Scouts Emergency Response in Ukraine

18 minutes

Ukrainians are receiving in an influx of solidarity and support from Scouts around the world and in neighbouring countries as the ongoing humanitarian crisis unfolds in the country. Through acts of kindness, and generous donations of all sizes to the ongoing funding appeal, the Scout Movement has united in a show of strength and compassion for those being impacted by the conflict in Ukraine. 

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Already more than $100,000 in funding has been generously donated by local Scout groups, individual supporters and National Scout Organizations (NSOs) to support emergency response and relief efforts of those in need. These funds will be directed to the National Organization of the Scouts of Ukraine to provide food, medicine, sleeping equipment, and other necessary supplies, along with the coordination of psychological support to young people and communities impacted by the conflict.

Scouts and NSOs in neighbouring countries are also now coordinating across borders and with partners to understand the needs in Ukraine and the region, as well as to offer necessary supplies and volunteers where they are needed most.

More than half a million refugees - mostly women and children - have fled Ukraine since last week, and the United Nations says “it is preparing for up to four million refugees from Ukraine in the coming days and weeks” (source). Refugees are already arriving in Poland, Hungary, Moldova, Romania and Slovakia and this sudden influx of displaced persons requires a great deal of emergency logistical support, including the coordination of volunteers and supplies

These conditions have prompted a wave of resilience, compassion and responsiveness from Scouts in the region, and offers for additional support by neighbouring NSOs. Here are just some of the inspiring stories and efforts we have seen from Scouts over the past week.  

 

Ukraine

Since the conflict in Ukraine began last Thursday, volunteers from the National Organization of the Scouts of Ukraine (NOSU) have been supporting young people and their communities as a whole. Scout centres in Kyiv and Odessa are being used to collect and distribute clothes, shoes, sleeping bags, mats, food and more, including a field kitchen to cook and feed people in need. In some cases, Scout Leaders took shelter with Scouts, keeping them safe and entertained. Scouts of Odessa also organised an online meeting for children to help lift their spirits and entertain them with a special guest musician, Marat Mairovich.

In addition, with generous support from over 1,100 donors through the Scout Donation Platform, NOSU is purchasing and distributing medicines, food, water and shelter supplies, as well as providing access to psychological support for young people and communities being affected by the conflict. Click here to donate.

WOSM is in close contact with the leadership of NOSU who are keeping us informed about the evolving situation so that Scouts can coordinate an appropriate needs-based response for Ukrainians. 

 
Scouts in Odessa, Ukraine, arranged donations of  clothes and equipment for volunteers.

As needed, Scouts in neighbouring countries will also use donations to provide support in Ukraine and bordering areas. You can follow Ukrainian Scouts on Instagram for more updates.

Poland

According to the United Nations, around 250,000 refugees (or half of those who will be displaced by the conflict) have crossed Ukraine’s western border into Poland. As captured by the BBC, Scouts are on the ground assisting authorities by welcoming refugees and coordinating new arrivals at the border. In addition to direct support from Związek Harcerstwa Polskiego, individual groups are also taking action locally.
 
 
 
Scouts in Katowice transformed their Scout Centre into a temporary shelter, setting up cots from wall-to-wall and preparing to help those who need a place to stay after leaving Ukraine. “In three days, these walls of the Scout House witnessed a beautiful brotherhood. We are ready to open our hearts even more,” shared Polish Scouts on Instagram
 
Other groups collected and delivered necessary supplies, including three cars full of food, clothes, blankets, hygiene products and medicines sent to Białystok from Polish Scouts in Goniadz. Videos from the Scout Centre in Kraków show floor to ceiling donations collected for Ukrainians arrivals.
 

 

Czechia

While not a bordering country, Scouts in nearby Czechia have been incredibly organised and responsive to the needs. Within four days of the crisis, Czech Scouts sent 55 vans, two busses and two small trucks of supplies to Ukraine. Coordinated at the Skautsy Institut in Prague, generous citizens lined up outside to contribute requested supplies, and Scouts arranged to sort, pack and deliver the materials on 27 February. Czech Scouts also charged and sent hundreds of power banks so that refugees could charge their phones to contact loved ones and arrange their next plans.

“This is what being a Scout always meant, isn’t it? To help others, at least with small bits.”
- Benjamin, Scout volunteer in Czechia on Twitter

Importantly, the Junák – Czech Scouts coordinated all donation drives based on needs requested by Ukrainian partners. They have also shared resources for Scout Leaders, educators and parents, now available on our website in six languages, called “How to talk to children about war.” They also held a popular live session in Czech with partners and child psychologists to help adults gain skills to help children cope with the psychological impacts.

You can follow the Czech Scouts on Twitter @skaut for regular updates.

 
Scout volunteers filled the Skautsky Institut in Prague as they collected essential supplies donated by citizens and sent them to Ukraine.
 

