As the whole world is watching the Russian invasion on Ukraine in horror, we decided to compile for you the examples of inspiring social innovations and small and big gestures that bring hope and light despite this unimaginable darkness.
People are buying Ukrainian goods and services they don’t need, it’s just to transfer the money and to express their support to people of Ukraine directly
Platforms such as ‘Airbnb and Etsy are now part of additional temporary infrastructure for global humanitarian aid’.[i] ‘In a very online world tech platforms are quickly emerging as a creative new way to send help directly to Ukrainians. Yes, people are coming up with novel ways to send money, counter disinformation, and transport refugees. But perhaps more importantly, these platforms provide a sense of connection, a way to virtually travel into a war zone and talk to a person in need of help. Donating in this manner puts a face to the conflict in a way that writing a check to Red Cross just can’t’[ii], says Michelle Cheng from Quartz.
‘According to a March 4 tweet from Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky, more than 61,000 nights were booked in Ukraine on the platform over the course of 48 hours, with total gross booking value at nearly $2 million. Users are reserving stays and then letting hosts know that they don’t intend to use them, they just want to send a donation. The short-term rental company said it has turned off guest and host fees in Ukraine, for now.’[iii]
‘Some people have found a novel way to get money to Ukrainians as their country is under attack from Russia: booking immediate Airbnb stays they don’t intend to use. (…) [The host from Ukraine, Martiusheva] says these bookings mean a lot: “These days we do not have any income. We do not have any right to ask our country to help us, because all the country’s resources are for the war and for the victory.” Airbnb hosts are paid 24 hours after a guest checks in, so people abroad are booking stays and letting hosts know that it’s a gesture of solidarity, and they don’t plan to appear. (…) Martiusheva says the donations via Airbnb bookings have been valuable because of human connections. “It’s not just money, it’s the support and encouragement. We get these notes of people who are calling us brave, and it does feel great,” she says. “It’s just amazing, really.”’ [iv]
People from all over the world are also buying Ukrainian and pro-Ukrainian arts and crafts on Etsy. ‘Etsy shoppers are also buying digital downloads from Ukraine-based artisans — artwork, clip art, crochet patterns and even coloring-book pages — that allow them to earn money without having to produce anything physical.’[v]
‘One weaver based in southeast Ukraine told CNN that foreigners have been ordering her digital postcards and some have even bought physical items but said not to worry about sending them. “I never thought so many people who don’t know me would like to help me and my family,” she told the network.’ [vi]
In addition, ‘some Etsy sellers are donating a portion of proceeds from Ukraine-themed products to non-profits like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.’[vii]
Mobile phone owners from around the world are sending direct text messages to random citizens of Russia
Squad303 provided ordinary people around the world with a tool (1920.in) that allows them to send text messages from their phones directly to randomly selected Russians. The website states: ‘nearly 150 million Russians do not know the truth about the causes or course of the war in Ukraine. It is fed with the lies of the Kremlin propaganda. There is no free media in Russia and the internet is censored (…) Let them know the truth. Let them know the power of the free world!’. At the time of writing this article, Squad303 said that more than a couple of million of messages had already been sent like this by people from around the world.
Local peace protests are being coordinated online globally
‘Demonstrators around the world — from London to Tokyo — have taken to the streets to protest the war.’[viii] Independent websites, such as the spontaneous action by climate activists #StandwithUkraine, list the upcoming places of protests to engage more people to join the protest nearest to them. Those willing to protest can also take action with Global Citizen, by taking their pledge to protest here to be sent an email about how to attend a nearest protest, how to set up a protest, and how to show solidarity as an individual.[ix]
Regular citizens are taking a stand for Ukraine in social media
Global Citizen, among others, is inviting people to take action by sending tweets on their social media. Actions involve sending an urgent tweet condemning the attack on the nuclear plant and calling for nuclear sites to be off-limits (here), condemning the war and calling for an immediate ceasefire to save lives (here), or by amplifying all the different ways the international community — including businesses, corporations, philanthropists, and more — can help those impacted by the war and bring it to an end (here).
‘40 Ukrainian civil society organizations have come together with six urgent appeals for the world with the Kyiv Declaration’[x], and people from all around the world are taking action online to help them get heard.
