Whenever there is war or conflict, there are people who suffer or are forced to flee. We believe that everyone has the right to receive aid if they need it, and we work to make sure that Estonian humanitarian aid would reach people in need. As a small organization we are not able to be everywhere but then we can be flexible and effective in our interventions.
At the moment, Estonian Refugee Council is active in Ukraine and Turkey.
We started our humanitarian aid activities in Ukraine already at the end of 2014 when we, together with two other NGOs, launched a donation gathering campaign "For Ukraine!" ("Ukraina heaks!"). Estonian Refugee Council was the lead organization of this campaign.
Our activities in Ukraine have changed as the conflict and people's needs have changed. At the end of 2014 we started with distribution of medical, hygienic and food packages to IDPs and to people living near the contact line in Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhia oblasts. See from the map which cities and villages benefitted from our aid. In 2015 we started also with medical assistance by providing hospitals located near the contact line with much-needed medicines, medical equipment and other supplies. In summers of 2015 and 2016 we organized summer camps on Khortitsa island in Zaporizhia for IDP children as well as for children with special needs. In the same years we sent 11 professional volunteers (psychologists, social workers, physiotherapists, etc) from Estonia to eastern Ukraine.
Due to changing needs we started a new programme in autumn of 2016: we provide entrepreurship grants to IDPs and people living near the contact line in Donetsk and Zaporizhia oblasts, with the aim of promoting self-reliance. More than 200 people have thus far benefitted from the grant programme. In cooperation with Beetroot Academy we also provide low-cost IT trainings in Mariupol and Zaporizhia to IDPs and people from other vulnerable groups in 2017-2018. Our grant programme is financed by the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In addition, we provide ad hoc assistance to vulnerable groups based on need, for example, hygienic products to home-bound elderly people and school kits to children. You can help as well by making a donation to our humanitarian aid fund.
Estonian Refugee Council's work in Ukraine is different from many other aid providers because we are implementing our programmes ourselves, right on the ground. We have on average a 2-person team on the ground, based in Zaporizhia, as well as many volunteers. That way we can always be certain that our help reaches the right people at the right time!
Turkey has taken in the largest number of Syrian refugees globally. In 2016 we started a humanitarian aid programme in the city of Reyhanlı together with our local implementing partner UOSSM. The project supports refugee children with special needs through providing psychosocial services like counselling and therapy, both in individual and group settings. In addition, we send to Turkey three Estonian volunteers specializing in children with special needs. The project is financed by the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Building up the capacity to respond to humanitarian crises needs a lot of work. For that effect, we also carry out capacity building projects and activities: