As the world marks the first year of Russia’s full-scale war in Ukraine, it’s essential to recognize the ongoing struggles faced by Ukrainian newcomers who have been forced to flee their homes and start afresh in foreign countries.
While news and media coverage tend to intensify during the anniversary of the war, it’s important to remember that the struggles, assistance, and care have been ongoing throughout the year. It’s not only during these moments that we should pay attention and show respect, but we should also use them as inspiration to fuel our commitment to solidarity.
OpenEmbassy cannot emphasize enough the Ukrainian community that has been built over the last year and recognizes their astounding capacity for self-organization. It’s an inspiration and a tremendous opportunity to learn from, as these challenges are not unique only to this community.
Over the years, we built infrastructure for newcomers from all over the world and has been glad to use this knowledge to support newcomers from Ukraine. Despite the challenges, newcomers have found support and solidarity from various organizations that provide vital resources and services to help them navigate the challenges of resettlement and integrate into their new communities.
For example the Opora Foundation provides legal aid and support to Ukrainians in the Netherlands. Over the past year, Opora has continued to offer various services, including legal advice and consultations, assistance with employment and education, and cultural integration support. Together with Opora, we recognize the importance of increasing awareness about the challenges faced by Ukrainians in the Netherlands on the municipal and governmental level.
OpenEmbassy has provided individual support to Ukrainian newcomers in the Netherlands from the very first days of the war through the helpdesk, where we work daily to fulfill various requests, from finding housing to placing a child in school in a new country.
As part of our efforts to support newcomers to the Ukrainian Kolo community in resettling, we:
- Paired newcomers with Dutch volunteers to help them navigate challenges such as resettlement, language barriers, and social isolation.
- Organized social events and workshops to help newcomers build a sense of community and belonging.
- Offered mental health sessions, cultural events, and programs to introduce newcomers to the local culture.
We believe that these initiatives are essential for helping newcomers feel more at home in their new surroundings and promoting a sense of belonging within the Ukrainian Kolo community.
Overall, by recognizing the unique challenges that newcomers face in adjusting to a new country and culture, together with local communities and organizations, we are helping to promote social integration, emotional well-being, and a sense of community among those who have been forced to leave their homes. Through its partnerships we are empathizing the importance of increasing awareness about the challenges faced by Ukrainians in the Netherlands on the municipal and governmental level, and also building bridges between newcomers and the wider society, promoting a sense of solidarity and mutual respect that is essential for a just and welcoming society.
As individuals and society as a whole, we must continue to stand in solidarity with newcomers and work towards a more just and welcoming world for all.
Among many others, here are some collaborations OpenEmbassy would like to highlight over the past challenging year:
NewBees connects newcomers with opportunities for employment and education. In the last year, while NewBees has provided various forms of support to Ukrainian newcomers, including language training, career coaching, and job placement services, OpenEmbassy individually supported these newcomers with the rest of the requests, including housing, education, health and integration requests. OpenEmbassy used action research methodology to evaluate our impact according to 14 different indicators for integration.
UWRA, or United Way of the Netherlands, provides support to vulnerable groups, including Ukrainian newcomers. It is one of the biggest and most active Ukrainian communities in Amsterdam and everytime individuals were seeking Dutch courses, mental support, activities for adults or kids, OpenEmbassy gladly recommended this organization. In return, every time OpenEmbassy ran educational workshops or sessions, UWRA was always there to promote it among its community to increase the awareness among even bigger groups of newcomers.
Let’s Work International is an employment agency that provides language training, career coaching, and job placement services to Ukrainian newcomers. Since our first acquaintance and understanding that Let’s Work International and OpenEmbassy share the same values, we have collaborated closely to help newcomers find decent and long-lasting job, with cross-cultural and professional communication in a new society.
Bunq offers free banking services to Ukrainian newcomers in the Netherlands. Together with the organization, Messagebird and Picnic OpenEmbassy set up the help desk at the beginning of the war and were responding to the incoming messages. Among other activities, Bunq was the first who started the People for People Foundation that supports newcomers through housing, education, and employment initiatives. And opened an online banking system that opened bank accounts and access financial services, which can help newcomers to establish themselves and to participate more fully in Dutch society.
RefugeeHelp provides assistance and support to Ukrainian people who are seeking support in the Netherlands. The organization offers a range of resources and information to help Ukrainian newcomers understand their legal rights and entitlements, find housing and healthcare, access education and employment opportunities, and navigate the Dutch system.
In addition to practical information, the RefugeeHelp informative community is one of the biggest informative platforms for Ukrainian newcomers in the Netherlands. Through these resources and support services, and quite often in an informative collaboration with OpenEmbassy, RefugeeHelp aims to help Ukrainian people establish a new life in the Netherlands and overcome the challenges of displacement and resettlement.
AWB — Acupuncturists without borders offers assistance and support to communities that have been impacted by disasters, human conflict, poverty, social injustice, and environmental damage. Their goal is to aid in disaster recovery efforts and promote resilience in these communities. For six weeks, the organization held acupuncture sessions for Ukrainian newcomers in the Netherlands within the local Kolo community. As a result, most participants felt significant mental relief and improvement in their overall psycho-emotional state.
The media tends to focus on the anniversary of a significant date related to newcomers, but the need for assistance and care is ongoing throughout the year. We should not only pay attention to newcomers’ issues during these moments but use them as a motivation to commit to solidarity.
Millions of people are forced to leave their homes each year due to wars, persecution, and other forms of violence. Collaborative efforts have shown that local communities can be active, inspiring, and self-sustaining in supporting newcomers. As individuals and society as a whole, we must continue to stand in solidarity with newcomers and work towards a more just and welcoming world for all.
Author: Anna Bilenka, action researcher & community builder at OpenEmbassy