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The situation in Ukraine concerns us all. We are not only indirectly affected, but are facing a war that is only a few hundred kilometers away from us. Many of our employees, business partners and friends have acquaintances or family in Ukraine and thousands of people on the borders need our help right now.
Simply doing business-as-usual is unthinkable. Rather, it is our responsibility to help and to use our resources for the people in Ukraine and at the borders. With the skills and the team we have built up over the years, we can make a difference right now. Therefore, we decided to use our resources to set up our own aid organization.
+++ Update 18.04.2022 +++
Update: Project YOUKRAINE
In recent weeks, we have focused our efforts as much as possible on the current humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. With the beginning of the war, something very unforeseen has occurred in the heart of Europe. Therefore, Ukraine’s neighbors as well as other countries were additionally confronted with new difficulties. Accordingly, volunteers were the first to provide support at the borders. Therefore, we saw it as particularly important to help people in this chaotic situation with the driver platform we developed. The professional help by NGOs and governments was provided only a short time later.
Although the war is ongoing, new supportive and especially safe infrastructures were developed by governments and NGOs to provide transfer, housing, and in-kind donations for people moving to the West. These are primarily designed to eliminate the risk of human trafficking, as volunteer drivers must connect with local organizations to be validated. Therefore, we recommend carrying documents issued by competent German authorities in case you want to drive to Poland to enable the transfer.
Because initial arrival points want to focus on busing, safer structures have been created over time, and government organizations have taken over the registration process at some initial arrival points, we have decided that our ride sharing platform is no longer needed at this time. Although we hope this crisis will soon pass, we are prepared to reopen our platform if needed. A significant amount of help can be provided through financial support that reaches Ukraine directly. Therefore, we will continue to collect monetary donations.
To ensure that monetary donations reach Ukraine directly, we work together with the Dresden-based initiative Arche Nova e.V., which specializes in disaster supplies
+++ Update 05.04.2022 +++
Impressions of the First Convoy
On March 5th, our first convoy, consisting of 13 vans, drove to Przemysl, Poland, near the Ukrainian border, to the first reception center. Our volunteer drivers delivered necessary supplies and donations in kind, while enabling the refugees to transfer across to the West.
+++ Update 04.04.2022 +++
Rides to Poland
We recommend all volunteer drivers to coordinate their trip with the responsible authorities before departure, so that both the trip and the accommodation of the refugees can be coordinated.
+++ Update 28.03.2022 +++
In-Kind Donations in Poland
Due to the large number of refugees in Poland, donations in kind are increasingly needed, especially there. For this purpose, we have created a list of organizations that accept them locally and also transport them directly to Ukraine.
Due to Russian sabotage in the in-kind donation warehouses, we have deliberately omitted the names in order to anonymize the organizations. Nevertheless, we can guarantee that these are reputable organizations, which ensure that the donations reach the people who need them most.
+++ Update 13.03.2022 +++
Border report from Przemysl
The new situation center in Przemysl has been in place for four days now. Four days in which a lot has happened. Early Wednesday morning, a team of three, consisting of staff member Leo, volunteer Bo and translator Natalia, started their work on site. The first goal was to get an overview of the situation in the camp.
The camp, which is built on the site of a converted shopping center, offers space for more than 5,000 refugees per day in warehouses and the former stores. The large parking lot in front of the building is bustling with activity. Coaches and private cars from all over Europe arrive here looking for people who need a ride. In addition, initiatives and aid organizations distribute hot food and drinks on a daily basis, and temporary supermarkets distribute baby food, hygiene products and other donations in kind. At dusk and at night, fire bowls provide warmth to refugees and volunteers, as temperatures sometimes drop far below zero.
The majority, however, takes place inside. In partly huge halls, camp beds and mattress camps offer people a place to stay for the night. Everyone meets here: children and young people, old people, women, many pets and a few men. It never gets quiet here. Where the names of the stores used to be, there are now spray-painted numbers – from 1 to 16.
