Dopomoga Ukraini creates inclusive platform to help Ukrainians access assistance

Dopomoga Ukraini creates inclusive platform to help Ukrainians access assistance

Almost three months on from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a stroll through the streets of Tbilisi provides a visual reminder of both the ongoing conflict and the Georgian population’s prodigious support for the Ukrainian people. With billboards flashing blue and yellow and Ukrainian flags nearly matching their Georgian counterparts in representation, it is unsurprising that a March poll commissioned by NDI found that 98% of Georgians hold a favorable view of Ukrainians.

And while these visual reminders represent the sentiment of solidarity felt by many in Georgia, more tangible forms of assistance have also manifested since the first days of the war. Humanitarian aid collection, initiatives from the private sector, and government assistance schemes have all provided support to Ukrainians staying in Georgia since the conflict began.

Although assistance efforts from the public and private sector have abounded, a lack of coordination combined with a significant language barrier has left many Ukrainians in Georgia struggling to access information about the help available to them. In recognition of this issue and with the support of a USAID Civil Society Engagement Program Rapid Response Grant, citizen group Dopomoga Ukraini created a bi-lingual web portal to consolidate and disseminate information about the services and support offered to Ukrainians staying in Georgia.

Through the website, the group has been able to offer a one-stop online Ukrainian-language resource that brings together verified information on a number of topics, including medical services, legal assistance, accommodation, education, psychological services, and employment opportunities.

In addition to the website, a Dopomoga Ukraini Facebook page and group were also set up to better disseminate the information available. Anna Kebadze, who helped found the platform, says that the group chose to use both a web portal and Facebook to better reach the Ukrainian population and offer a forum for Ukrainians to communicate real time information on their needs. “The webpage has been a crucial part of the project since it is well-structured. Information is grouped in different categories and is easy to search, while our social media channels have allowed us to effectively reach Ukrainians in Georgia, use advertising to disseminate the most important information, and interact with people directly.”

The team reports almost 5,000 members in its Facebook group and 3,000 followers on its Facebook page, which has a reach of more than 500,000. Through the platform, they’ve provided information on more than 300 initiatives, with an average addition of 35 posts on their Facebook page every week.

And it’s through this leveraging of social media that the group has been able to provide information to a wider audience. Kebadze recalls a post in the Dopomoga Ukraini Facebook group from the Easter season, in which a Ukrainian mother and her five-year-old son, based in Zugdidi, decided to bake and sell paskas (Easter cake). Because of the platform’s substantial following, the post received almost 300 shares and a reach of more than 68,000 people, leading to such high demand that the mother was unable to take additional orders.

Kebadze says it is important that civic groups like Dopomoga Ukraini take on initiatives like this because they help to unite the community around a common cause. By bringing together information on private sector initiatives and government assistance, the group was better able to serve the needs of Ukrainians and offer members of the Georgian population a way to get involved and lend a hand. “Part of our aim in this project was to further encourage the public and businesses to engage in charity initiatives by promoting good examples and demonstrating the needs of Ukrainians in Georgia.”

And many of the platform’s current followers are in fact not Ukrainian. In addition to the Dopomoga Ukraini team’s efforts, which have provided direct assistance to more than 90 Ukrainians that reached out for support, the platform has also become a hub for Georgians interested in volunteering. “The group has brought together hundreds of Georgian volunteers to plan activities in support of the Ukrainian population here,” notes Kebadze.

One such activity that was planned through the Facebook group was a language learning initiative. Volunteer Levan Basiashvili was one of the first in the group to offer free Georgian and English language classes for Ukrainians, and his initiative was soon joined by other volunteers, who are now working with 20 adults and children to help them learn both languages. In a further sign of solidarity, Basiashvili also set up an online group to facilitate Ukrainian language lessons for Georgians, an initiative that has not only solidified sentiments of goodwill towards the Ukrainian population in Georgia but also provided employment opportunities for 10 Ukrainian language teachers.

Kebadze says that in a time when many Ukrainians have had their lives upended and are facing the struggles of life in a new country, she hopes that Dopomoga Ukraini’s website and Facebook page can make getting help easier. “The aim of our project is to assist Ukrainians coming to Georgia so that they feel more comfortable, secure, and protected during their stay. There has been such a strong outpouring of support and assistance from Georgian society, and we just want to make sure Ukrainians can fully access it.”

Categories: Breaking News, Highlights

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