March 16, 2022
There are very unusual offers of help: Someone offers a sailboat as an accommodation, another a caravan. Hotels provide free rooms, as do real estate companies. But above all, private hosts are providing accommodation: Individual beds, rooms, apartments, entire houses. "The people are creative, the solidarity is incredible," said Nils Bischoff. And it goes beyond borders. Not only in Germany and Europe do people provide free housing for Ukrainian refugees over Host4Ukraine (https://www.host4ukraine.com), but also in the United States or Australia. Even the Fiji Islands are providing shelter.
"How can we help?" Many people were wondering the same thing after the attack on the Ukraine, including Nils Bischoff and Bela Janauschek. Within a short time, the two graduates from the Germany-based international university, Jacobs University Bremen, developed something similar to Airbnb for refugees. A platform that brings private hosts offering free housing together with refugees looking for accommodation.
"We wanted to develop a quick, simple and uncomplicated platform that can relieve the authorities or even aid organizations," said Bela Janauschek, describing the idea. Anyone who wants to offer a bed, a room or other accommodation can register on the platform and create a listing. The exact address does not appear, only the approximate area is shown. Refugees can then contact the hosts directly. Already two days after the outbreak of hostilities, the platform was online. Within a week, several thousand beds were available in over 40 countries. Currently, the platform is available in English and in Ukrainian.
On the one hand, Host4Ukraine has academic ties with Jacobs University and on the other hand, it has ecclesiastical roots, since Churchpool is the start-up behind the platform. The duo also developed the Churchpool App together. It is tailored to the needs of church congregations and works similarly to platforms like WhatsApp or Facebook. It offers a protected, privacy-compliant space for communication and community building. Nils Bischoff is convinced: "Churches don't have to reinvent themselves, they just have to communicate in a new way."
The app was launched in his congregation in Bremen-Stuhr in 2020, and is now used by over 150 congregations throughout Germany, both Protestant and Catholic. They can create a profile on Churchpool, distribute news via push messages and promote events. Choir members, confirmands and daycare centers can form groups on the app. The app is available free of charge in the Google Play Store and in the Apple App Store.
The two young men from Bremen studied Global Economics and Management at Jacobs University, where they graduated in 2017. They knew each other before their studies, but they became friends on the university’s campus. "I was particularly impressed by the transdisciplinary approach," said Nils. "We were encouraged to look into different areas, to think diversely. I still take that to heart today."
Churchpool is under constant development, with new features to be added to the app. The same goes for Host4Ukraine. The platform is set to become even more intuitive, with new languages and a broader outreach. "We would be happy," said Bela, "if it is spread by as many people as possible on as many channels as possible."
More information on Host4Ukraine:
This text is part of the series "Faces of Jacobs," in which Jacobs University introduces students, alumni, professors, and staff. More episodes can be found at www.jacobs-university.de/faces.