Soon after Ukrainian refugees, most of them women and children, started flooding into the Netherlands around the time Russia invaded Ukraine, United Way the Netherlands (UW-NL) took the initiative to found our organization, the Ukrainian Women Refugees Association (UWRA). Ever since then, we have been working closely with UW-NL to shape its project Home from Home. Most of us had little or no prior knowledge of the geography, language and culture of the Netherlands.
Once basic necessities like housing had been taken care of, we began to feel the need to structure our lives in our host country and to get to know women in similar circumstances. UW-NL put the Combiwel community centre in Amsterdam at our disposal. Other places followed, where we can meet at regular intervals. In Amsterdam and elsewhere, United Way continues to provide us with the framework enabling us to support each other, spend our time meaningfully and improve our situation as far as possible.
UWRA shares UW-NL’s focus on creating safe and well equipped spaces for a whole range of activities benefiting our group of women and children. Little by little, this helps in our ongoing efforts to retake control of our lives after the abrupt and often painful changes we have lived through.
In 2023, United Way’s Home from Home has evolved to include Healing the Mind, a sub-project where predominantly Ukrainian counsellors provide mental health care to their compatriots, many of whom are suffering from nightmares, depression and worse. Where necessary, more extreme afflictions are referred to specialists. Where necessary, more extreme afflictions are referred to the Dutch mental health authorities (GGD).