Volunteering on accommodation for Ukrainians in Europe

A new open source project aims to help Ukrainians fleeing the country by providing accommodation assistance across Europe.

Published on: 19/05/2022
Last update: 30/05/2022
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Acquired by Airbnb.org, the platform UASupport provides an interactive map to help volunteers and NGOs offer housing aid to Ukrainians refugees and asylum seekers.

 

Following the war in Ukraine, the open source community mobilitated to contribute, each one in their own way. In the case of Kemal Erdem, co-founder and CTO at zhiva.ai and in general a software engineer and consultant specialising in Javascript applications, the contribution is embodied in UASupport, a portal aimed to help Ukrainians asylum seekers fleeing the country. Specifically, it provides Ukranians with an interactive map which connects them with hosts offering accommodation across Europe. 

“UASupport was created to be the first layer of response to the refugee crisis after the war started” said Erdem to the OSOR Team. “Since it might take some time for the government administration to develop and deploy a working system, we decided to act as time was the priority. We wanted to help coordinate accommodation, aid, and access to information provided by citizens and NGOs and make it easier for volunteers to handle incoming refugees.”

This is how it started. Right after the launch of this solution, “the Polish Prime Minister's Office noticed and accepted the initiative as the accommodation platform for refugees and linked from the official .gov site” continued Erdem. “In the first days of the war, it had over 300,000 daily users which dropped after the first wave of refugees. It was the main platform for NGOs in larger cities like Wroclaw or Warsaw. We've also been contacted by volunteers working in Ukraine and along the Ukrainian border. The platform helped them arrange transport to places with high accommodation availability.”

 

UASupport

Source: UASupport, Interactive Map.

 

At that point, the open source community kicked in on GitHub to translate the platform to most of the European languages (i.e. English, Ukrainian, Russian, Hungarian, Czech, Danish, German, Italian, Maltese, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Slovenian and Swedish).

At the beginning of May, the project was acquired by the not-for-profit organisation Airbnb.org (an NGO owned by Airbnb), which strives to make the entire process more convenient and safer for its users by unifying housing assistance to refugees and asylum seekers throughout Europe thus handling most of the accommodation work. To do so, they tightly collaborate with EU and non-EU governments.

“Because of the merge with Airbnb.org, there is no public map anymore. The whole application is still available online. All the offers are available internationally for volunteers and NGOs to be handled in real-time. Of course, because it's open-source, anyone can reuse the whole code and set up their own version of the application (including the mobile app) but the public one is restricted since 4 May. We've discussed that with multiple NGOs and decided that is the best course of action after the initial traffic went down and they were finally able to handle it”, concluded Erdem.


At the moment, Airbnb.org is funding short term housing for up to 100,000 people fleeing Ukraine. More information available on the Airbnb.org website.