The power of a network

  • In NEWS
  • December 6, 2022
The power of a network

The European Evangelical Alliance is privileged to have loads of fantastic networks but we especially want to honour the European Freedom Network this year. The Christian humanitarian response to the Ukraine war, especially in nations bordering Ukraine and within Ukraine itself, has been unbelievable. But EFN’s specialist work to respond to the Ukraine war is remarkable. And the story shows what the Lord can do when His people are networked together.


As soon as the February 2022 invasion by Russia started and Ukrainians began to flee to safety, EFN members saw a problem. In the chaos, human traffickers would want to grab people into a world of exploitation. As people crossed the Ukrainian border, as others came to greet them with offers of transport to safety and accommodation, the dangers of trafficking were massive.


But the Church was already at the border, playing a key role in welcoming, caring and transporting people to safety. The potential was there to disrupt the human traffickers. But EFN’s expertise in preventing trafficking was urgently needed.


The power of the network meant EFN could immediately call together an emergency response team to produce, translate, design and then distribute resources physically and on social media.  By listening to EFN members in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Moldova, they could quickly respond to the needs that were emerging.


By day 5 of the war, EFN resources were on the border – before anyone else’s. These warned people about the dangers of trafficking and gave vital advice on how to stay safe.


Top tips were also provided for people who wanted to help those escaping the war – and EEA’s networking power meant these could spread like wildfire.


11 language translations were quickly done.


The Polish police did not have their own materials so they used EFN’s.


The weekly emergency meetings enabled the work to adapt swiftly. After 2 weeks, the situation on the border improved as governments set processes in place. But EFN members could see that the traffickers had moved to the railway stations. So posters and banners were produced for these locations. The request was made for QR codes to point to all the information and these could immediately be incorporated into all materials.


As the United Nations and big international NGOs arrived, EFN joined their coordination meetings. Habitat for Humanity had spotted EFN’s human trafficking resources everywhere and asked EFN to provide training. More than 100 country and disaster response leaders from big charities like the Red Cross and Doctors without Borders were trained about human trafficking.


And other NGOs joined EFN’s emergency response meetings. Partners could both feed in the signs of trafficking they saw and also learn from others. This information was passed on to Interpol and local police. EFN meetings always have prayer but, to respect the guests, there was the invitation to stay to pray at the end of the meeting if you wanted to. A guest said “I’m not a praying person but I respect you so I’m staying!”


The next step was to consider the issue of trauma. Many of the refugees were likely to be traumatised. Some of them had experienced sexual assault and rape on top of the trauma of war and being a refugee. Those helping refugees were perhaps going to end up experiencing secondary trauma as they heard horrendous stories.  Others might feel the guilt of not being able to do more to prevent or alleviate suffering they witnessed.


EFN members already knew about dealing with trauma and had connections with other trauma experts too. So they have been able to provide many webinars and also resources for churches and individuals working with refugees. And they are continuing to partner with the World Evangelical Alliance to scale up the trauma support within Ukraine, as well as for those outside.


So how has all of this been possible?  EFN is a network with a tiny budget and led by those donating their time.


“It’s specialist knowledge, plus broad geographical location, combined together via trusting relationships, prayer and generosity within the network and beyond, as well as an extremely hard working team, that have enabled us to do all of this,” said Leanne Rhodes, EFN Executive Director.


“But please pray. The dangers of trafficking are still there. And the stories of trauma are devastating.”


Go to to find multiple resources on human trafficking and trauma for Ukrainians and those helping them.

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