The photo above – taken in Ukraine – is heartbreaken. You can see displacement, exhaustion, despair, and yet the animal is included in their flight. It is hard to see a photo like this and not feel utterly helpless and hopeless.
And then you read Instagram updates like the one below from Dean Nicholson (1bike1world), and you feel warm inside, and more hopeful. Dean and Nala help charities, shelters, rescues as they cycle around the world (Nala – despite being unable to travel during Covid shutdowns – is on her 27th country!)
Dean is so well known and loved, that any shelter he helps and profiles on his page will receive incredible support. And you can trust that any money raised will go directly to the animals and people who need it. Once Dean is on site (he is driving there now), I will support the shelter where he will be.
Another good idea (I have tried this one) is to book an AirBnb in Ukraine for as many nights as you want, and let the host know you will not be using the room. AirBnb has waived all fees for the transaction, the money is available within 24 hours, and the room can then be used for displaced persons.
I did this last week and it worked really well. I booked a room in a private home for two weeks. I looked at reviews and photos and found someone that rented out rooms in their home themselves (as opposed to being a letting agency) in a small town. About an hour after I booked, I received a lovely email from a wonderful woman who told me she would use any money over to help her community. The last time I looked she was fully booked to July! I know I sound sceptical but I chose the most humble home I could find where multiple reviews spoke about the warm hearted hosts, figuring they could probably use more help, and would not try to scam me.
Coming from Africa as I do, I have seen so many times that aid from huge organisations does not get to where it is supposed to go. Sometimes things are filtered through sticky webs of middlemen who take their cut. Other times, the slow wheels of bureaucracy grind things to a halt, meaning that things end up not helping anyone at all. In other cases, much of the money is eaten up by organisation salaries. Or clothes intended to help people are sold, thus competing with local tradespeople. This has resulting in me always trying to give support as directly as I can. Having said that though, I have heard that UNHCR is good, if you wish to donate the traditional way.
And in case anyone was wondering