Romania

As of 28 February, more than 67,000 Ukrainians have crossed into neighbouring Romania (source). While Romanian authorities note that nearly half of those refugees had already left for other European countries, Romanian Scouts have been near the border to provide assistance, temporary shelter and supplies to those in need.

From 26 February, Romanian Scouts, Cercetasii României, coordinated resources and availability of adult volunteers across the country, including available housing, transport, goods, equipment and aid. They are partnering with local organisations to volunteer to host refugees

For example, on 27 February, the Cercetaşii Dejeni Scout group setup a booth in the bordering city of Sighetu Marmației, where they held signs in Ukrainian to welcome and help refugees. “We do everything we can!,” shared Romanian Scouts on Instagram, explaining how they helped reunite two sisters who entered at different points, provided transport to the airport, and shared directions and maps on private Facebook Groups to help Ukrainians find help (as many road signs have been removed in Ukraine). In Tulcea, Scout volunteers are taking shifts at refugee centres.

 
Romanian Scouts offer supplies and assistance to refugees in the city of Sighetu Marmației, bordering Ukraine
 

Hungary, Estonia, Slovakia and Lithuania

Many other Scouts in the region and beyond are providing support too. In Hungary, Magyar Cserkészszövetség are coordinating with partners to create lists of needed supplies and assist in collection.

Eesti Skautide Ühing in Estonia are supporting the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Society in the collection of supplies.

Slovensky skauting are coordinating and preparing Slovak volunteers in areas of technical support, funding, communications and programme.

In Lithuania, Scouts of Lietuvos Skautija called their volunteer initiative “Strong Together.” They have organised their volunteers into shifts, during which Lithuanian Scouts help refugees find and reach a volunteer host or shelter. They are recruiting volunteers to host refugees and helping setup temporary accommodations together with the Vilnius City Municipality.

 
Scouts in Slovakia are prepared to help coordinate and welcome refugees. Photo by Richard Dvorsk.
 

World Scouting’s Regional Support Centres in Eurasia and Europe have also been instrumental in coordinating efforts across the region, ensuring Scouts are supporting each other and helping volunteers and staff stay safe as they respond to the humanitarian emergency emerging from the war in Ukraine.

On 27 February, more than 100 volunteers and staff from NSOs in Europe and Eurasia met online to coordinate efforts and support to Ukraine. The discussion focused on how NSOs in neighbouring countries could support those in Ukraine and others seeking refuge. The discussions also centred on how to support Scouting and Guiding activities, and how to talk with young people about war, conflict preparedness and psychological well-being.

Through the Scout Donation Platform, World Scouting’s crowdfunding site, more than $100,000 has been raised to support the emergency response by Scouts of Ukraine and future funding raised will support the efforts of neighbouring NSOs. In addition, World Scouting has also directed $10,000 emergency grants to support efforts in a number of NOSU’s neighbouring NSOs.

Want to help? Here’s how:

  • Help Scouts do more - donate now at bit.ly/scoutsukraine! Monetary contributions are the best way to provide support at this time.
     

  • Please do not go to the border on your own. In many places, organisers have said they do not need more people. If you’re in a neighbouring country and want to help, reach out to your National Scout Organization or a reputable charity in your area to learn about coordinated efforts and ask how you can be of assistance. Border areas are tense and well-intended but uncoordinated volunteers can cause bottlenecks and logistical challenges for authorities and refugees alike. Stay coordinated, prepared and safe
     

  • Wherever you are, some of the best ways to help are to donate, help with translation and assist with collection and packing of supplies. Those in neighbouring countries may also be asked to host refugees or assist with temporary shelters. All of these efforts should be done with an NGO, like Scouts, to ensure you are helping meet the needs of those on-the-ground.
     

  • Support your Scouts and young people who need to talk. Children and young people may need extra support from adults at this time. Access the guide “How to talk with children about war” in English, French, Russian, Arabic, Spanish, and the original in Czech, for advice on how to have these challenging conversations.
     

  • Continue your Scouting activities, if it’s safe to do so. Scouting provides a safe space for young people to have learn skills and work together to create a better world. UK Scouts have shared some activities you can try with your group to help build empathy, recognise emotions and have meaningful discussions surrounding news about war in Ukraine.
     

  • Download the Dialogue for Peace facilitator’s toolkit. Gaining skills to help facilitate dialogue helps us create safe spaces for difficult conversations and promote more peace and understanding in all areas of life.
     

  • Take breaks and seek support when you need it. We love the enthusiasm of Scouts to volunteer when they see a need. Helping others should feel good and not come at the expense of your own health, safety or well-being. Speak with a Scout Leader, friend or qualified professional if you need extra support.

 

WOSM issued a statement on the situation in Ukraine on 24 February. You can find it here in English, French, Russian and Spanish.

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