How I am helping to catalyse support efforts in the Ukraine
In November 2022, I began to make some connections with an informal group, that is carrying out relief work in Ukraine, specifically – but not exclusively – around issues of women’s sexual assault.
My connection with this group happened through a friend I know through OACC, a community organisation that organises a yearly conference in which we are both involved. I appreciate her very much, particularly her warm and outgoing personality, and know her to be both a trustworthy and resourceful person. I heard that she was involved in these efforts in the Ukraine, and felt called to participate in them.
I was feeling in familiar territory with work on sexual assault, as a midwife, as an organiser, and as a woman having done a lot of my own process work around my own sexual assault. Besides, I felt the impetus to be involved in solidarity work as a result of my involvement in the Diversity and Decolonising Circle, and the process we have gone through as a group. The various processes we went through in the Circle also gave me a sense of strength and stability. So I decided to asked my friend about the project to see if I could help. She quickly put me in touch with the right people.
Getting more people involved
It appeared there was a need for more support of these efforts, specifically around offering emotional support online to volunteers who are working in the Ukraine. So I thought of several fellow volunteers in the Deep Adaptation Forum, with whom I had built trusting relationships, and whom I expected might have both the right skills, and an interest in this project. I contacted them individually, and their responses were extremely positive – every one of them expressed a keen interest to become involved. I also sensed that each of them showed a lot of sophistication in their understanding of what might be needed from them: they stepped in with an attitude of openness, flexibility, and of comfort with self-organising outside of official, bureaucratic channels.
I connected them with my friend. A few days later, she told me that these new collaborations with the DAF participants I had introduced her to were “growing like slime mould,” very fast and in a purely self-organised fashion. I felt so excited and gratified!
Besides, as a result of these conversations, I have also become involved in conversations with people in a Ukrainian ecovillage, who are interested in increasing their capacity to house refugees, and in receiving planning help on building straw bale houses. They are also faces with power outages and looking to put the solar energy from panels they have to a wider range of uses. To help with that, I am about to put them in touch with people from my local community with expertise with small scale Solar power systems.
The importance of self-care
One important insight I have received through these various endeavours is around boundaries. When self-organisation happens and grows so rapidly, it’s important to know how to handle this rush of energy, and be aware of the need for self-care – particularly in the case of such urgent humanitarian efforts. Otherwise, the risk of burnout is real. With the person I’m working with, on sexual assault, I’ve been impressed with her awareness of what she has or hasn’t the capacity for, and when she needs to take some time off. She is very clear in voicing these boundaries, which I find remarkable.
What has made it all possible?
Reflecting on what enabled this to happen, I found that none of it would have been possible without my connection to the Deep Adaptation Forum. Although I haven’t been such an active volunteer in this network, I sense a deep level of comfort and love in it, and I have great respect for both the organisation and the people I know in it. I introduced the people I know in DAF to my friend out of a sense of respect and understanding for what this network has to offer, and because of the strong relationships I have with people in DAF, who have showed me that they want to create change in the world.
In particular, I remembered the affection, respect, and sense of connection that emerged in me for one of these DAF participants during an event he organised a few months ago, after the start of the war. He presented it as an attempt to build bridges between people from Ukraine and Russia. In it, he revealed his pain and vulnerability in a beautiful way, which I found very touching. This event inspired me to create bridges of my own.
This particular bridge was also built thanks to the qualities I perceive in the other group of people I am in touch with, who are coordinating the support efforts in Ukraine. I find these people very focused, clear, and open. I found that they were willing to take me at face value, even though they hardly knew me at all. It felt like a remarkable example of what can happen when people set aside some of the usual fear, egos, walls and boundaries to connect with a very focused purpose around an emergency effort. This allowed us all to be quite transparent with one another, and to mobilise quite a level of expertise and connections.
Finally, another factor has been my level of comfort with technology. Due to security concerns, it was critical for these people that I be willing to use the application they favour, which is Signal. I had never used it before, but my familiarity with other tools like WhatsApp, Messenger and Telegram was really helpful. Our work on decolonisation has helped me understand that if you want to be in support of others, you should be willing – and able – to use the channels these people want to use!
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