The Slovak Initiative Who will help? is almost 2 years old and since its inception in April 2015 it has managed to transform from a 100% volunteer led campaign to a professional organisation with a sole aim: to facilitate refugee integration in Slovakia. Hoping to preserve the spirit of its “grassroots” nature, it set its core programme to be volunteering.
1000 pledges for 100 refugee families
The idea that led to the creation of the Initiative Who will help? was born among the chairmen of the Fellowship of Ladislav Hanus, a society of young Christians, university students and early-career professionals. Encouraged by several external nudges and an awareness of the gravity of the situation in Iraq and Syria, a concept for a web campaign slowly came to life.
Running a campaign on zero costs
Having the benefit of launching this campaign within a broad network of the Fellowship, the campaign started to spread relatively fast among adjacent communities. Although the campaign started at a time when the incoming numbers of refugees and migrants were already growing, the situation was not yet perceived as “crisis” by the national media. However, with the worsening of the situation in the Mediterranean, the growing number of deaths at sea and on the road to Europe and the rising expectations of the volume of people arriving on southern shores of the contintent, the media attention to the campaign grew organically without a cent spent on marketing and advertisements. The dates and times of horrific events were almost in perfect correlation to the number of people pledging support on any given day and by September 2015, more than 2000 people and organisations pledged their involvement in refugee integration in Slovakia.
From a communication campaign into a functioning organisation
Following a letter sent to the government and appealing for a reception of Syrian and Iraqi families in Slovakia in autumn 2015, campaign organisers did not get a positive response. Meanwhile, having spoken to several NGOs and other organisations active with refugees and migrants in Slovakia, it was apparent that there is already a need among refugees already granted asylum or subsidiary protection in Slovakia. Thanks to a successful grant submission, in February 2017 the campaign received a financial injection, employed the first person and started to engage people who signed up to the campaign in a professionalised volunteer framework.
One of the multitudes of challenges along the way are continuous financing. Though relatively popular among a portion of the public, funding is scarce among state institutions, Slovak foundations and private firms. A previously unseen challenge was also establishing a functioning relationship with organisations of first contact for refugees granted asylum and international protection which were the bottleneck to the access to refugees in the country. With funding currently secured only till the end of the year, the future though is still uncertain.
Written by: Michaela Pobudova (Coordinator of the project Who Will Help?)
Edited by: Ema Jakimovska