Photo: Ana Radulescu is welcomed by the children of the Kamenets Podisk District
“Friends you are incredible
We admire your warm hearts and openness to our people every day.
Your support inspires victory in such a difficult time. Ukrainians appreciate your every courageous speech, every charitable step, every post on social networks that spreads the truth and encourages the fight against Russian occupiers on various fronts. After all, Ukraine is fighting the enemy not only for its own freedom, but also for the values and the right to a peaceful life of the entire democratic world. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
President of the Kamenets Podisk district and
President of the Council of Districts in Ukraine
This week IFSW extended its role by working directly in Ukraine through the partnership developed by IFSW European President Ana Radulescu and the people of the Kamenets Podisk district. This is the latest phase of action in the 100 days since invasion by the Russian government. The social work role in responding to the crisis continues to put decision making in this multi-phased approach with the displaced peoples and communities living under war conditions.
The first phase involved setting up social work teams along the borders to Ukraine, on the main refugee transport routes in the asylum countries and in many of the asylum communities. The work of these social work teams has been complex. In most countries there were no plans for this situation as refugees arrived at the borders under extreme urgency without clothes, food, medications or plans. The international learning of the social work profession was invaluable for advancing an immediate response.
The social work teams quickly organised for the collection, transportation and the direct distribution of clothes, medicines and food at the borders and along the key points in the refugees’ journies. Where possible, they coordinated complex government services and the many NGOs that gathered at the hotspots to align actions based on the rights of refugees. Their right to be safe, treated with dignity and to make their own informed plans.
For many refugees this has meant they want to find work and for their children to be at school in the asylum countries. Social workers responded by successfully promoting temporary legal status for refugees, they worked with employers, schools and in communities to build understanding and joint action between the refugees, services and communities involved.
An additional challenging aspect of this phase has been eliminating organized crime and attempts to traffic children and vulnerable isolated refugees. Social workers put in place many checks to expose and remove criminals masquerading as NGOs and advised refugees to never give their passports to anyone, as well as encouraging them to form peer WhatsApp groups to stay in constant contact with each other, reporting their whereabouts and any concerns.
The second phase which has occurred alongside the above has involved the logistical challenges of getting medical, food and other supplies into Ukraine. Teams of volunteers in the distribution counties, as well as drivers willing to work under war conditions have been involved. To manage this complexity, social workers have built high-trust and accountability relationships at each point of the distribution system and in many instances refugees and displaced peoples themselves are volunteers working alongside their new communities.
The third concurrent phase is to co-build new social systems in Ukraine that provide sustainability, peace and wellbeing for everyone. Through global experience, IFSW has developed significant understanding about the strength of communities to support each other in war zones and to rebuild social support systems after the conflict has stopped. This week IFSW European President, Ana Radulescu has been in Ukraine working in the Kamenets Podisk district that hosts 30’000 displaced people. The officials of the province and communities have deeply appreciated IFSWs support, advice and partnership. Their desire is for other refugees to return to vibrant communities that support each other and have a strong positive future.
IFSW President Joachim Mumba said, “We thank and acknowledge the IFSW European region who have made a huge difference to people’s lives at the borders, in the asylum countries and now beginning in Ukraine. Equally important are the other IFSW members in other parts of the world who have raised funds and demonstrated global solidarity. The Federation will continue to develop partnerships in this and other war zones, recognising the strengths and aspirations of people under significant challenge. We will bring our global expertise in supporting communities and countries, building hope and rebuilding new systems that foster peace and security for everyone.”
Rory Truell, IFSW Secretary-General