From royals to Girl Scouts, fans are taking part in the crisis in Ukraine

Members of Girls Scout Troop 1624, a Daisy/Brownie Jewish troop based in Silver Spring, Md., donate at HIAS headquarters on March 24.

(Hilary Bierman)

In the first month since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, HIAS has seen an outpouring of donations of all sizes in support of its emergency humanitarian efforts for refugees and displaced people who have fled the war.

One such donation arrived at the HIAS office on March 24, hand-delivered in a mason jar by a troop of dedicated Girl Scouts. According to a relative who accompanied her, her daughter was inspired by the news to collect donations first from her own tzedakah box, friends and family, then enlisted her troupe to raise funds at their Girl Scout cookie stand. In total, the Scouts raised just over $300 to support HIAS’s work in Ukraine.

Over the past month, HIAS has received almost 30 times the number of individual online donations compared to the same period last year. Unsurprisingly, those whom HIAS helped from Ukraine and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union decades ago gave in droves, many seeing their own stories in horrific newsreels from the region.

“We have also heard from members of other communities that HIAS has resettled in the United States, whether from Vietnam, Afghanistan or Cuba,” said Miriam Feffer, vice president of development for HIAS. “They recognize their stories in current events and want to rally their communities to support Ukrainians in need now.”

On Wednesday, March 23, HIAS announced that the organization had received a $10 million grant from philanthropists MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett to help respond to the crisis in Ukraine. This is the second grant HIAS has received from philanthropists, who awarded HIAS in June 2021 as part of their efforts to support and advance a more just, equitable and welcoming world.

The grant will help HIAS achieve its goal of raising $40 million for emergency response in Ukraine, including support for programs in Ukraine and neighboring countries such as Poland, Moldova, Slovakia and Romania . HIAS partners with local organizations, providing technical assistance, capacity building and general support to prepare for the short, medium and long term needs of people displaced by the current crisis.

“We are honored once again to have MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett recognize that HIAS is able to help refugees and displaced people on the ground in a life-changing way,” said Mark Hetfield, President and CEO. of the management of HIAS. “HIAS has been working in independent Ukraine for over 20 years, working with Ukrainians and starting a Ukrainian-led organization (Right to protection – R2P) to protect and accommodate asylum seekers from other countries as well as displaced Ukrainians themselves.

HIAS’s response to the crisis in Ukraine has also led to many new donations and partnerships. The Archewell Foundation, a non-profit organization created by Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, announced on March 18 that they had donated to a number of organizations responding to the Ukraine crisis and encouraged others to do the same. HIAS’ work was at the top of their list.

“The impact of a donation from such influential supporters goes beyond the immediate financial benefit of their generous gift,” Miriam Feffer says the front. “We are confident that their investment in our emergency response in Ukraine will inspire an entirely new audience to learn more about HIAS and follow their lead as supporters.”

In addition to these crucial financial contributions, Airbnb, a long-term partner of HIAS, will provide additional emergency accommodation to HIAS’s efforts to connect people fleeing Ukraine to free short-term housing in Poland. Airbnb has partnered with HIAS since 2017, most recently providing short-term housing for Afghan evacuees to the United States after the Kabul airlift in 2021.

“Together, we will ensure that the most vulnerable – including women, children and the elderly – have access to immediate shelter and essential protective services,” said Jessica Reese, HIAS Vice President for institutional development. “This emergency partnership builds on five years of lessons learned and best practices established from the HIAS-Airbnb partnership serving refugees, asylum seekers and those forcibly displaced by conflict.”

The partnership will support HIAS’s work with the Polish NGO Our choice, which operates the Ukrainian House Crisis Response Center in Warsaw. Together, HIAS and Ukrainian House provide people fleeing Ukraine with immediate access to safe, short-term housing through funds for rent and bookings on the Airbnb platform.

New corporate partner Pair of glasses took a more creative approach to supporting HIAS; the eyewear company has developed a “United with Ukraine” line themed around the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag, with 100% of the proceeds going to HIAS. Pair is no stranger to charitable endeavours, as its model involves donating a pair of glasses to children in developing countries for every pair sold.

As the military operation continues and Ukrainian refugees flee the war zone, HIAS’s community of supporters and partners are integral to meeting the increased needs.

“So far, good planning has allowed us to anticipate the crisis,” wrote Ilan Cohn, director of HIAS Europe, in a recent editorial for Haaretz. “Now is the time to build capacity for relocation, resettlement and ultimately integration.”

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