Standing Strong: How The Polish Center for International Aid Helps Thousands of Ukrainians

Collage of photos from Polish Center For International Aid

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Ukrainians have faced uncertainty and hardship in the midst of loss of life, displacement, and economic instability. Thankfully, organizations like Polish Center For International Aid (PCPM) stepped up to help. For the last two years, CAF America and PCPM partnered to aid thousands of refugees in Poland and Ukraine via evacuations, humanitarian aid, education, and rebuilding efforts. Through the generosity of our donors, CAF America facilitated 20 grants totaling almost $5.9 million to PCPM in support of Ukrainian refugees.

Support for Teachers, Students, and New Schools

As thousands of refugees fled to Poland during the crisis, the number of Ukrainian children enrolling in Polish schools grew sharply, particularly in metropolitan areas. In early 2022, schools in major cities enrolled an average of 100 Ukrainian children per day, with an estimated 420,000 school-aged Ukrainian children needing education. These new students faced the challenge of integration into a new language and curriculum.

In mid-November of 2022, the CAF America team traveled to Warsaw, Poland to meet with PCPM. We visited a Polish primary school alongside government officials and several school teachers, who painted a vivid picture of the current state of education in Poland. On the visit, PCPM showed us how they helped integrate 50 Ukrainian refugee children into this school and provided them with educational supplies such as laptops and audiobooks to set them up for success.

At the end of 2022, PCPM, with the support of CAF America donors, built a school in Warsaw for an impressive 220 Ukrainian children. Children are now learning from 18 dedicated Ukrainian teachers committed to nurturing their growth, offering classes with a combined Ukrainian and Polish curriculum where they engage in intensive Polish language courses, ensuring smoother transition to Polish schools. The PCPM Education Center provides after-school care, reassuring parents their child is safe during the workday. Additionally, various activities are offered in the recreation room to enrich their learning, including homework assistance, extra language help, Polish history classes, acrobatics, theater, and art therapy.

“The Polish Center for International Aid project is providing the opportunity for my child to learn in our native language. The qualified teachers have made their work engaging and motivating for children. The friendly and pleasant atmosphere in the Center helps children quickly adapt to new realities while maintaining a healthy emotional state and positive mood. Heartfelt gratitude to the organizers, project managers, and all the dedicated teachers working there!”

Svetlana Suslova, mother of a student at the PCPM Education Center

In addition to students, thousands of Ukranian teachers across Poland face challenges such as unemployment and lack of educational institutions where they can teach and learn. To help solve this problem, CAF America grants supported PCPM’s “Cash for Work” program, creating 1,878 full time monthly jobs for teachers and assistants from Ukraine in 24 Polish cities. By employing teachers, PCPM eases the burden on existing institutions and ensures that Ukrainian refugees can support themselves and helps integrate Ukrainian families into the Polish education system. Our donors’ generosity helped expand this fantastic program, with grants ensuring employment for 63 refugees through June 2024 and turning a short-term project into a long-term commitment to a strong educational system for Ukrainian refugees.

This initiative was coupled with CAF America-supported grants that hired 300 Ukrainian educators within the Warsaw school system, employing refugees while helping to fix the city’s shortage of teachers. Many of the teachers are employed at an Ukrainian pre-K education center in downtown Warsaw, where they prepare young Ukrainian children (including their own children) with the skills they need to enter a new and unfamiliar school system.

Multi-Purpose Cash Assistance Program

Many refugees arriving by trains or buses have either just one suitcase or a couple of small bags; they lack many basic items needed for daily life. CAF America grants have funded long-term cash assistance (6-12 months) for Ukranians. This program covers the most vulnerable who are not covered by the Polish social security system, including elderly Ukrainian pensioners (whose pension from Ukraine is insufficient to cover living expenses in Poland), those with disabilities, and women who can not work due to child care duties. Thanks to support from CAF America and cooperation with international organizations, PCPM has aided more than 28,000 individuals in Poland and 8,500 people in Ukraine to date.

Rebuilding Efforts

Over the past two years, many Ukrainians had their homes damaged by shelling or lost them all together. PCPM’s reconstruction program—supported by CAF America and other international donors—focuses on restoring homes, improving infrastructure, and supporting services that foster sustainable cities and communities. Their team has helped repair roofs and windows in over 160 houses in Ukraine, with 100 apartments receiving new windows.

To further help infrastructure rebuilding efforts, PCPM furnished three school-based shelters and supplied a Social Welfare Office with computers and equipment, aiding in the reconstruction of the residents’ database. In Kherson, where many seniors depend on aid from local workers, grants allowed the purchase of 40 electric bicycles to enhance aid workers’ mobility, enabling quicker access to those in need, particularly in vulnerable areas.

“The PCPM Foundation stands as one of CAF America’s key partners in Poland. Our CAF verification, conducted several years ago, enabled us to promptly receive donations from American companies in response to the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. We understand the significance for international donors of supporting credible partners who operate transparently and provide opportunities for tax-deductible donations. We are extremely grateful to CAF America for their support and commitment at every stage.”

—Zofia Kwolek, Head of External Relations at Polish Center for International Aid

Looking to the Future

From education to healthcare to infrastructure, the projects our donors have supported in partnership with PCPM have made a significant impact for displaced Ukrainian families. However, their work is far from over. The ongoing war in Ukraine continues to devastate lives and health, resulting in an increasing number of people requiring additional support and assistance. Unfortunately, funds allocated to aid refugees in Poland have decreased by nearly 80%. Despite that, PCPM continues to support the Educational Center in Poland, and further rebuild homes, contribute food and hygiene aid, provide firewood, and establish places where anyone can receive basic assistance.

Together with PCPM and other charity partners, we’re weaving a safety net of opportunity and resilience for Ukrainians in need.

Read more about our donors’ impact on Ukraine over the last two years here. View other stories of impact here.

About the Author

  • Margot Cunningham

    Margot Cunningham serves as CAF America’s Officer of Marketing and Communications. Her responsibilities include planning, creating, and implementing marketing and communications strategies, with a focus on building awareness of our mission and engaging prospects and donors with long-form content and event opportunities.

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