MUNI HELPS volunteers assist Ukrainian refugees. Photo Credit: Masaryk University.

Brno, 6 Sept.(BD) – The MUNI HELPS Volunteer Centre has received its second major European award in two and a half years. After the 2021 European Citizen Award, decided by the members of the European Parliament, Masaryk University volunteers will also receive the 2022 Internationalisation Award from the European Association for International Education on 13 September in Barcelona.

Masaryk University established the MUNI HELPS volunteer centre in March 2020, in response to the unprecedented threat of a global pandemic. The subsequent Russian aggression in Ukraine, accompanied by millions of refugees, has again underlined the value of the centre, which currently has 5,500 registered volunteers ready to help.

“I am happy that even in these times good news is coming. It is almost unbelievable what we have managed to do in times of war and Covid that kill innocents close to us. What the people of MUNI HELPS have achieved with their commitment in just two years is admirable. For this, I owe them all a big thank you,” said Martin Bareš, Rector of Masaryk University.

The award-winners coordinated the work of volunteers in hospitals, crisis lines and old people’s homes during the pandemic, as well as providing for everyday needs such as babysitting for health workers, helping people with shopping, and delivering medicines and blankets.

When the invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces began in February, the Masaryk University volunteers, who had already had experience helping in the aftermath of tornadoes in South Moravia, shifted their focus to assisting Ukrainian refugees. In cooperation with individual faculties and other departments, MUNI HELPS provided material, financial, interpreting, translation and psychological assistance, set up a crisis line and continues to provide information on vacancies and scholarships for Ukrainian students, organises tutoring for children, and will reinforce the staffing of primary schools for Ukrainian children with the start of the new school year.

“The global Covid pandemic kick-started an absolutely unique activity that resulted in future aid to Ukraine. This award is proof of the enormous impact of our activities in the international community, as it is only awarded to higher education institutions that have demonstrated excellence in this area and have successfully implemented strategies and activities in the field of internationalisation,” said Břetislav Dančák, MU’s Vice Rector for Internationalisation.

Almost 90 Ukrainian academics, forced to leave their homes, have found refuge and work at Masaryk University in recent months. Scholarships have been provided to current Ukrainian students and an additional 500 applicants from the war-torn country have been accepted. Furthermore, in August, Masaryk University was the only place in the Czech Republic where young Ukrainians were able to take their university entrance exams in their country. A total of 1,500 refugees participated.

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