The Refufin project came to fruition almost spontaneously. After Russia invaded Ukraine, Darya Gulik assisted her friends in organizing a bus to transport Ukrainian refugees. Within a few days, Darya received hundreds of requests for help from her contacts. It was then decided to assist all who sought help, and the only requirements were to find volunteer bus drivers, buses, and sponsors.
By the end of the first week, Darya had already gathered more than 50 volunteers to help.
Buses and drivers were quickly found. Those in need received free bus rides to Finland and, at the same time, a sense of security through chat. As volunteer team grew, so did the need for an official representative and appointment.
Who were these volunteers? Do you have the contact details of all of them? Who sets the rules? How could they have contacted official bodies and authorities without an official name and support? These questions were more strongly discussed in the second week of the action.
Observing these events from the periphery, Artem Kuosti offered his organization's services to act as a facilitator. House Of Helsinki Ry was a fledgling organization dedicated to supporting small cultural volunteer projects.
On March 13th, 2022, Refufin began operating under the House of Helsinki Ry project after several discussions. The House of Helsinki provided the necessary support that Refufin needed, including creating a website with orientation material for each volunteer and advocating for the project, resulting in increased visibility and support.
The merger allowed Refufin to gain access to a network of essential partners, donations, and resources. Darya was able to focus on volunteer coordination and transportation while Artem and the board handled policies, non-disclosure agreements, volunteer training, material translation, and more.
Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Refufin has reached over 6,000 people throughout Finland with its support chats and activities. Volunteers have organized transportation, booked accommodations, provided information on safety, travel, and legal rights, and even booked Forenom rooms for over 100 occasions, allowing Ukrainians to temporarily stay free of charge.
As the number of transports decreased towards the end of 2022, Refufin shifted its focus to providing support and information via the Refufin chat to those who had already arrived in Finland.
REFUFIN project in numbers
Out of the 435 Ukrainians over half of the them (52%) felt that they received the necessary help and support from REFUFIN volunteers. Furthermore, 54% of those surveyed believed that they would require assistance with everyday issues as they settle into their new lives in Finland.
In terms of volunteer satisfaction, 60% of REFUFIN volunteers (n=30) expressed the need for more comprehensive guidance and expert training/support to effectively fulfill their duties.