Seven social ventures helping Ukrainians survive and thrive in wartime
Ba and Di Club
Ba and Di Club
Babysitting in the basement, tours led by blind people, and crowdfunding for refugees: as Ukrainians mark one year since the Russian invasion, we spotlight some of the social ventures stepping up to provide work, shelter, social connections and more.
Ba and Di Club
Before the invasion, Ba and Di Club (also pictured top) helped older people to live fulfilling, active lives by employing them in childcare roles, while helping parents to manage busy workloads.
The social enterprise has now created its own kindergarten to care for children of internally displaced families – using the basement of its building to stay safe from bombs – while continuing its focus on bringing together and employing older people.
Funding from the Ukrainian Social Venture Fund has helped Ba and Di Club to finance a ‘School of Babysitters’ to train staff, and to pay their salaries.
SILab Ukraine was set up to promote the development of social enterprise and social innovation in the country. Within two days of the invasion, it shifted its focus to fundraising and delivering humanitarian aid, with its Shelter Ukraine initiative raising money and providing mattresses, blankets, kitchenware and other essentials.
To date Shelter Ukraine has raised more than €1m, helping to equip nearly 260 shelters, and providing warmth and food to more than 50,000 people.
SILab has since managed to continue its work of supporting social enterprises, running an “express” incubation programme for 21 startups, and an online accelerator to help 30 existing companies to scale up.
The Museum in the Dark – Three After Midnight
Three After Midnight, in Kyiv, was established in 2017 as a museum where all tours happen in total darkness, accompanied by blind guides. This helps visitors to better understand life for blind people; ticket sales help fund guides' salaries and events for visually impaired adults and children. Since the war started, the social venture has been offering free offline and online tours for internally displaced children, veterans and soldiers, as well as their families. By the end of June 2022, almost 1,000 children had participated in online activities. The museum was able to restart its in-person tours in the summer.
Aged 19, Vitalii Pcholkin suffered a serious injury requiring him to use a wheelchair. He created InvaFishki in 2014, a social enterprise and online store that sells products to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities; it also provides training and advice to employers. When the war broke out in 2022, support for people with disabilities in Ukraine dropped, while the need rose sharply. InvaFishki secured funding from SiLab to relocate to a safer region and to buy equipment to deliver services more efficiently.
Vytaniya, in the city of Drohobych, is a ‘social cafe’ that sells pizza, pastries and other dishes to those who can afford it, while providing food for free to those who cannot. It also runs cooking workshops. From February 2022, people fleeing the war were also welcomed. The cafe's profits (which also come from renting out its premises) help to fund meals for internally displaced and homeless people, lonely people of retirement age and people with disabilities.
Romania is home to around 100,000 refugees from Ukraine, many of whom struggle to find work. Among the lucky ones is Vladyslava (pictured second from left), a 25-year-old dental student who fled Ukraine at the start of the war. Atelier Merci and its non-profit project, Merci Charity, offered her work providing dental services to refugee children.
Atelier Merci is backed by impact investor NESsT, as part of its central and eastern Europe accelerator programme.
Anna Bozhenko and her 15-year-old son fled Ukraine in March 2022 after their city, Kharkiv, was bombed. They spent some time in Montenegro before arriving in the UK where they were matched with a British family in north London as part of the government's Homes for Ukraine scheme.
When her sponsorship placement ended, Bozhenko struggled to find somewhere affordable to live. The local council connected her with Beam, a social enterprise helping Ukrainian refugees to find stable jobs and homes in the UK by crowdfunding the cost of job training, work tools, rental deposits and more. Within 28 days, Bozhenko had raised £4,785 from 17 donors. She has since started renting a flat and has found work as a live events artist. Beam has helped 25 Ukrainian refugees create crowdfunding campaigns to date, of which 22 have reached their fundraising target.
- InvaFishki, Three After Midnight, Vitaniya and Ba and Di Club are among 13 social enterprises that received emergency grant funding from the Ukrainian Social Venture Fund in March 2022. The fund will shortly announce 26 new grants.
- Photos courtesy of SILab Ukraine; NESsT; Beam
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