The BEARR Trust Emergency Appeal for Ukraine and Moldova

The BEARR Trust is raising funds to help small civil society organisations and voluntary groups to support displaced people, refugees and other vulnerable people in Ukraine and Moldova.

Below you can read about our appeal and how it has progressed since Russia launched its all-out invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022.  

The BEARR Trust launched its emergency appeal within three days of the invasion. As of February 2023 we have raised £430,000, donated or pledged by more than 1200 individual donors or charitable foundations from the UK, Republic of Ireland and other countries. We have now sent more than £360,000 to over 50 local partners in Ukraine and Moldova to buy emergency supplies.

100% of what we receive is passed on to provide emergency help. There are no overheads – all our administrative costs, and bank transfer fees, are being covered from other grants and donations. 

To enable our partners to continue their vital work, please donate to our online campaign  here.  

Launching and Expanding the Appeal 

The BEARR Trust, with more than 30 years’ experience of working with grassroots organisations in the region, was well placed to move fast in delivering relatively small ‘packages’ of emergency assistance in real time to dozens of small organisations and voluntary groups in Ukraine and Moldova to help them support vulnerable people in crisis. This is the first time that the BEARR Trust has been involved in emergency work since its early days when the Soviet economy and welfare systems were in free-fall.  

On 24 February, when the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine began, our first thought was to reassure our partners in Eastern Europe that we would continue to do all we could to support their work with vulnerable people. On 25 February we posted a message of support on our website and published links to several national and international organisations that had already launched appeals for humanitarian aid.   

That same day, BEARR Patron Robert Brinkley was interviewed on radio LBC and referred to BEARR’s work with civil society partners in Ukraine. This prompted some listeners to donate to BEARR and helped us to realise that we could fundraise in our own right to support the impressive rallying of civil society in the face of the invasion.  On 26 February an organisation we had recently funded to work with women and children in Odesa wrote to tell us that their team were now planning to provide humanitarian aid – the first of many of our partners who rapidly pivoted towards helping people fleeing from the conflict or who were suddenly trapped in their homes without support.  

On 27 February we launched our Ukraine Appeal, just three days after the invasion. We asked former grantees in Ukraine and Moldova (which was receiving large numbers of refugees from Ukraine) whether they were active in providing humanitarian support. On 1 March our first payment was made to a former grant recipient and by 8 March we had disbursed £30,000 to twelve former grantees, most of whom received the funds within 24 hours and spent them almost immediately. As our partners sent us photos of their delivery and transport efforts, plus stacks of receipts for food, clothing, bedding, hygiene products and medical supplies, donations to our appeal fund gathered pace.   

Photos we received from our partners in Ukraine and at the border in Moldova during the first weeks of BEARR’s appeal.

We had initially thought of a target of £10,000 but decided to try for £25,000. We hit that target within the first 24 hours, so we doubled it to £50,000. Within a week we doubled the target again, to £100,000. At that point, with donations still arriving thick and fast, we stopped setting targets.   

Donors seemed attracted to the idea that we could get money quickly into Ukraine and Moldova, where known and trusted local partners would immediately procure emergency supplies. A series of imaginative fundraisers were organised by supporters ranging from churches and Brownie packs to art galleries, while a sale of rare and unusual plants was organised by the Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland, which donated all the proceeds to our campaign. This event was supported by several garden societies and nurseries, and was attended by the Ukrainian Ambassador to Ireland.

We have organised fundraising events as well: in June 2022,  BEARR hosted trauma surgeon and author of War Doctor: Surgery on the Front Line, David Nott, to discuss his work providing emergency surgical care and training local doctors in Ukraine. David was in conversation with award-winning journalist and BEARR Patron, Bridget Kendall. Proceeds from the event were shared between our Ukraine Appeal and the David Nott Foundation. In November BEARR’s Autumn Lecture Putin’s War: What’s the End Game? was given to a large online audience by Edward Lucas, the internationally recognised expert on espionage, subversion, the use and abuse of history, energy security and information warfare. 

Another aspect of our Ukraine Appeal that has attracted donors is the fact that 100% of what we receive is passed on to provide emergency help. There are no overheads – all our administrative costs, and bank transfer fees, are being covered by other grants and donations. Our trustees, already a notably ‘hands-on’ group of volunteers, stepped up their involvement according to their availability and particular knowledge and skills. 

At the start of the campaign, BEARR’s Information Officer role was deftly passed by Louisa Long (who had just accepted a new job with the John Smith Trust) to Alexia Claydon. They completed a seamless handover while helping to launch the fundraising campaign and liaising with our partners in Ukraine and Moldova.   

