Ukraine and Caritas – Hands-on Information

If you want to know how best to help Ukraine, we recommend the dedicated page on the Caritas website

The Parish’s Pies & Puds group (a regular lunch event) held a Ukraine Special last week, and were lucky enough to have Sheila Wade from Portsmouth Caritas as speaker. She has been on the Ukraine/Hungary border recently, so has first-hand experience, and a lot of background information.

She talked about the history of Ukraine, and how the crisis arose, and told us basic facts about the country and its population.

Her description of the refugees’ journeys out of Ukraine was hard-hitting and not comforting: most of the travellers are unaccompanied women with children (as men have to stay behind) and there are considerable dangers all the way along the routes, with gangs taking control of supplies and blocking access to basic amenities: this continues into the host countries, and although police and aid agencies are doing their best, it is an extremely fraught situation.

She also made it clear that the most helpful aid people can offer is money. This is how Caritas have put it in a statement:

People’s generosity in wanting to respond to the situation in Ukraine is remarkable. This generosity is best expressed through donations of money rather than goods. Caritas agencies in Poland and Slovakia already have warehouses of supplies and find it difficult to receive in kind donations, and this is also the case in Ukraine. They have all confirmed financial support is the most helpful form of donation. This enables them to focus on assessing what is needed and gives them the resources to do this most efficiently. Sadly, sending goods has been found to be less effective. The costs of sending to a disaster affected areas often costs more than the goods themselves and takes time. In a fast-changing crisis, what is needed today is quickly not needed tomorrow.

Sheila had photographs showing that some of the goods being delivered to refugee centres were impossible to process and were being wasted.

It was obvious from the talk that Caritas think long and hard about the best ways to help – with factors that probably would not occur to many of us. For example, Ukraine has the lowest level of English speakers in Europe: people speak Russian and Ukrainian, with the Cyrillic alphabet, so they cannot even guess at instructions or information on English goods. (The example she gave was baby milk powder).

For the same reason, she says that it is most unlikely that there will be large numbers of Ukrainian refugees in the UK (regardless of how well the government schemes work) – they will tend to go to nearby countries. Those who come here would most likely have friends or family here already. They may still, of course, need help. And she particularly emphasized the need for counselling and care both for refugees and those who help them on the first line, wherever they are.

She also told us that it is important to give refugees as much choice and self-determination as possible, to keep normal life going. And she emphasized that most of the refugees want to return to Ukraine, they are not looking to settle permanently in host countries.

People who attended the talk learned a lot: basic information which isn’t widely known and we hope can be disseminated. Everyone there will have been busy since then passing this trustworthy, first-hand experience on to others! Please share the information as much as you can.

Thanks to everyone who came to the talk, and who most generously donated £275 which went directly to Caritas. As the slide says – Thank You!

And of course a big thank you to Sheila Wade, Acting head of Caritas in Portsmouth Diocese.

If you want to know how best to help, we recommend the dedicated page on the Caritas website

And please continue to pray….