We’ve been shocked and devastated by the horrific events unfolding in Ukraine. At times like this it can feel like we’re just powerless bystanders, sitting on the sidelines, witnessing terrible things happening to people.
Let’s remember that in the face of huge tragedy, so much good can be done and is being done by volunteers, fundraisers and charities working not just overseas but in the UK. In times like this, it’s important to ‘look for the helpers’. In fact, many of us can be the helpers.
The most accessible and immediate way to support people is by donating cash to registered charities and recognised international aid agencies. While it might feel good to give gifts in kind, the cost of sorting and transporting these could easily be greater than their value, and boxes of unsorted goods risk clogging up already strained logistical systems.
Here are some positive actions that are happening right now, which you can be involved with if you want to, as well as useful sources of information:
Disasters Emergency Committee
The UK has a highly-organised and world-leading international aid sector, where aid charities come together to coordinate their efforts, called the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC). This massive fundraising effort had already raised £150m in the first week after the appeal was launched. Donations to the DEC have the added advantage that the UK government has so far matched £25m in donations.
#HelpUkraine Emergency Appeal (from the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain)
The Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB) is the largest representative body for Ukrainians in Britain. It is not a UK registered charity, it’s a mutual aid and cultural society for Ukrainians which was established after the second world war, and coordinates a network of local associations across the country. AUGB are running an appeal jointly with Ukrainian churches and community groups, with money going to AICM, a French-based international aid organisation that is also registered with the Ukrainian government.
UK Homes for Ukraine Scheme
Following much political debate and a lack of clarity about how refugees might be hosted in the UK, the government recently launched a scheme to allow people to host people evacuated from Ukraine. The scheme launched Friday, 18 March, and had already received over 120,000 Expressions of Interest before it even opened.
But how will the scheme work? A number of refugee charities have been critical of the scheme so far, partly because it seems to rely on a sponsorship model requiring people (or charities) to connect with Ukrainians to bring to the country. Important questions remain about how it will be coordinated, how hosts will be suitably matched with people coming from Ukraine, and how people will be safeguarded and supported.
Charity Commission guidance and register
The situation in Ukraine is complex and changing rapidly. It will result in long-term negative impacts after the fighting is over – for example because of destroyed infrastructure, housing, schools, health and social systems, and the long-term needs of people coping with the traumatic aftermath of violent conflict. Trustees and donors should think carefully about how they can best help, which is not always just in the immediate moment, and how to do so safely. The Charity Commission recently published helpful guidance on the crisis for trustees, which covers some important questions and considerations.
Remember, if you’re a UK resident it’s usually better to give to a charity that’s registered here because they will get the added benefit of Gift Aid if you are a UK taxpayer. Also, donors can be assured that the charity is properly constituted and has certain systems, policies, reporting and financial management procedures in place.
If in doubt, always check the Register of Charities on the gov.uk website. You can search by name and/or charity number. If an organisation asking for your donation can’t provide a registered charity number and you can’t find them on the register, ask them why – ask them what their form of governance is and whether they are registered with another regulator (perhaps internationally).
A brief list of other charities and organisations to help
There will be no shortage of organisations large and small, domestic and international, working to help Ukraine and Ukrainians, all with various specialities and different skills. Many organisations will be locally set-up and run in your own community. This is not an exhaustive list, but some examples include:
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF): Donating to the Ukraine crisis
UN High Commission for Refugees: Ukraine emergency
Refugees at Home: About Us – Refugees at Home
Room for Refugees: Room for Refugees
Reset: Homes for Ukraine