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Community foundations mount global response to the war in Ukraine
CFAustralia Update
Gerlinde Scholz | March 28th 2022

Last month, Russia invaded Ukraine. This war is unfolding on our screens in real time with shocking images of assault and destruction, of innocent civilians suffering injury, death, hunger, and displacement. The humanitarian crisis created by the war in the Ukraine is galvanising community foundations to coordinate their responses across borders.

One of the hallmarks of community foundations is their place-based nature and often hyper-local focus. They are are driven by a sense of compassion that usually begins at home and focuses on our immediate community.

But community foundations also exist as a global movement. While our community foundations are responding to needs and crises closer to home – for example, the on-going flood emergency in northern NSW – it is difficult to ignore the plight of Ukrainian communities on the other side of the planet.

The Ukraine crisis requires a coordinated international response. While the powers that be calculate the costs of becoming involved, community philanthropy is stepping up to respond to the challenge of human need in a pragmatic way.

In many countries, community foundations operate in a network united under a local peak body. In good times, cooperation between these organisations is invaluable for sharing knowledge and resources.  In challenging times, these connections are essential for coordinating local contributions into a global response.

Earlier in March, our counterparts at UK Community Foundations (UKCF) and at the European Community Foundations Initiative (ECFI) advised that there are 33 community foundations in Ukraine, 20 of which remained operational at the time (7 March). They were being assisted in country by support organisation ISAR Ednannia, and the national network for development of local philanthropy in Ukraine.

Ednannia (it means Unity) has made a public appeal for assistance to the international community, while UKCF was recommending the Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal as the most effective way to support humanitarian efforts from the UK.

The community foundation networks of Poland, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Latvia stand in solidarity with their sister organisations in Ukraine and community foundations from those countries are on the ground, providing essential aid and support to refugees.

By the end of March, some 2- 3 million Ukrainians had fled their country and made their way to neighbouring Poland. Incredibly, this has not resulted in the establishment of large refugee camps as often happens in such situations. Instead, these refugees have been welcomed and ‘absorbed’ into the community, according to Poland’s NATO Ambassador Tomasz Szatkowski speaking on ABC Radio on 1 April.

The news feed of the Federation of Community Foundations in Poland shows how deeply and actively community foundations are involved in this work of hands-on humanitarian assistance.

Information sharing about responses to the crisis and learning for community foundations from different European countries is coordinated by ECFI, for instance through peer exchange meetings on “Community foundations and refugees”.

Meanwhile, international not-for-profit GlobalGiving has reported that their Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund quickly became their biggest appeal to date. In just one month, this appeal has so far mobilised more than 83,000 donors and gathered around $A32 million in donations, which will make a big difference when it is distributed to community organisations on the ground.

In Australia, Philanthropy Australia has published a list of appeals and organisations donors may wish to consider to support humanitarian projects in Ukraine.

At Community Foundations Australia, we express our admiration for the determination of the Ukrainian people and we salute the work of community foundations across Europe and of support organisations in Europe, the UK, and USA for jointly mounting a coordinated response to the humanitarian crisis on the ground.

Australia’s community foundations will be ready to support community groups helping to welcome Ukrainian refugees as the first of an anticipated 5,000 arrivals are expected in WA in the coming weeks.

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