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People are creatively using sites like Etsy and Airbnb to get money directly to Ukrainians
Photo by Artem Zhukov on Unsplash; screenshot via @renebelew/Instagram

People are using person-to-person purchases to get money to Ukrainians in the war.

As we watch the war in Ukraine from half a world away, many Americans wonder what they can do to help the Ukrainian people.

There are standard NGOs and nonprofits, such as the Red Cross, Amnesty International and the International Rescue Committee, that are organizing aid to refugees inside and outside the country, of course. But not everyone feels good about putting their donation money into a big, pooled pot. Some people want to know exactly where their money is going and who it is helping.

And some people are figuring out creative ways to do that via person-to-person "gig economy" platforms like Etsy and Airbnb.


Here's how they're doing it:

For one, people are booking Airbnb stays in Ukraine for the coming days, which they obviously won't be using, and telling the hosts to keep the money. When you book an Airbnb you can read the profiles and reviews of the hosts to get a sense of who they are, if they have children, etc. Some people rent out private rooms in their own homes, while others own property that they rent out, but it's easy to see who you are renting from. When you book, you are also directly connected to the host so you can message each other.

The responses from people who have done this are both heartbreaking and beautiful.

@renebelew/Instagram

The Quentin Quarantino Instagram account, which has been used for huge crowdfunding efforts, shared the idea and the responses some followers have gotten from Ukrainians when they've done this. It also shared some tips, such as booking dates that are coming up soon since payments only go through to the host once the booking date arrives.

You can click the right arrow to scroll through all of the the screenshots, but here are a few of them:

Screenshot via quentin.quarantino/Instagram

Worth noting that Airbnb has waived the fees for hosts in Ukraine and its nonprofit arm, Airbnb.org, is coordinating stays for 100,000 Ukrainian refugees.

In addition to Airbnb, people are also using Etsy to give to Ukrainian people directly by buying from Ukrainian sellers. Some people have pointed out that sellers who sell digital files—educational or decorative printables, sewing or knitting patterns, and so on—can benefit from getting sales without having any confusion over whether someone wants something shipped.

Here's how you do it:

1. Go to Esty.com and type “digital files” in the search box

2. Click "All Filters" and scroll down to "Country"

3. Under "Custom," type "Ukraine"

You can use the country filter for any item sold on Etsy, but you do have to put something into the search bar before the filter option shows up. If you place an order for a physical item, just let the seller know upfront that you aren't expecting them to ship anything, you just want to send them some financial and moral support.

This is a good opportunity to personalize your giving in more ways than just a personal message. If you have a crocheting hobby, for instance, you could search "crochet" and then filter for Ukraine to support a fellow crocheter. It might sound silly, but those simple human connections are meaningful, especially when people are facing down inhumanity.

The situation in Ukraine is dire, and while it's important to support large-scale aid programs that have experience with getting people the assistance they need in a crisis, there's more than one way to help. Sometimes putting cash directly into the pockets of people who have just lost their livelihoods to war, who might need funds to get out of the country or to get supplies that help them stay safe can make a significant difference.

The beauty of sites like Airbnb and Etsy is that they allow us to connect with and help people on the ground directly, in a way that reminds all of us of the humanity at the heart of it all.


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