The volunteer web site has raised over 1 million Euros and efficiently housed over 33,000 refugees in Lithuania.
In instances of disaster, solidarity makes a distinction. For the time being, Strong Together is a volunteer-led initiative created by the Pelėdos Squad of the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union (LRU) to presently present real, secure housing options to refugees of the warfare in Ukraine.
A journalist and volunteer of the initiative and the LRU, Edmundas Jakilaitis is well-drilled in fast pondering and efficient group. “We knew Russia was about to assault, and we knew we may do one thing to assist.” Robust Collectively is the end result.
“Not one individual is sleeping in a station, faculty, or a public area. They’re all staying at folks’s houses – the thought is working.”
Robust Collectively, At all times
Robust Collectively is an easy-to-use on-line platform for keen Lithuanian households to supply a spot of their houses and supply shelter to refugees.
The initiative started in 2020 in the course of the first Coronavirus lockdown in Lithuania to offer important protections comparable to meals and medication to at-risk and susceptible folks.
“We tried to think about how we may assist these with well being issues, folks with disabilities, and those that are older. Again then, we have been making an attempt to consider the right way to assist individuals who couldn’t depart their houses – now it’s the other.”
“First, we launched a public consciousness marketing campaign and printed net banners and press releases, however the public actually obtained concerned after we created our website. That’s how we gathered nearly 10,000 volunteers so rapidly.”
Nonetheless, the sustained energy and pace of the response to the Robust Collectively challenge speaks of an outpouring of solidarity that has not waned among the many public regardless of nearly three years of continued crises.
“We knew folks wanted assist, so we thought we should always deliver volunteers collectively. That’s how our group functioned in the course of the two quarantines, with 1000’s of volunteers serving to folks by way of a telephone line we arrange.”
Two lengthy lockdowns later, it appeared Robust Collectively would not be wanted. Edmundas returned to residing his on a regular basis life, hoping for that very factor. For a short time, the group disbanded till every thing modified when Russia invaded Ukraine.
Housing, Internet hosting, and Solidarity
Bordered to the south-east by the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad and to the south-west by Belarus, Lithuania shares nearly 1,000 kilometers of land with the 2 nations in battle with Ukraine.
So, with the various 1000’s of Ukrainian refugees making an attempt to cross by means of the slim hall alongside the Lithuanian-Polish border, it quickly grew to become clear that the group wanted to scale its operation quickly.
“On Monday, we got here up with the thought. On Tuesday, we made an internet site. Then, on Wednesday, it was up and working, and we already had 1000’s of volunteers.”
“About two weeks earlier than the warfare began, after we started to really feel it was going to start out, we started preparations. So we determined we wanted to create a system the place folks may provide their flats and homes to refugees.”
For Robust Collectively, transitioning from a post-lockdown lull to an impending humanitarian disaster of excessive operational complexity required a brand new strategy that was fast to implement, reliable, and infinitely scalable.
And when Edmundas and his staff wanted an internet site, Unicorns LT really useful Hostinger. Robust Collectively obtained in contact with us, and we helped get it off the bottom.
An On-the-Floor Response
Edmundas and a unit of 27 volunteers instantly arrange a refugee middle on the Polish-Ukrainian border, remodeling a four-star lodge right into a reduction station with army precision.
“Probably the most essential issues for an individual fleeing warfare is dignity.”
Edmundas has little doubt that it was “undoubtedly the perfect refugee middle on the planet.” First, everybody arriving on the middle was greeted with a steaming sizzling bowl of Ukrainian borscht. Then, they sat down collectively, ate at tables with crisp white tablecloths, slept slightly, showered, and recovered as a lot as doable earlier than deciding the place to go subsequent.
Nonetheless, Edmundas and his crew knew they needed to be very cautious in organizing that subsequent step. All too conscious of the potential dangers of human trafficking, Robust Collectively rapidly determined it was too dangerous to permit volunteers to take susceptible folks to Lithuania with out skilled oversight.
“You can’t put two moms with 4 kids in a automotive with a stranger to take them to Lithuania. We employed an expert bus firm as a result of they work underneath contracts. We knew their journey routes and will monitor all of them the best way. There have been no exceptions – the buses took folks to official registration facilities, and we stayed with them till they may both apply for official lodging or go to their family.”
An On-line Answer
Edmundas and the opposite Robust Collectively volunteers are multi-skilled however knew they wanted a platform that was easy, dependable, and fast to arrange.
Constructing an internet site was the one apparent option to transfer ahead, and Strong Together represents all the perfect practices of efficient on-line communication.
“You must observe the call-to-action precept. If you need folks to do one thing, you could give them the instruments. So we wanted a platform that will empower folks to behave, and that wouldn’t have been doable and not using a web site.”
Flexibility, ease of use, and the flexibility to scale at any second are a very powerful considerations for Robust Collectively because the disaster continues to unfold.
“We take into consideration the right way to construct issues that may work for everyone, not only for one particular person.”
Whereas publicizing the web site itself proved a problem, Edmundas and the squad of 27 volunteers work with communication, media, and advertising and marketing every day.
Taking issues into their very own fingers, they have been in a position to design and publish their very own web site and discover a hosting solution that would deal with the site visitors from a battle that has displaced over 10 million folks and counting.
What Edmundas didn’t count on was the sheer quantity of site visitors and assist from folks providing assist.
“To start with, we financed every thing ourselves. Then in the future, after we made the web site and obtained the message on the market, we noticed that we had 100,000 Euros in our account. The following day we had 200,000, and that’s how we raised over 1 million.”
Whereas the battle continues to ravage Ukraine, Robust Collectively has pledged to proceed caring for those who want their assist.
The credo is straightforward: get up and be counted on when these round you need assistance. It’s a easy and unshakable perception for Edmudas and everybody concerned in Robust Collectively, outlined by self-motivation and solidarity and empowered by discovering the precise instruments for the job.
“In the event you do one thing your self and if you happen to strive, it won’t be simple, however you’ll be taught that it’ll work out ultimately.”
The warfare isn’t over but, and other people nonetheless want shelter. Robust Collectively is on the lookout for volunteers who may give a house to refugees in Lithuania.
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