The 2022 Summary of the Estonian Refugee Council
The most active year in the history of the Estonian Refugee Council has come to an end and it is time to look back. What did we do in 2022?
In response to the crises, we dusted off the For Ukraine! campaign launched in 2014. Thanks to fast donors, partners and volunteers from Estonia, we were able to start evacuations from the Ukrainian - Polish border immediately. We opened a temporary base of operations at the Medyka border crossing in Poland, and later in Warsaw. In total, we evacuated more than 8,000 refugees by bus, most of whom had family members or friends waiting in Estonia. Nearly 40% of the evacuees were children. We opened a base of operations in the University of Tallinn to stock evacuation buses with food, medicines and other necessities, and later added a second one in the Ekraani Keskus in Tart u, which later grew into a general support centre for refugees thanks to the City of Tartu and many volunteers.
Ukrainians arriving in Estonia, spring 2022.
Within Ukraine, we are one of the largest humanitarian organisations providing multi - purpose cash assistance, including in the occupied territories. We have already provided over EUR 31 million in multi - purpose cash assistance to more than 180,000 people. You can learn more about multi - purpose cash assistance from the animation:
Additional animations: Four Facts About Providing Multi-Purpose Cash Assistance and Myths and Reality.
We have a callcentrein Ukraine that receives up to 50,000 calls a day.
For safety reasons, employees of the call centre in Ukraine work from homes across Ukraine.
In the spring, we distributed 2,900 blankets, 4,600 sleeping bags, and other essentials to people in bomb shelters and internally displaced people's accommodation facilities. We are part of the Joint Market Monitoring Initiative (JMMI), within which we help the humanitarian sector to maintain a consistent overview of where and how markets function in Ukraine, whether and how fast the prices of basic commodities are rising, etc. We are responsible for the Zaporizhzhia and Kharkiv regions.
In addition, we are relaunching the food distribution programme in areas where it is not possible to provide multi-purpose cash assistance, including in areas liberated from occupation and areas under frequent attacks.
Food distribution near Kiev, spring 2022.
In Ukraine, for the eighth consecutive year, we provide households with winter survival support for purchasing solid fuels (firewood, briquettes, coal, etc.), as well as support Ukrainian refugees in Georgia.
We signed a cooperation agreement with the Friends of Mariupol to sustainably help refugees arriving in Narva. With the Sõbralt Sõbrale organisation, we arranged a campaign to collect winter clothes for children. For the eighth year, we distributed and continue to distribute school support to refugees who have arrived in Estonia and to children who are starting school in Ukraine.
In the field of counselling activities, we opened a call and counselling centre in Tallinn in the spring to help refugees arriving here, to advise their loved ones and helpers, and to mediate accommodation. At peak times, our staff and volunteers received over 3,000 calls per month. We have mediated more than 1,000 accommodation places provided by good Estonian people. We added a four-language frequently asked questions section to our website.
For Ukrainians arriving in Estonia, we organise group counselling on four subjects: adaptation, employment, digital skills, and supporting a child's adaptation.
In Estonia, we consistently offered various counselling and adaptation support services, including support person services, language mentoring and various workshops (for example, digital training for introducing the e-state). We continued to offer the adaptation programme module to beneficiaries of international protection, and during the year we conducted 20 trainings in four different languages. We supported refugees affected by the pandemic in Estonia. At the end of the year, we also started to offer an adaptation programme training beneficiaries of temporary protection. From the end of October to the end of December, we have trained nearly 2,800 Ukrainians.
As part of the #minuadapter activities, we organised around 170 events in Tallinn, Tartu, Pärnu and Rakvere to empower communities, with the aim of offering various activities that help people from third countries adapt to Estonia. During the year, men’s and women groups, adaptation clubs and family events, as well as seminars on employment and for parents, were held to support mental well-being and networking.
#minuadapter also produced the animations, the rest of which can be viewed on our YouTube channel.
