Words by Smiley Team
Thousands of people across the globe have been booking Airbnb stays in Ukraine in a viral effort to support Ukrainian citizens living through war.
As the trend took off, Airbnb announced that they would waive the standard booking fees so that hosts would receive all the money upfront. In just two days in March, 61,000 nights were booked in Ukraine, generating more than £1.5million, with that number rising rapidly since. Smiley News has been speaking with a handful of those who have booked.
One customer who will never actually visit the holiday home is Adam Hearn who first heard about the trend on Twitter.
“It was actually one of the first things I did on my birthday, as it felt like it was a good time to spend some money of my own," Adam tells Smiley News.
“My contribution to Ukraine feels all the more appropriate given that my grandmother came from what is now Ukraine. She was forcibly deported to a Gulag by the Russians in 1940, and never returned.”
Users are able to cancel their booking whilst still allowing the host to keep the money, and the availability for another booking on the same dates.
Another Twitter user, Leigh, booked an Airbnb in Slavs’ke after searching for donation routes that were more likely to reach real people in need of immediate financial support.
“I know there’s a chance with doing it this way that the family could use it solely for themselves but I don’t think that’s a negative at all, as I imagine almost everyone there needs some kind of help at the moment," Leigh says.
“I also feel like it must help to feel that connection and know there’s real people around the world wanting to help and seeing that for themselves, it just feels a lot more connected and human.”
On Tuesday 8 March, the United Nations confirmed that more than 2 million people have fled Ukraine since the conflict began, and estimated a further 2 million in the coming weeks.
All of the people Smiley News spoke to had also used other traditional avenues of support, such as donating to charity, but wanted to also make a direct and personal donation.
One UK-based Airbnb customer last week was Hilary Mak, who ended up forming a connection with the Kyiv host family.
“They were sheltering in their basement garage with their two young children," she says. "When I booked, they said ‘we will love you forever’ and hoped that I would never know what war feels like. It was truly heartbreaking and I literally just cried."
Since then the family have kept Hilary updated on their situation, with messages and photos of the children. Earlier this week they let her know that they had managed to escape Kyiv to somewhere safer and quieter.
The hosts Mihael and Elena, and their two children, are among thousands of families that have been supported by this viral donation trend.
Smiley News has compiled a list of nine international and local charities that are supporting Ukraine.