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Atlanta-based organization helps Black refugees escape war in Ukraine

NoirUnited International is working to make sure Black refugees receive humanitarian aid and the resources needed to flee the country.

ATLANTA — The Russia-Ukraine war continues and more than four million Ukrainians have fled the country. One Atlanta-based non-profit, NoirUnited International, is working towards making sure Black refugees receive humanitarian aid and the resources needed to leave the country.

NoriUnited International was launched in 2020, after the George Floyd protest and Black Lives Matter movement, by five friends. They decided to come together to support the Black community and are now using their organization to support in Europe. 

NoirUnited International co-founders Nassim Ashford and Macire Aribot decided to use their global non-profit to offer direct support to Black refugee communities in need.

"We decided to go to Europe because we had been in contact with these students every day and they had become a part of our family in the sense that we wanted to be there for them when they arrived to help with their resettlement, help provide funds for food and for a shelter and things like that," said Aribot. 

The two Georgia natives decided to get involved in helping refugees escape Ukraine when they saw violence and racism directed toward the Black-Ukrainian community. 

"We got involved because we saw videos of black people being pulled off of trains. We saw videos of black people being abused and being forced to wait in long lines at the border," Aribot said. "We decided that this injustice was something that we could not overlook."

They decided to join forces with the Global Black Coalition, a group of Black-led organizations based all over the world, to begin a global initiative. One that would directly bring aid to communities of color.

Together with the coalition of organizations, they were able to raise over $123,000 to assist students and families stranded in Ukraine. 

The money will be used to help coordinate buses at the borders between Ukraine, Poland, Romania, and Hungary along with providing essential resources.

Ashford told 11Alive that they started their journey in Paris, France. 

"Where we started was in Paris, France, where we met with some students that we helped escape from Kherson, Ukraine with about 41 students that were there sitting in a bunker," he said. 

In Paris, they met five students with whom they worked closely to help them travel from Kherson to Germany. 

11Alive spoke to the five refugees that Ashford and Aribot helped bring to Germany. 

Bandjou Conde, a Guinea native studying Navigation in Ukraine said that their journey outside of Kherson was difficult. 

"The city was very, very dangerous. We were not in good condition. So we were living in the basement. We passed there like one month, one month we are there. We are not going anywhere," said Conde. 

According to Conde, they tried to leave the city multiple times, by taxi and by foot before being sent back by the Russian military. 

Mamady Doumbouya, a Guinea native studying electro mechanics in Ukraine said it was the first time they had seen war. 

"It wasn't easy for us to understand what is happening to us and what was happening in Ukraine because we were so scared. We were so scared. We are so scared of not being killed in Ukraine because we went there to study, not to fight," he said.

Ashford and Aribot were able to provide aid by paying for their transportation and offering them a place to stay when they arrived in a new country. 

Aribot wants these displaced individuals to feel supported as they move from home, many of them for the second time. 

NoirUnited is also working towards allowing the students escaping Ukraine to finish their studies in the U.S. through partnerships with universities.

Currently, Ashford and Aribot are in Budapest, Hungary where they've been assisting more student refugees leaving Ukraine. They are working alongside the Nigerian Diaspora Association to get a better idea of what is needed. 

To find out more about NoirUnited International and how to help click here.

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