People are opening their homes for refugees from Ukraine
The numbers of Ukrainian refugees are rising by the second, with vast majority of them escaping to neighbouring Poland. ‘Two Ukrainians enter Poland every three seconds. The 1.4 million people who have arrived in Poland would create the country’s second-largest city. By next week, they will likely surpass Warsaw, the country’s biggest city, Polish officials expect. Since 1987, Poland’s population has been steady around 38 million, held down by emigration and few births. In the 13 days since Feb. 24, it has hit 39 million, and within weeks it will likely top 40 million.’[xi]
‘This huge, sudden influx of refugees has given rise to an enormous grassroots movement across Polish society, as private individuals have mobilized to raise funds and offer free accommodation and transport to the refugees.’[xii]
‘In Poland, tens of thousands of people have signed up for social media groups including “Ukraine, I’m helping you!” and “Host a Sister” offering their homes, money and carpools to Ukrainians seeking refuge in the neighbouring country.’[xiii] ‘From overflowing donation centres near the border to offers of transport and accommodation around the country, Poles offer a warm welcome to people forced to flee.’[xiv]
‘In Krakow, a nonprofit turned an old theater into a shelter that housed 12 people on the first day of the war, 100 people on the next day, and has been packed ever since (…). Some 3,500 people offered their apartments in the city, all of them now full, said Karol Wilczynski, who runs Salam Lab, a migration and human rights group. Online, more than 10,000 Poles joined a website pledging to host refugees in their homes, for free. Each offer can get more than 100 responses from families asking to stay.’[xv]
‘Refugees who took trains to Germany were also faced with a similar crowd of people welcoming them and opening their homes to refugees. Thousands of German people waited at Berlin’s central railway station to welcome refugees and held placards informing the people how many they could accommodate. Some of the placards read, “Big room. One-three people. Children welcome too! For as long as you want.” Another one read: “Can host two people! Short or long-term,” reported BBC.’[xvi]
Other European countries are welcoming increasing numbers of refugees and opening their homes for them as well.
Transport companies, cities and regular citizens are offering free transport to Ukrainians
In Poland, ‘those who arrive and open up Jakdojade, an app used to buy tickets for public transport, will see an alert in Ukrainian at the top of the screen reminding them that Ukrainians can ride free. The same is true on Polish railways, where a Ukrainian passport has become a ticket for unlimited travel. Even private companies have stepped in to help. The country’s largest car rental company, PANEK Car Sharing, announced the day after the invasion began that it would set aside 1,000 cars for transport from Ukraine. Volunteers signed up to drive the cars, and the convenience retail chain Circle K footed the bill for the fuel.’[xvii]
‘People are also turning to ride-sharing apps such as BlaBlaCar to help transport refugees. Last week, BlaBlaCar’s CEO tweeted that 50,000 people have been transported either across Ukraine or to neighboring countries like Poland, Romania, and Hungary.’[xviii]
‘Uber is also offering unlimited free rides from the Ukraine-Polish border to the cities of Lublin (…) and Rzeszow, in the southeast. Uber users in Hrebenne, Dolhobyczow and other Polish border towns can enter special codes to get a free ride to or from the checkpoints. The company is also offering free transportation to migrant welcome center staff and for the delivery of donated goods at various warehouse locations throughout Poland.’ [xix] In the near future, the company plans ‘to enable Ukrainian refugees to become Uber drivers in neighboring countries where it operates, it said in a release.’[xx]
#Chefs for Ukraine and others are cooking for refugees
‘Spanish chef José Andrés founded World Central Kitchen over 10 years ago, and the organization has served millions of meals to those in crisis around the globe. According to the nonprofit, WCK is active in Poland and feeding Ukrainian refugees crossing the border.’[xxi] ‘WCK is serving thousands of fresh meals to Ukrainian families fleeing home as well as those who remain in the country.’[xxii] #ChefsForUkraine: Stories from the Ground show a heartwarming record of the unceasing work of the volunteers cooking and serving thousands of meals.
The creative community is helping to ‘give a face’ to the war in Ukraine
A new free global platform ‘encourages the global creative community to share photographs, images, illustrations and art to “give a face” to the War in Ukraine. Called Creatives For Ukraine, its founders believe creativity is a significant weapon at showing what is happening in the eastern European country.’[xxiii]
‘”So many things are being said, but we feel it’s so important to act with whatever power, tools, or influences we have,” explains Justina Muralytė-Kozlovė from design agency Folk, one of three Lithuanian firms behind the platform. “We can contribute in a meaningful way to help fight fake news and give Westerners something visual to make them comprehend the gravity of the situation. We also invite everyone who is looking to help fight the information war in a practical way – it’s their chance to share illustrations or art depicting the war in Ukraine.”’ [xxiv]
‘Illustrations shared on the Creatives For Ukraine platform are open for individual users and media outlets all around the world to use when they need to illustrate the situation in Ukraine. The platform will not have any commercial use but will ask to credit creatives if work is shared elsewhere.’[xxv] The beautiful graphic featured on this page comes from the above platform, with credit going to Eglė Plytnikaitė’s ‘I stand with Ukraine’.
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Graphic: Eglė Plytnikaitė’s ‘I stand with Ukraine’
[xiii] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/03/russia-tech-business-conflict-ukraine/, second link added by the editor
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