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How to ... help Ukraine effectively

Give money to the Red Cross, open your home – maybe hold off on loading up a van

How can I help Ukraine?
Give money to a reputable humanitarian organisation. Donating to those experienced in dealing with humanitarian crises, such as the Irish Red Cross or Unicef, enables them to buy emergency relief goods locally. They know how to distribute them, too.

Should I send things?
Buying full-price items in Ireland for transport across Europe with no plan for their distribution on arrival may not be the most effective way to help right now. "Our concern is that you could have a very well-intentioned pile of goods in a warehouse in Poland or Romania with no facility to get them the last mile to the people who need them," says Charlie Lamson of the Irish Red Cross.

“The procurement system for the International Red Cross is a sophisticated operation,” he adds. Cash donations enable it to use its purchasing power to bulk-buy locally. “Water, shelter, thermal blankets, hygiene products, tents, kitchen sets, mattresses, portable lamps, buckets, school kits, coal for heating to provide warm accommodation” – cash donations from Irish people are helping the Red Cross to buy all of these things, he says.

“We know it’s going to get cold next week so we are procuring things like thermal blankets, sleeping bags and insulated tents, as well as doing psychological first aid and health assessments. These are practical things for people in an extreme situation.” Humanitarian agencies also know how to get the items to those in need.

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But I have a van…
Watching the desperate scenes on TV, it's natural to want to act. However, driving across Europe could make things worse. "We are discouraging that because you end up just clogging up the roads in what is an already untenable situation," says Lamson. "We are trying to keep the roads clear so that the vehicles that need to get through can. If you picture that all across Europe and the number of vehicles full of well-meaning people going into an already crowded and confused situation, it just adds chaos."

I have a spare room…
Brilliant. Those fleeing Ukraine need a place to stay. Your vacant property or spare room could change a life. "The last two days, we've had 10,000 offers. It is unbelievable. Irish society has so much to be proud of. The outpouring of support has been just overwhelming," says Lamson. You can pledge accommodation at Registerofpledges.redcross.ie.

Can my town help?
It certainly can. "A town can put together a committee and think about all the different things it can do to support a family or individual coming to their town so that they can integrate more effectively," says Lamson. This is called a Community Sponsorship Programme. "It might be a welcome committee, language support, inclusion in schools or sports clubs, or just someone to put their arm around them a bit and say 'Welcome'."