A Guide for Helping Ukrainian Refugees
- A charity in northern France has aided more than 250 Ukrainian refugees.
- Imperial College Business School has helped prepare a guidebook to help other French communities provide refugees with practical, medical, and legal assistance.
- The school plans a second guidebook aimed at supporting displaced Ukrainians who come to the U.K.
As Russian forces continue to attack Ukraine, business schools around the world are responding with efforts to provide aid. One of the most recent initiatives comes from a team of students, faculty, and staff at Imperial College Business School in London. The group has been working with the French charity Solidarité Ukraine to create a playbook so that other regions can replicate what a community in Northern France has achieved since early March in resettling Ukrainians displaced by the war.
The charity is led by Mary Meaney, a member of the Imperial College Business School Advisory Board and the Imperial Council. In the community of Saint-Omer, which is about 130 miles north of Paris, Meaney has coordinated the efforts of hundreds of volunteers. In addition, she has provided shelter for scores of displaced Ukrainian people at her home, including 11 orphaned children.
Meaney worked with the Imperial team to create the toolkit, titled Solidarity Ukraine: A Guide to Welcoming Ukrainian Displaced People. The guide, which contains key documents in both French and Ukrainian, provides practical advice on how community leaders can best manage the arrival and resettlement of Ukrainian refugees.
A Blueprint for Support
The guide captures how Saint-Omer has managed the refugee crisis as the community welcomed more than 250 Ukrainian women and children. The Imperial College Business School team—which included three Ukrainian students—worked to “codify and organize what the group in Saint-Omer has learned about how to support, feed, clothe, house, employ, educate, and provide healthcare for the influx of Ukrainians fleeing the country,” says Celia Moore, professor of organizational behavior at the business school.
The guide covers how to organize transport for Ukrainian people, how to prepare French host families for their arrival, how to match and host Ukrainian families, and how to support people suffering from trauma. The toolkit also discusses the practicalities of providing refugees with essentials such as clean clothing, toothbrushes, shampoo, clothes, baby equipment, and diapers, as well as access to computers so they can connect with their families and friends.
The guide captures how Saint-Omer has managed the refugee crisis as the community welcomed more than 250 Ukrainian women and children.
The charity has extensive experience with all these activities. Since the invasion, all Ukrainians who have arrived in Saint-Omer have had comprehensive medical checkups, which have included status checks on vaccinations and chronic conditions, and they have been given access to medical care. Sixty Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking psychologists have provided mental health support.
All the Ukrainian primary and secondary schoolchildren who arrived in March are now in French schools. Teenagers and adults are attending French classes that are offered in person four days a week, with additional classes available online. The community also has organized an array of cultural activities that include French language classes, art classes, and sports competitions.
In addition, the charity has submitted all French documents for Ukrainian families to receive their protected status. Finally, it has created a new bus stop in front of the Ukrainian welcome center that offers free transport to all Ukrainians.
The Next Step
The Imperial team is extending its efforts as it plans to put together a version of the guide for use in the U.K. In addition, Imperial has launched a call for new funds to support refugees and asylum seekers at Imperial. As of late April, the fund stood at close to 250,000 GBP (about 313,650 USD). Among those contributing to the fund have been Meaney, members of Imperial’s governing council, members of the school’s senior staff, and the school itself.
Says Meaney, “I am deeply grateful to the entire team from Imperial for their incredible work. This guide will be invaluable as we scale up our support to other Ukrainians in other communities.”