strengthens the relevance of our initiative in welcoming refugees and providing humanitarian assistance.
Author: Suzon Mazataud