Adapting BEARR’s “small and local” grants to Emergency Funding 

The BEARR Trust usually gives small grants each year to about 15 small civil society organisations, supporting projects on a specific theme chosen each year by trustees. At the time the appeal was launched we had worked with more than forty small, locally based organisations in Ukraine and Moldova in the preceding years, either through our Small Grants Scheme or through conferences and workshops we had organised in Lviv and Chisinau.  

Our targeted response was helped by our good connections with these small local NGOs as well as first-hand reports sent back by trustees Megan Bick and Jane Ebel who went out to Moldova in early March. Our partners told us that BEARR’s money was often the first to arrive and was sometimes the only source of emergency funds. We are pleased to be able to bridge a gap until international aid comes in, but we know there will always be pieces missing in the network – to date only a very small percentage of international funding goes to these small groups, who need some autonomy over how the money should be best spent in a fast-changing situation. 

BEARR Trustees Jane Ebel (far left) and Megan Bick (middle right) visiting the Palanca border crossing in March 2022.

A few months into the conflict, and with no respite in sight, many of our partners added trauma counselling and art therapy for children to their list of basic needs. Some set up centres or hubs for displaced people. As needs evolved, we have been able to respond quickly to requests for financial help. 

The BEARR Trust is of course continuing its usual Small Grants Scheme, which in 2023 includes funds for grants for existing grantees in Ukraine and Moldova for projects aimed at building organisational resilience. These grants are separate from our Emergency Appeal (which will continue to fund the distribution of humanitarian aid) and are designated specifically to support activities that improve the welfare of staff and volunteers, as well as to improve the organisation’s resilience. 

Building on BEARR’s Experience in Networking and Sharing 

We are now in regular contact with, and supplying funds to, more than 50 local organisations in Ukraine and Moldova, providing emergency aid over a wide area. Our network of contacts on the ground now includes other recommended local organisations and has expanded as we receive more information and requests. Many of these are new groups formed to address issues raised by the war and BEARR has helped to ease them into the world of fundraising and accounting.  

We are also learning about what other charities are doing and we are sharing needs and experiences with them. On 18 November, nine months into the war and our appeal, we dedicated our Annual Conference for 2022 to the theme “War in Ukraine: The Civil Society Response”. This was a hybrid event, with 65 participants joining online from Ukraine and other countries and 30 meeting at a London venue. Two panels, moderated by BEARR Trustees, discussed lessons learned from their experience over the past nine months, and the challenges posed by the winter and the months beyond. Almost all the speakers were representatives of our partner organisations in Ukraine and Moldova. It was wonderful to be able to see them, if not in person at least on the screen, even though some of them were in darkness some of the time or had to adjust their emergency lighting or internet connection. Despite the terrible times they have been living through, they seemed in good heart and determined to continue their incredibly valuable humanitarian work for as long as it takes.   

We are keen to help larger funders to extend their grassroots reach in Ukraine and Moldova. We have introduced other funding organisations, such as Street Child, to our partners, and have informed our partners about grant-giving programmes run by larger organisations, such as the Crown Agents. Some of our partners have been successful in receiving grants from programmes we have alerted them to.  

BEARR has often worked closely with HealthProm, and thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we have been able to send funds to several organisations supporting adults and children with disabilities with whom HealthProm has previously worked in Ukraine.  

Looking Ahead: relaunching the Emergency Appeal for winter 2022-23 

By October 2022 we had raised more than £350,000 and three-quarters of these funds had already been sent to our local partners in Ukraine and Moldovato purchase and distribute emergency aid to displaced families, adults and children with disabilities and isolated elderly residents in rural villages, as well as to buy fuel for evacuating people and material for repairs to damaged homes. But we had to do more.  

Winter was fast approaching, many homes had been destroyed, and systematic bombardment of critical infrastructure in Ukraine had begun, putting out of operation electricity transformers, water supplies and heating installations. We needed to maintain and even intensify support for our Ukrainian partners, and for those in Moldova, which was also affected by power outages and cost of living challenges familiar across Europe, including higher food and energy prices. 

So on 17 October we launched our Winter Appeal, and again our kind donors rose to the challenge to support us. We continue to focus our support on small voluntary groups and CSOs, some of which have few other sources of funding. They are agile and responsive to new needs and cover quite surprising amounts of territory, including swiftly providing help to newly liberated parts of Ukraine. In some regions, several CSOs are working together, dividing the area between them, a form of cooperation we strongly encourage.  

Looking beyond the winter emergency, a very encouraging development has been the emergence of donors who have committed to multi-year donations or grants to BEARR, with the foresight that our partners currently providing short-term aid will be in need of funds for the long-term restructuring of civil society, too. We hope that our “small and local” approach will continue to feed into these longer-term challenges. 

A timeline of BEARR’s response to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine

Where BEARR’s Emergency Appeal funds have reached since February 2022

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