Each number has a special meaning. In room six, drivers can register, room eight is like a second-hand store for clothing donations, and in room seven is the makeshift pharmacy. There is also a first aid room, retreats for pregnant women and infants, and various administrative offices. Many of the numbers, however, are collection points for people with specific travel destinations…. So is room ten. Here, people wait to continue their journey to Germany, Denmark or the Benelux countries.
Arrival and departure in 24 hours
In the first days, a large part of the work consisted of taking calls from various drivers from the mostly eastern German region and looking for families and refugees who needed a ride to the region according to the number of car spaces. Natalia’s translation work was a great help.
Another task was to network with the local IT team in order to jointly develop a structure for matching drivers and refugees. The goal: a matching platform that automatically connects drivers and refugees with the same destination after both parties have registered with their respective data. As of now, great progress has already been made.
Departure schedules of buses and private vehicles are displayed on large screens in the shopping center, and volunteers take care of the matchmaking. The goal is to further optimize this process. In this way, the 36-hour shifts of the volunteers could be reduced, and refugees would receive a safe ride with verified drivers quickly and with little effort. The latter is particularly important. Many people fear that their passports will be taken away or that they will end up in cars driven by people with criminal intentions. For precisely these reasons, security plays a major role in the placement system. Another ambitious goal has been set: In less than 24 hours, the arrival and departure of fleeing people should be coordinated.
The flight as a test of endurance
Many people report traumatic experiences. They are stressed, afraid of what will happen next and want to talk to someone. There is hardly any psychological support on site. Many of the children don’t seem to fully understand why they are here. Playing soccer in the bed camp or skating through the aisles of the shopping center reveals a bit of normalcy in an otherwise bizarre situation. While a little boy laughs at grimaces and also sticks out his tongue, a look at the mother’s face reveals a very different reality. It is marked by worry and in thought probably in the country whose border is only 10 kilometers away. A country where war is raging. A war in which the father of the little boy is also involved.
This dichotomy of emotions is also noticeable among the helpers. On the one hand, there is the incomprehension and anger about a senseless war that turns millions of people into refugees and drives them into shelters like the one in Przemysl. On the other hand, there is also hope and the small moments of joy. A family boarding a car to Germany, children hanging up self-painted pictures of peace doves and Ukrainian flags, and a man standing amidst the chaos of the aisles selling cotton candy.
Author: Bo Sturm
+++ Update 09.03.2022 +++
Driving platform for helpers and refugees from Ukraine stands
It took about 48 hours from the idea to the working prototype. With Transfer-Ukraine.com we have developed a fast solution for matching volunteers and Ukrainians in need of transfer. Drivers advertise their planned ride using a form in our database, refugees can view it, arrange a pickup or advertise a ride request. Our main purpose in doing so is to give an audience to the incredible supply of volunteer rides, while also providing a platform for the demand for specific transfer destinations.
We are still looking for support
On our new Landingpage, we explain all our relief activities in detail and show you connecting points for your willingness to help. We work with a variety of partners, each of whom focuses on a fundamental component of the aid activities. If there are any other supporters who would like to join our organization and need a direct contact to the border crossings to coordinate their efforts, please feel free to contact us.
Our situation center in Przemysl on the Ukrainian border is established
Our staff member Leo has been on site with a caravan since 4:30 Wednesday morning, keeping in direct contact with the organizers and providing us with updates on relief needs and transfers. This situation center is a milestone in our initiative because it gives us a real-time information base for the first time. This, in turn, also helps us to connect with other organizations that are helping on the ground and to coordinate all relief activities in a meaningful way.
Expanded partnerships with Vodafone and Wunderflats
In Vodafone, we have found a partner that addresses the problem of the often insufficient data volume of refugees’ cell phones. Vodafone has donated a large number of sim cards with 100GB of data volume to ensure safe access to the Internet for refugees. The company Wunderflats, on the other hand, starts its initiative with the search for housing for Ukrainians. Through a simple form, refugees can sign up for temporary, furnished private housing. We support this extremely useful and highly requested solution by communicating to refugees on site and including it in our info materials. Conversely, Wunderflats communicates our ride platform to its users as a transfer solution to their desired destination.
