Two years of solidarity. We continue to stand with Ukraine!

As we mark the somber anniversary of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, it is important to remember the actions of unwavering solidarity shown by local and international organizations committed to mitigating the humanitarian challenges caused by this unjustified conflict.

During the 2 years, the Regional Office for Cross-border Cooperation (BRCT) Suceava continued to implement and even coordinate a series of actions meant to provide support to refugees coming from Ukraine, expanded its international partnerships and participated, together with important players in the field of humanitarian aid, in strategic groups and international events to counter the negative effects of the refugee crisis.

BRCT Suceava has started a partnership with the International Humanitarian Organization  „Action Contre la Faim”/”Action Against Hunger” (ACF) since February 2022, covering the counties of Suceava, Maramureș and Tulcea. The collaboration led to the implementation of a pilot project for Romania, a direct financial assistance project dedicated to refugee families consisting in distributing cards to cover daily needs.

Over 2,500 refugees received cash assistance through this project carried out according to the international model.

Going further in identifying the needs on the ground and the continuous dialogue with the actors involved in working groups and round tables, in 2023  the BRCT Suceava and ACF partnership  moved to the next stage, joining the mission to improve the humanitarian response at the level of border communities. The nomination of BRCT Suceava as a localisation model in Romania within the DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee) funding also contributed to this approach. Localization recognises the importance of local knowledge and cultural understanding in delivering effective aid, thereby promoting long-term sustainability.

As a next step, BRCT Suceava developed a new international partnership with Terre des hommes (TdH) Romania, with the support of UNHCR Romania. The project came to support Ukrainian refugees in Suceava and Maramureș counties, by providing protection services and psychosocial and educational activities for over 200 children, young people and adults.

Through the specificity of the activity, providing the Joint Secretariat of Romania-Ukraine cooperation programmes, BRCT Suceava has been permanently involved in activities of facilitating international contacts and activities to help those who arrived in border areas, along with beneficiaries of cross-border projects who have made special efforts to help their partners in Ukraine.

The steps taken by BRCT Suceava also aimed to engage in strategic activities to support the effort to counteract the negative effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Here we mention, on one hand, the 3 editions of the forums „Rebuilding Ukraine” together with the public authorities and the business environment from both states, and on the other hand, of the working groups for the inclusion of refugees in Romania, under the coordination of the UN Refugee Agency (#UNHCR), in the perspective of cooperation between public administrations, civil society and international organizations.

Also, notable is the participation in the International Summit of Cities and Regions in KIEV «PARTNERSHIP FOR VICTORY», April 19-20, 2023, Kiev, organized by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities under the President of Ukraine. Over 140 officials from 17 countries took part in the event alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Ukrainian and European officials, as well as members of the embassy and central administration in Romania.

By actively participating in local and international efforts, BRCT Suceava remains an important local actor in the humanitarian response and continues its commitment to solidarity and support for Ukrainian refugees in 2024.

For an overview of the activities carried out by BRCT Suceava during 2023, we further present in more detail each component:

1) Multi-Purpose Cash Assistance (MPCA) Project – Action Against Hunger :

Through the coordinated efforts of BRCT Suceava and  its partners from Suceava, Tulcea and Maramureș counties, vulnerable families coming from Ukraine (Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Kiev, Kherson, Luhansk, Poltava, Odessa, Chernivtsi, Zakarpattia, Dnipro-Petrovsk) were financially supported for 3 months to cover daily needs, with almost 800 cards distributed.

BRCT Suceava worked with local partners and international organizations to streamline card distribution by ensuring that direct financial aid reaches those most in need, managing data and uploading it to the Refugee Assistance Information System (RAIS), UNHCR’s leading tool for deduplication internationally, demonstrating efficiency and commitment.

RAIS verifies any situation in which beneficiaries already receive or are scheduled to receive cash assistance from other humanitarian organizations. This method ensures data integrity and accuracy, increasing the overall effectiveness and transparency of the cash assistance project

Starting with March 2023, BRCT Suceava makes the transition from support activities for Ukrainian refugees through the CASH program, to organizational development activities and coordination of CASH activity for a number of 3 NGOs in the border region: Bucovina Institute for Social Partnership Association,  Suceava, From Soul to Smile Association, Tulcea and Ukrainian Hutuli Foundation in Romania,  Maramureş.

Through the ACF project (MPCA) – BRCT Suceava has become a model of international cooperation in the refugee crisis (localisation modelling). In the humanitarian sector, localization means empowering local responders in affected countries to lead and deliver humanitarian aid. It aims to strengthen the capacity and resources of local organisations to respond to crises and promote long-term sustainability.

2) Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) Project – Terre des Hommes

In the 2nd half of 2023, BRCT Suceava started a new social project in partnership with the international organization Terre des hommes (TdH) Romania and with the support of UNHCR Romania.   The project carried out activities in order to prevent or provide solutions to the protection risks (lack of a safe space, lack of access to education, medical services or other types of services, improper living conditions, various types of abuse) to which vulnerable families of refugees coming from Ukraine are subjected.

