Yesterday I returned from a 36-hour trip to see, firsthand, the refugee crisis unfolding on the Poland-Ukraine border. The situations I witnessed and stories I heard laid bare the tremendous impact this war will have on Europe for years to come, but they also made me very hopeful. I believe that we can all help meet the needs of Ukrainians who now face the challenges of migrating to a new country, and integrating their lives there. Several actions you can take to help are outlined below this account.
Though most of you know me through my work with SolarEdge and Arugga, I’m also a co-founder of a charitable organisation. Six years ago, my wife Danna and I started Kimiyaa, a mentorship programme that helps refugees integrate professionally in their new countries of adoption. By working with wonderful volunteers in Germany and the UK and collaborating with the British Red Cross, Danna and I have learned so much about how local, professional mentorship can change the lives of refugees. (You can see several of their stories here).
When the Russian aggression started, I received an email from my friend Maks, a London friend originally from Ukraine, whose parents are still in Kyiv. He told me that within two days of the start of the war, he was on a plane to Krakow and then on to Przemyśl, near the border, to help welcome many of his friends who were escaping Ukraine. As soon as he arrived in Poland, Maks became involved coordinating various help efforts outside and inside Ukraine.
I joined Maks on Wednesday and later in the afternoon drove from Krakow to Rzeszow, where I spent the night before heading to Przemyśl on Thursday morning.
I first visited a large mall that has been transformed into a first-stop reception and sleeping centre for refugees. It is divided into many sections. There are a few small sections for refugees ‘who know their destination’ in Europe. The photo below shows refugees who want to go to Germany, Holland, Spain and Belgium, among other places (although most of them don’t know anyone in these countries).
Above photo: ‘Space 10’ at the Mall: Ukrainian refugees looking to move to Western Europe
The largest section in the mall has been designated for Ukrainians who have no idea where to go and what to do next.
Above photo: at the entrance of Space # 13
Above photo: Space # 13: no destination
At this improvised refugee centre, I met some amazing people who drove from all over Europe to take refugees to their home countries. This couple below drove from Berlin and offered a ride to two Ukrainian people wishing to settle down in Berlin.
Above photo: Angels from Berlin
I also met Maria, a Dutch woman in her mid-forties who drove from Holland with her 17 -year-old daughter to take a family, any family, to Holland. I met with Paul, a 30-year-old from Lancashire who told me he drove from the UK as soon as he saw the exodus happening, “I’m a dad you know, I have a young girl, I know what they are going through”. Paul and I exchanged phone numbers and when we spoke later in the day, I learned he was driving a Ukrainian family to their final destination in Germany, 700 kilometres away. He then planned to return to Przemyśl and help another Ukrainian family by driving them anywhere they needed to go in Western Europe.
Above photo: Paul from Preston UK driving Ukrainian refugees to Germany
And there is of course the unbelievable generosity of Polish people and volunteers who have opened their homes to refugees. This is happening on a massive scale in Eastern Poland. But obviously, this is not sustainable.
If one thinks that crossing borders and making it to safety is the hardest challenge, it is only the first one. For most of the refugees we have met in the past six years, the hardest part comes once they are settled in a new city where they don’t know anyone and they need to navigate the job market without any connections, all while still processing the trauma incurred by leaving their home countries. That’s where Kimiyaa comes in.
During the past few years, we fine-tuned our mentorship processes, and started working with the Red Cross, which has been instrumental in introducing us to refugees and asylum seekers, who we can then match with local professionals. We know that there will soon be thousands of Ukrainians throughout Europe who will have an acute need for these services.
How you can help:
We are looking for volunteers and sponsors who want to be part of this critical effort to help Ukrainian refugees in their new home countries.
You have around 10 hours a week to help
You are based in the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Poland or Israel
You can assist us by building small, foundational networks in your country—friends and colleagues who can help refugees after they initially settle down and need help finding their footing in their employment search. Please contact Daya: firstname.lastname@example.org
A mentorship will typically involve a commitment of 2 hours per week during an online Zoom meeting for a period of 8 weeks (total of 16 hours).
You want to be a mentor to a Ukrainian refugee/individual (or to refugees from other countries). Please fill in this form. Please share the form with friends and colleagues
For further mentoring information and questions: email@example.com
You can join our donor community by contributing a monetary donation on our donation page, which will support mentorships in a diverse range of professions. Funding is allocated to cover Kimiyaa’s operations, which includes our matching process and tracking the progress of each mentorship.
If you would like more information on how we work and what the matching and mentorship process entails, please contact us.
You would like to enable your employees to mentor refugees as part of your CSR and social sustainability initiatives. Please contact Danna: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your support,