How Goldman Sachs and Welcome.US turned hope into reality for Ukrainian newcomers through Welcome Connect

Stories of Welcome

September 20, 2023


A passion project for two engineers with ties to Ukraine shows the positive impact corporations can have

When the right people are in the right place at the right time, amazing things happen.

Goldman Sachs employees Yuriy Goldman and Vadim Tsukhtman understand what it feels like to be newcomers to the United States. Yuriy grew up in the USSR—in an area that is now part of Ukraine—and immigrated to the U.S. when he was 8 years old. Vadim came to the U.S. from Russia as a high school student and later married a Ukrainian woman.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Yuriy and Vadim were shocked by the atrocities of the war and began looking for ways to help. They discovered Welcome.US when their employer, Goldman Sachs, pledged to support the organization’s efforts as a member of the Welcome.US CEO Council. Together, they then saw an opportunity to use their technical skills to help Welcome.US support Ukrainian families seeking safety.

Yuriy Goldman, Global Head of Data and Analytics Platform for Transaction Banking at Goldman Sachs
Luc Teboul, Partner, Transaction Banking Engineering at Goldman Sachs

One by one, the pieces fell into place to create what became the Welcome Connect platform—a tool that drew from Yuriy and Vadim’s work experience and passion to help Ukrainians seeking refuge from the war find safety in the United States.

Originally from Kharkiv, Yuriy was inspired to help Ukrainian refugees because of his ties to the region. In New York, he connected with grassroots Ukrainian groups that were collecting supplies to help Ukrainians. But he quickly realized that a more effective system was needed to assist Ukrainians displaced by the war who were now seeking safety and stability.

He had already researched the Uniting for Ukraine (U4U) program and Welcome.US, even reaching out to Welcome.US to offer suggestions that could improve FAQs on its website. He soon connected with Luc Teboul, Partner, Transaction Banking Engineering at Goldman Sachs, who shared that he, too, had been looking for ways to help newcomers from Ukraine.

Yuriy and Luc saw a problem they knew their technical skills as engineers could help solve. Ukrainian refugees who sought safety through the U4U program, but didn’t have direct ties to people in the U.S. who could serve as sponsors, needed a way to connect with those who wanted to help. They also often faced additional complexities including uncertainty and security issues while trying to match with sponsors on social media.

We were watching these matchmaking conversations happening in social media groups. We felt a lot of urgency to get something out there to create a safer platform for these people to get them off of social media and, more importantly, get them out of Ukraine.
Yuriy Goldman, Global Head of Data and Analytics Platform for Transaction Banking at Goldman Sachs
Vadim Tsukhtman, Investment Banking at Goldman Sachs

Yuriy and Luc reached out to Vadim, who eagerly raised his hand to join them in this effort. With the backing of Goldman Sachs and the tech expertise of the team, they went on to help create a platform that bridged the gap between sponsors and refugees in a secure and meaningful manner—Welcome Connect, as Vadim coined it.

“There was a very palpable sense of purpose, and luckily that sense of purpose was actually combined with the ability to execute, because the cause really opened the doors for us,” Vadim said.

A perfect blend of technical skill and passion led the Goldman Sachs team to develop Welcome Connect, an online platform that safely connected potential American sponsors with Ukrainians seeking refuge from war.

As the initiative kicked off, it was amazing to see how many people at Goldman Sachs raised their hand to help out. The team, which also included engineers, designers and architects from ServiceNow and Infosys, worked closely with Welcome.US to tackle issues like user verification, security, and other needs, leveraging their networks and technical expertise to quickly turn around a high-quality and efficient product. “All I remember was just running as fast as I could,” Vadim said.

The team accomplished the nearly impossible: Welcome Connect launched on June 20, 2022—World Refugee Day–just 6 weeks from when they started the development process.

"The passion and talent behind this project from the Goldman Sachs team—and while on such an ambitious deadline—was remarkable. Thanks to their vision and dedication, Welcome.US was able to quickly implement a solution that provided vulnerable Ukrainians with a more secure option for finding refuge here in the United States," said Jenny Raymond, Senior Advisor of Program Technology and Innovation at Welcome.US.

The platform solved the security issues that had concerned Yuriy and Vadim, but it also provided agency for Ukrainians seeking refuge who would be using the platform—often the first thing that refugees lose when they are displaced from their homes.

"I’ve been involved in a lot of product development in the humanitarian space. I’ve never seen something come together so successfully, so quickly, and so efficiently,” Jenny said.

During the premiere of "One Good Reason" at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival, Vadim (left) and Yuriy met the Ukrainian family featured in the film who benefited from Welcome Connect.
The team that helped to develop Welcome Connect chatting at the Tribeca Film Fest (from left), Jim Lesser from ServiceNow, Luc Teboul from Goldman Sachs, Welcome.US CEO Nazanin Ash, and Vadim Tsukhtman and Yuriy Goldman from Goldman Sachs.

In June 2023—one year after the successful launch of the platform—Yuriy and Vadim found themselves in the audience at the Tribeca Film Festival where they had the opportunity to meet a Ukrainian family who benefited from Welcome Connect. Olesia and Mykola Hnatiuk and their two children were sponsored through the Welcome Connect platform, and the documentary “One Good Reason” features their journey. The documentary debuted on the opening night of the film festival.

“I think the Tribeca Film Festival… that's when it became real for me,” Yuriy said. “That was an especially emotional moment for me.”

Goldman Sachs leveraging their engineering experience to create the Welcome Connect platform shows how the corporate sector’s involvement can help provide a unique opportunity to solve challenges in the resettlement space. Vadim was especially moved by the affirmation that corporations that have tremendous talent with a passion to make a difference are able to make consequential change.

“My whole career, I've been putting my skills to commercial use,” he said. “The ability to leverage the organization and what I have learned to help tens of thousands of people—for me personally, was very rewarding.”

The partnership between Goldman Sachs and Welcome.US solved a critical and immediate problem—creating a tool that provided a safe space for Ukrainians fleeing war to connect with sponsors in the United States. In February 2023, as additional humanitarian sponsorship pathways were rolled out by the U.S. government, the Welcome Connect platform was expanded to support additional vulnerable populations seeking refuge in the United States through these designated pathways.

Today, not only Ukrainians but families facing humanitarian crises in Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela can connect with potential sponsors in the U.S. on Welcome Connect.

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