USA for UNHCR Director of Private Sector Partnerships, Lacey Stone, traveled to Poland in April to meet with a private sector partner that is supporting UNHCR’s emergency response in Ukraine and neighboring countries. As part of her visit, she had the opportunity to meet families benefiting from the services offered at a UNHCR/UNICEF-sponsored Blue Dot facility in Warsaw.
Colorful posters, inflatable toys, interactive floor games and excited children’s voices greeted me when I stepped inside. The space mirrored any number of interactive playrooms where I’ve knelt on the floor and built block towers as an honorary auntie to my friends’ children in their Seattle, WA homes. The young girl crawling through the lime green tunnel tube in the center of the room was not in my friends’ playroom, though. Instead, we were 5,000 miles away, playing together in the child-friendly space of a UNHCR-led Blue Dot Center in Warsaw, Poland where refugees fleeing Ukraine are provided with a safe space to access vital services.
The Blue Dots are one-stop shops and safe spaces that provide critical information and protection services for children, families and others with specific needs. In coordination with local government efforts, Blue Dots help fill critical gaps in care for refugees fleeing Ukraine of whom 90 percent are women and children. There are dedicated breastfeeding spaces for nursing mothers, private rooms for mental health consultations, children’s play spaces, legal aid and Wifi connectivity and charging stations.
Blue Dots are also where families register for cash assistance — a critical emergency service offered by UNHCR and supported by generous USA for UNHCR donors. Cash assistance is one of the most efficient and effective ways to support people forced to flee during fast-changing emergencies such as in Ukraine.
I spoke to mothers who were forced to flee at a moment's notice and with little more than the clothes on their backs. Many crossed the border into Poland carrying a child in one arm and a rolling suitcase of precious belonging in the other. And while grateful for a warm meal and a safe place for their children to play, they still lacked many of the basic necessities they had just days earlier. With cash assistance, families prioritize their needs and regain a sense of normalcy and dignity in their lives.
UNHCR and UNICEF are jointly establishing Blue Dots in multiple countries receiving refugees fleeing Ukraine. There are more than 30 operational locations in Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Moldova, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, with more planned as the crisis continues.
For the families uprooted by the war in Ukraine, the Blue Dots represent stability, safety, protection and hope. And for the young girl who sat on the floor with me and built block towers before she wiggled through the play tunnel in Warsaw, the Blue Dot represented something simple - a moment to be a child again.
How to help...
More than 6 million people—mostly women, children and the elderly—have been forced to flee Ukraine. As they arrive in a new country with few belongings, they desperately need emergency supplies, lifesaving care and protection. With the support of cash assistance, they’ll be able to make dignified decisions about how to support their families. Make a difference today by becoming USA for UNHCR’s newest monthly donor.