All these digital and physical aid activities just need to be communicated systematically to get to the people who really need help. With on-site contact persons and the provision of information material at the borders, we have already made great progress in this task.
+++ Update 07.03.2022 +++
Theory becomes practice
The solution is a mix of on-site organization and online tool
Since the feedback meeting on our trip on Sunday, it has been decided what we can do to help the people at the border the most. Practically at the same time we started with the implementation and can present the prototype of our ride-sharing platform in a few hours. This allows drivers to advertise their ride on our website by scanning the QR code provided on site, for example. The ride will appear in our online timetable and will be live for all refugees to see.
On the other hand, Ukrainians can get information about offered trips already on their way to the interim storage facility in order to minimize their waiting time in the camp. In addition, requests for rides from refugees can be advertised to make helpers aware of their destination – in this way, both sides are linked and the organization in the camp is simplified.
All journeys are disclosed so that maximum transparency can be guaranteed.
+++ Update 07.03.2022 +++
Help needed in Dresden
We are looking for a person to manage the Ukraine Transfer Chat as well as the related social media channels. This includes answering questions, extracting and forwarding important messages.
You are welcome to use our office, we will organize drinks, transfer from Dresden to Rossendorf and catering for you.
Our concept: When organizing transfer rides to the Ukrainian border, according to our experience, there are many helpful people at the reception camps who have to drive back with empty vehicles. To avoid this, we are developing a platform through which both drivers and refugees can connect.
+++ Update 06.03.2022 +++
48 Ukrainians more are now in safety
It was 4:30 on Sunday morning when the last riders of our column arrived back at their own homes. A more than 20-hour tour lay behind them, and still there was no thought of sleeping. There was too much to process, too many unplanned things happened that made it necessary to inform everyone involved in our project about it.
Donations in kind are also needed in Germany
Despite the fact that everything was planned in advance, our hotline team had their hands full. In some cases it was necessary to redistribute accommodation at short notice, in others donations in kind had to be procured within a few hours so that they could be made available to the Ukrainian families who had arrived here.
Finding donations in kind in Germany, while a large part of them had just been transported to the Ukrainian border, turned out to be a small challenge. However, it did not take long to find the clothes in the right sizes in the closet of our team members and the donation could be handed over in time.
At the border there is not a lack of vehicles, but a lack of organization
If you are on the way to eastern Poland and take a look out of the car windows, it quickly becomes clear how gigantic the willingness of the people to help Ukraine is. Buses and trucks full of relief supplies and private vehicles of all sizes filled the streets – “Transport Humanitarny” and a Red Cross in the windows quickly made the vehicles identifiable as relief transports.
Arriving at the border camp in Przemysl, for example, the other side of the coin became apparent. An incredible number of vehicles stood in a long line on the street in front of the train station, which was converted into a reception center. There were also buses from Switzerland and Italy, and many had the same problem: matching drivers and refugees. There was handwritten registration of vehicles on site, but systematic matching between transfer seekers and providers was virtually non-existent. This resulted in many vehicles and many transfer seekers being in the same place, but not finding each other in a timely manner or at all.
This current problem of the unplannability of transfers also leads to uncertainty for the refugees, despite all the willingness to help. Since Saturday evening we are now aware of this problem and we are already working on various solutions. Currently, the best solution seems to be a combination of on-site presence for digital trip registration and an online schedule database. We will keep you informed about the exact implementation.
+++ Update 05.03.2022 +++
The convoy is on its way back – the second part of the first trip begins
Our first line trip is still in progress. In the late afternoon, 14 vehicles arrived at the Polish border. At the hotspots Przemysl, Ustilyk and Medyka the numerous relief supplies were delivered and people were taken into the vehicles. But what happens then?
To support communication, we have prepared a handout for all vehicle occupants. In it, they are informed about the route, our procedure in the next few hours, the initial reception facilities and the accommodation options, and are given a contact person for queries during the trip.
