IFA Nov 1 2022 IFA refugee effort: “We’re worried about compassion fatigue”

November 3, 2022

A group of advisers continuing to support Moldova’s refugee efforts as the Russia-Ukraine war rages are “worried” the IFA industry might succumb to “compassion fatigue” as they try to keep support going for a country still in need of donations.

Since Russia waged war on Ukraine on February 24, some 5mn Ukrainian refugees have had to relocate their lives throughout Europe, with many having relocated temporarily in Moldova.

Moldova houses a population of 2.5mn and shares a 759-mile-long border with Ukraine.

Earlier this year, Perceptive Planning managing directors Phil Billingham and Shannon Currie, alongside Navigator Financial Planning managing director David Crozier, rallied support from the adviser community and raised thousands for a charity called Moldova for Peace.

But now, with temperatures soon set to plummet, these advisers are wary volunteers will soon be inundated again with a fresh wave of refugees, and will themselves struggle to carry out daily tasks in freezing warehouses.

Currie and Billingham, who are married, drove supplies to Poland back in March but soon realised Moldova needed more support

The adviser industry has been fantastic,” Crozier told FTAdviser, adding that at one point he, Currie and Billingham had more money than they knew what to do with.

The three advisers put much of this money towards buying the charity a van and propping up supplies on the ground. But now, more support is needed to get the charity through the winter.

We are worried about compassion fatigue across the industry,” said Crozier.

Billingham added: “Advisers have had a workload like 2008. In many ways, the war is a common theme running through the reason for that. But we still have a year or even 18 months before this will get better. There is another wave coming.

Two representatives from Moldova for Peace, Steliana Rudco and Ion Brinzila, are currently visiting the UK to raise awareness of their cause among the adviser community.

The Personal Finance Society has also chosen Refugee Support Europe, an organisation ran by Paul Hutchings and which works in tandem with Moldova for Peace, as its charity of choice at its conference this year in Birmingham.

Perceptive Planning managing director Phil Billingham, Moldova for Peace representatives Steliana Rudco and Ion Brinzila, Refugee Support Europe co-founder Paul Hutchings, Navigator Financial Planning managing director David Crozier & Perceptive Planning managing director Shannon Currie

Many refugees won’t go back to Ukraine. They don’t have a home there anymore and it’s unsafe,” said Brinzila.

Our biggest problem is food supplies. They’re not very stable. We’ve had to cut down the contents of the packages. We’re not sure what we’re going to provide for the next few months. We can try to distribute it equally, but it’s not always enough.

The charity currently has one “almost empty” warehouse just waiting for supplies.

To date, Moldova for Peace has issued 80,000 food packages weighing approximately 15 kilos each to refugees, and processed some 70,000 refugee requests with the help of its operators – who are five Ukrainian women.

As well as feeding, clothing and housing refugees, the charity also provides classes.

We had 12 women come to learn how to DJ,” said Rudco.

The message from the three advisers is clear. The charity needs money, first and foremost, to buy food on the ground.

But it also needs physical items hard to get hold of in Moldova, such as wheelchairs, walking aides, winter shoes and boots, underwear, and adult diapers.

The advisers plan to ship things over this time, having previously driven supplies in a van.

Going in a van was horrendously inefficient. If you don’t take a direct road through Ukraine, you have to get there through the Alps,” Crozier explained.

One of the things which drew the advisers to Moldova for Peace was the way in which they could see their own support and the industry’s support making a difference.

We’ve seen money go to babies in arms,” said Billingham.

Currie added: “The revelation here was that this charity can show a direct impact. It’s one of the few times, as a profession, that we can really tell where money is going. We’ve been in the warehouses. When I asked a 16-year-old translator volunteering how she found herself there, she said to me: ‘I’m responsible enough. I can’t stop the war, but I can do this.’ She spoke three languages. She said she’d been volunteering through the holidays, trudging through all weather.

An article by Ruby Hinchliffe for FTAdviser

Pictures by Carmen Reichman