The project had the following immediate results:

– 225 cases of Individual Protection Assistance (IPA), identified, monitored and supported through purchases of food and non-food products – clothing, footwear, hygiene products.

– 5 events (MHPSS) organized: visit to the Zoological Garden in Rădăuți; celebrating the International Day of Children’s Rights – November 20, by carrying out activities with children and adults (elderly people); Making Christmas decorations, with the active involvement of 10 children in Suceava and 40 children in Sighet; the Christmas activity – „Surprises under the tree”, in which more than 80 children were involved;

3) Steps to engage in strategic activities to support the effort to counter the negative effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

­              Involvement in the extensive study – Study on documenting the partnership experiences of local organisations in actions carried out to support Ukrainian refugees (interviews, working groups, etc.), conducted by the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC).

Events and participation in international initiatives:

  • Round Table to identify solutions for supporting refugees – February 28, 2023, Suceava in partnership with the Federation of Non-Governmental Organizations for Social Services – FONSS;
  • Working meeting organized by the Consulate General of Romania in Chernivtsi with the participation of His Excellency Mr. Victor Micula Ambassador of Romania in Ukraine, March 16, 2023, Chernivtsi, Ukraine;
  • International Summit of Cities and Regions in KIEV «PARTNERSHIP FOR VICTORY», April 19-20, Kiev, Ukraine, organized by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities under the President of Ukraine. Over 140 officials from 17 countries took part in the event alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Ukrainian and European officials, as well as members of the embassy and central administration in Romania;
  • Working visit to the Embassy of Ukraine in Romania, at the invitation of His Excellency Mr. Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, May 5, 2023, Bucharest;
  • Involvement in the Working Group for Refugee Inclusion of Suceava County, coordinated by UNHCR, November 16, 2023, Suceava.
  • Economic Forum for Central and Eastern Europe, September 2023 in Karpacz, Poland, including as a speaker at the special panel dedicated to Ukraine, alongside speakers from Ukraine and Poland;
  • Three events of the „Rebuilding Ukraine” Forum in April, May, October 2023, organized by the Romania-Ukraine Bilateral Chamber of Commerce;

4) Digital hubs and tools:

Since the beginning of the conflict, BRCT Suceava has been actively involved in facilitating contacts between international organizations that have provided humanitarian assistance in Ukraine and local partner organizations or logistics hubs where authorities from Ukraine and Romania have worked together.

Through partnerships with ACF and TdH, BRCT Suceava managed to support:  Humanitarian Logistic Hub Tulcea, Humanitarian Hub in Siret, HELP UKRAINE ROMANIA, Logistics Center in Maramures and ROUA HUB-House of Ukrainian Mothers, Suceava.

In addition, the launch of the pilot online platform provided, throughout 2022, a centralised source of general-purpose information translated into 3 languages for refugees arriving at the border.

5) Team consolidation:

Aware of the complexity of the context, 3 Ukrainian-speaking people were hired at BRCT Suceava level, thus strengthening their capacity to interact effectively with the affected communities. At the same time, the organization joined European initiatives, such as the Association of Border Regions and coordinated a volunteer program and an internship program.

Training courses and workshops:

  • Terre des Hommes Romania – Protection and support measures for separated and unaccompanied minors affected by the war in Ukraine, April 11, 2023, Bucharest;
  • Save the Children Romania – Supporting the Regional Response in the Context of Humanitarian Aid, with panels on Child Protection in Emergency Situations, Safeguarding and Psychological First Aid, July 6, 2023, Suceava;
  • UNHCR Romania – Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA), in the context of the war in Ukraine (with information on the Victim Assistance Protocol for the PSEA network in Ukraine), 5-6 July 2023, Iași;
  • ACF & BRCT Suceava – training course on Cash & Voucher assistance, as a result of the international partnership dedicated to humanitarian response in crisis situations, facilitated by Josie Scott, global trainer in Cash and Voucher Assistance, August 2023, Suceava;
  • ACF & BRCT Suceava – CASH and Capacity building working sessions and training, facilitated by Josie Scott, global trainer in Cash & Voucher Assistance, 12.12.2023, Suceava;
  • Terre des hommes Romania- Training course in ICAM Methodology (Inclusion of children affected by migration), 20-24.11.2023, Bucharest;
  • ACF & Academia CONCORDIA: Organizational development webinars
    • Leadership and self-leadership;
    • Self-care and resilience;
    • Time management and decision making;
    • Performance management and organizational culture;
    • Management of conflicts and dysfunctions in teams, from November 27 to December 21, 2023, online.
  • ACF & Academia CONCORDIA:
    • Coaching sessions for organizational development, January 8-16, 2024;
    • Training „Project Logic”, January 17-19, 2024

The intervention for Ukrainian refugees was a learning process, but also a process of organizational change for BRCT Suceava. This involved expanding our mission of economic development of border communities also at social crisis response , starting new international partnerships and improving human resources skills.

BRCT Suceava thanks its partners for their commitment and spirit of collaboration. Through such partnerships we managed to make a difference in the lives of those affected by conflict, offering them hope, support and a path to adapt to a normal life.