A hotline for translation and coordination from a distance
Since only some of our drivers speak Russian or Ukrainian, we have provided some of our international staff for translation. Sabine, Varditer, Marcel, Raphael and Wladimir are available for support via hotline. For the overall organization, a situation center consisting of 6 persons is additionally available around the clock. Inquiries about accommodation, bureaucratic issues, organizational or troubleshooting can thus be handled remotely at maximum speed.
Our partner network is growing
Initial reception in private homes is a good alternative to initial reception facilities. We have found a like-minded partner for this in Wunderflats. The Berlin-based company focuses on private housing and is the ideal contact for anyone who wants to offer housing. More importantly, refugees can find out about available accommodations here, and most of them are free of charge.
In the area of donations in kind, our appeal has triggered a veritable wave. Particularly noteworthy here are the Leon Foucault Gymnasium and the Laubusch elementary school. Here, children volunteered to stay at school and packed and labeled boxes with relief supplies. A few impressions of the terrific help will follow shortly.
+++ Update 04.03.2022 +++
The line is set – The first convoy starts tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m.
After an eventful Thursday, our mission has now been consolidated. We have created structures that make it easy for anyone who wants to help to join us. All you need is a vehicle, a passenger and off you go. You can register using this form. As soon as you have filled out this form, a Biofabrik employee will contact you regarding the next steps.
A regular scheduled connection between Dresden and Ukraine
For our first transfer, which starts on Saturday morning at 7:00 a.m. in Rossendorf, 14 vehicles have gathered in the meantime. Most importantly, a fixed line was established, between Dresden-Rossendorf and the city of Przemysl in eastern Poland. We always start at 7:00 am on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Due to the fixed times and the vehicles planned in advance via the registration, we achieve maximum plannability of the transfers. Thus, our contact persons and the refugees in the reception camps can prepare themselves for the pick-up and helpers who provide living quarters can do the same.
When planning our activities, scalability and organization are particularly important to us. With the constantly growing database of drivers, the fixed routes and the clear points of contact for donations in kind, we are ready for many more vehicles and hope to be able to bring more than 100 people in our convoy to Germany, to safety, as early as Wednesday.
Permanent partners and contact points for donations in kind
We are overwhelmed in what a short time a huge amount of donations in kind have come together. Donations in kind can now be dropped off at 13 different locations, which we transport to the Ukrainian border as part of our line.
+++ Update 03.03.2022 +++
What are our plans?
Together with local partners organize a regular transfer between Germany and eastern Poland to bring the refugees to safe regions and warm shelters. Our specific actions are.
- Organization of a bus bridge between the border crossings in eastern Poland and Germany
- Transport of relief supplies to eastern Poland accompanied by Biofabrik employees to ensure that donations really get to where they are needed
- On the way back to Germany we are offering transfers to refugees and helping them find accommodation
How can you help?
Donations in kind
Our team has already been to the Polish-Ukrainian border in person on 27.02.2022 to see the situation with their own eyes and to understand what would really help the people there. As thousands of people gather there in temperatures around freezing, donations in kind are needed most at the moment:
- Medical products, such as bandages and first aid kits.
- Durable food items, such as canned goods, rice, pasta, etc.
- Hygiene items (women and children)
- Charged power banks
Items not needed:
- Everyday clothing
- Children’s toys
- Fresh food
- Electrical appliances
Monetary donations are urgently needed, especially on the Ukrainian side. To ensure that these actually arrive, we work together with the Dresden-based initiative Arche Nova e.V., which specializes in disaster supplies, and they provide us with the following donation account:
Account holder: arche noVa e.V.
Bank: Bank für Sozialwirtschaft
Keywords: Ukrainehilfe Biofabrik
IBAN: DE78 8502 0500 0003 5735 00
BIC: BFSW DE 33 DRE
For questions, partnerships, to provide donations in kind or housing, contact us at +49 (0) 351 31 62 8888 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.