Helping to Leave is an independent grassroots project supporting people who are in the process of leaving Ukraine, as well as those currently in the country and in need of help. The project uses Telegram channels and chat-bots to provide 24/7 advice and support to refugees as they make their way to the border and asylum countries. The project was initiated the day after the invasion started and was developed with the help of the founders of the Kultrab art collective. It unites Russian-speaking journalists, activists, politicians, artists, educators, etc. Many of them left Russia in the last few years or even after the breakout of the war and are now volunteering from different countries. Helping to Leave also raises funds towards humanitarian aid for people seeking help leaving hostile territories or stranded in the war's epicenter without any funds.
Theory of Change
Using social media allows volunteers from around the world to provide refugees with information and aid on their way to safe territories and helps build cross-border solidarity.
The project consists of an evacuation team, financial aid team, fundraising and recruitment team, development team, volunteer recruitment and training team. Helping to Leave created a chatbot to process thousands of requests before refugees are connected to a volunteer. Every day over 100 volunteers work in 4-hour shifts as supervisors, operators, and fact-checkers. Supervisors monitor current maps of hostilities, news reports, and the social media accounts of Ukrainians currently in the war zone in order to map safe routes; they then identify available drivers and dwellings. After the information is fact-checked, it is shared with the evacuation team. The operators provide information on a wide range of topics - from how to hide during shellings to the rules of EU entry. The project guides refugees through the border and connects them with volunteers in the receiving country. As necessary, Helping to Leave assists refugees in finding and paying for housing, provides financial aid for other purposes, and connects them with free-of-charge mental health providers.
Within three weeks, the project grew to a team of 40 organizers and over 400 volunteers from across the globe. Their telegram channel has over 90,000 members. They have received over 16,000 and processed over 14,000 evacuation requests, with over 2,500 people relocated. Within the first three weeks Helping to Leave raised over $54,000 USD. After a call for support of 34 urgent requests, they were able to raise over $65,000 USD within two days. Helping to leave is continuously looking for volunteers and training new volunteers daily. Often, people they helped join the team as volunteers.