Right after the war in Ukraine broke out, Hungarian Jewish organizations joined forces to help refugees who fled Ukraine. This coalition of Jewish community organizations has provided a series of programs, services, and assistance for people in need. Between providing accommodation, transport, food, clothing, hygiene products, toys, medical assistance, information, and more—we have been working to ensure Ukrainians have what they need. This is in addition to various programs including social, cultural, entertainment, and educational programs.
JCC Budapest, as part of this coalition, has built a sustainable crisis response operation with a variety of programs and services. As part of these operations, we have:
JCC Budapest has set up a donation center – called Charity Shop, where we collect essential items for our Ukrainian chaverim. It’s open every day during the JCC opening hours. Refugees can freely come in, choose from donations, and then bring them home. The Charity Shop has second-hand items (provided by the Hungarian Jewish community) and bought goods (funded by the JCC and the partners of JCC).
Before setting up the Charity Shop, we made a needs assessment survey about what items the refugees needed. From this, we compiled a list and then asked the Hungarian Jewish community to donate these items. JCC Budapest bought items that cannot be secondhand, such as underwear and hygiene products.
The Charity Shop mostly offers clothes, shoes, children’s toys, hygiene products, suitcases, dog carriers, baby care products, sleeping bags, and other supplies.
We organize quarterly charity drive events where we are able to mobilize our community. Approximately 1,000 Hungarians have brought donations to the JCC. With these donations, we are able to help over 1,000 Ukrainians over each weekend-long charity drive.
Education – Many children, especially the ones from Subcarpathia, have poor educational backgrounds and learning difficulties. They haven’t previously received professional help. Here in Hungary, since September 2022, it has become mandatory for Ukrainian children to join the public school system. Yet, there are few or no opportunities for children with special needs to get the support and attention, they need. These children are falling behind, and the gap between them and their peers is growing exponentially. Our educational activities try to resolve this problem by developing the skillset and knowledge of the kids with the help of professionals.
Trauma response – The war’s trauma affects many kids in their daily lives. The weekly trauma relief program aims to help them ease the trauma of war that had many effects on their lives. Fifteen Subcarpathian kids are participating in this program, working towards resolving their trauma through role-playing and conversations.
Entertainment – Having fun and building new friendships is also significant. Our entertainment programs aim to help children develop social connections and friendships and integrate them into a community. This has the utmost importance since they had to leave their familiar environment behind and no longer have their social circles.
Daycare – Our goal with operating daycare services is to give the parents some free time, and offer the children a safe environment where they can play and have fun together.
JCC Budapest believes in empowerment and partnership. We work together with many different types of organizations, Jewish and non-Jewish alike. These partnerships have been enhanced in recent months and we rely on one another as we grow our operation. Since we don’t have the capacity to ship humanitarian aid to Ukraine, we are supporting two organizations that do: Hashomer Hatzair and Charity Taxi. Both of these organizations are delivering humanitarian aid to various part of Ukraine.
Our programs, especially the Charity Shop, have been promoted throughout the city through various Jewish and non-Jewish NGOs. Each of these have been critical in supporting Ukrainian refugees and have brought many non-Jewish organizations closer in partnership with our JCC. Since the Hungarian government has not provided sufficient services for refugees, it has been up to NGOs in Hungary to fill the gaps and ensure that refugees have what they need. These NGOs – including our JCC and the members of the Jewish community coalition – became the most important players in the efforts to assist Ukrainian refugees.
Although we cannot give back what Ukrainian refugees have lost, we have done our best to ease their pain and help them figure out the next steps in their journeys.