In cooperation with the Tartu Folk High School, we offered the target group hobby classes that support Estonian language learning. Dozens of volunteers from Estonia and other nationalities participated, helping organise events and filling the roles of language and adaptation mentors. In addition, together with the Estonian Human Rights Centre and the UN Refugee Agency, we organised about 125 events across Estonia to empower Ukrainians who have arrived here. These included various free time activities and joint activities.
With the support of good donors, we conducted five children’s camps, which included more than 150 children with refugee backgrounds.
In the field of education and information, we have started and will continue to provide the public and the media with an overview of our activities connected to Ukraine. As needed, we provided information in the spring once a day, then three times a week, once a week, twice a month, and finally once a month. The latest can be found here. We opened an exhibition on sexism and exploitation in the migration crisis.
Autumn exhibition “Wolf in Sheep's Clothing” in theCentral Market in Tallinn.
We launched a hedgehog campaign to raise money for purchasing generators for hospitals and schools in Eastern Ukraine.
During the year, we have done a lot to empower people with refugee backgrounds and to highlight their experiences. Two board games and a musical album led by young people with migration backgrounds were completed. In cooperation with the actors of Vanemuine, we launched a campaign to find additional rental homes for Ukrainians who have arrived here.
We organised three training programmes for kinder gartens and continued the counselling programme for them. Overall, this involved 11 kindergartens and 15 kindergarten classes.
In cooperation with the Social Innovation Laboratory, we carried out a service design and mentoring programme for cultural and sports institutions, which enabled 10 institutions to develop and test services for third-country nationals outside of Tallinn. Four sports and six cultural institutions completed the programme.
We talked about various topics on our radio show Eksiilium.
We took a hidden camera to Tartu and produced an awareness raising video.
The Youth Displaced series of vlogs follows lives of six youngsters with refugee backgrounds. In January 2023, a documentary will be made based on this.
Youth Displaced introductory video. The rest of the videos can be found here.
For sustainable livelihood initiatives and for the seventh year in Ukraine, second year in Georgia, first year in Jordan and Kenya, we supported entrepreneurs with starting their own businesses.
In Estonia, together with Garage48, we supported Ukrainian women who arrived here with starting their own companies. In total, we supported the launch of more than 100 companies this year.
The eight hydroponic greenhouses built in Jordan last year produce a huge volume of strawberries, salads and other vegetables, the cultivation and valorisation of which provide jobs for vulnerable locals and Syrian refugees. In Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp and the Kalobeyei integrated settlement, we support the livelihoods of people who have fled from neighbouring countries. In addition to starting their own businesses, we also support them by providing life skills to young people and supporting agriculture (for example, by digging wells). We also teach computer skills in the slums of Nairobi.
Strawberries, grown in a hydroponic greenhouse, in one of the most water scarce countries today.
Relief for the effects of the drought in Kenya-wells and water pumps near the Kalobeyeiintegrated settlement.
In the mental health field, during this autumn we conducted a NET therapy training for mental health professionals to improve Estonia’s ability to offer people with refugee backgrounds a suitable form of therapy for complex traumas. In cooperation with MTÜ Peaasjad, we brought to Estonia the MindSpring methodology, which supports the adaptation of people with refugee backgrounds to their new environment. Next year, we will be able to offer this program to refugees all over Estonia.
Siin & Sääl organised a fourth edition of their Christmas Bazaar. We provided catering services throughout the year and expanded the selection of our online store. For example, you can find vyshyvanka dresses made in Ukraine.
Ukrainian clothes and other products can also be purchased from the Siin & Sääl e-shop - with each purchase you support the producers.
Last year also saw a lot of advocacy activities. Among other things, we drew attention to the dehumanising rhetoric and human rights violations in the context of the border situation.
As a team, we grew to 74 people. We opened an office in Kiev, our Tartu head office moved to a new address (Rüütli 4). We restructured the organisation by dividing our areas of activity into six programs for the next year: crisis response, sustainable livelihood, mental health, education and awareness, counselling, and the community program.
We received a letter of recognition from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for supporting Ukraine, the European Parliament recognized us with the European Citizen 2022 award, and with Mondo and the Ukrainian Cultural Centre we shared the “Koosmeel” reward.
Thank you to everyone who has supported us in one way or another this year.
Have a safe new year!