Cases 19:28 18 Jan 2023

Generation of changemakers: how Ukraine's youth community is created

Youth workers — about youth initiatives that improve their lives in communities after February 24.

What is the problem?

The crisis is a time of great risks and losses, but at the same time — of bigger opportunities. Youth, as the driving force of Ukrainian society, is developing our country amid the war in various directions, in particular in the ranks of the Armed Forces, volunteering, IT, communications, creativity, and psychotherapy.

But they often need help with this.

What is the solution?

According to the Youth Well-being Index, in 18 cities of Ukraine, which were surveyed in 2021, an average of 69.5% of young people are involved in public life.

Therefore, creating opportunities for active and proactive youth is a primary task for youth workers. Such a chance for young people to be heard is the Bank of Ideas initiative, the pilot of which in 2021 ended with implementing seven mini-projects in the field of innovation and inclusion. This year, young changemakers united within the humanitarian response framework to restore our country.

Participants from 14 teams and 6 regions of Ukraine (Lviv, Volyn, Dnipropetrovsk, Chernihiv, Ternopil, Poltava) attended a school of grant writing and project management. They brainstormed at an ideaton about possible projects in the field of humanitarian response in their community, and at the final stage of the residency, intensively worked on their ideas and turned them into full-fledged projects, for which they received grant support.

How does it work?

"WIN-WIN" for Lutsk

молодіжні ініціативи України

11th-grader Victoria Korenetska coordinates this project for her city; its main goal is emotional support for teenagers.

"When we thought about the project topic, we focused on the problems that our peers have. One of the key requests is emotional support. That's why we organized a three-day retreat for the youth of our community with a tea ceremony, collage therapy, and a trip to Lubart Castle. The initiative was named "WIN-WIN" because it is valuable for both participants and organizers. The main thing is that we are also gaining experience and creating a community of like-minded people from active young people living in Lutsk," Victoria says.

The team for the project was gathered literally in half an hour — all to have time to apply for the grant. And within a week, the first calls were made within the framework of the project.

"Everything happened very dynamically: first, training and meetings with mentors. During them, we crystallized the topic: the first was about providing work opportunities for women in shelters, but when 4 days passed, we traveled around the shelters, and we realized this was irrelevant. Already on the way to the residence in Slavsky, we found a new topic," the project coordinator recalls.

The organizers of the project believe that the youth are the support for the youth during the war.

"Communicating and sharing your problems and experiences gives you more joy and happiness every day. These positive emotions motivate us to move on," Viktoriya Korenetska says.

"Rukavychka" from the Pryluky community in Chernihiv Oblast

молодіжні ініціативи

And in the Pryluky community, a survey was conducted before the launch of the project to understand exactly what the local youth needs. The coordinator of the "Rukavychka" initiative, 20-year-old Kateryna Skrypka, says: "This is how our project was born, which included 5 activities of different directions: from first aid to conducting an acting workshop from a local theater actor."

"Rukavychka" undertook to organize events for young people, and one of their most important areas was the area of psychological support.

"For this, in the cycle of our events, there was an offline psychological workshop conducted by a young psychologist. Young people do not always have the means to visit a psychologist, and it is difficult to share in a circle of peers or even like-minded people," says Kateryna.

In addition, at this event, young people talked about hotlines where you can speak to psychologists anonymously. The initiative believes that young people should be involved in social life because this is how they really live in this society and develop. That is why "Rukavychka" holds local events to involve young people in the community and cheer them up.

"Rukavychka" also held an experimental event – "There are no small things in communication":

"We decided to create a mega-warm atmosphere: we turned off the lights and turned on the projector. We were worried that young people would not want to share their personal experiences and talk about problems. However, young people really want to talk to someone who will understand them at least a little. Therefore, with the light turned off, when they were almost invisible, they began to open up. And our discussion was delightful. In the end, when we posed for a joint photo, one of the participants, Diana, offered to hug me — it broke my soul. I was very pleased because I understood that the work done by the team was not in vain. Also, after the workshop with actor Andriy Karpov, we noticed how people continued informal networking and sharing their experiences. It is very pleasant when young people unite and start building the youth community of our city," recalls Kateryna.

It is important for "Rukavychka" to engage displaced youth — those young people who were forced to leave their homes and move to safer regions due to the war. At the same time, they believe that IDPs should not be singled out in a separate category — that way, IDP youth will feel integrated more quickly. Kateryna Skrypka explains:

"I believe that IDP youth should be singled out only when they need psychological or material assistance. In other cases, it is not necessary that they do not feel somehow "different." Any youth, including IDPs, strives to feel a connection with the youth community. And already in the process of communicating with local youth at our events, they will integrate into society independently and gradually. Our task as youth workers is to make this integration into the community as smooth as possible and provide opportunities for leisure and support through psychological assistance programs, informal networking events, and creative evenings."

"Attic" in Novovolynsk

молодіжні ініціативи

The 19-year-old coordinator of the initiative, Mykhailo Regeshuk, recalls that creating the project was motivated by the desire to unite the youth of the community around conscious leisure:

"As an employee of the youth center, I help buy food for a charity canteen in Novovolynsk, which provides food for people who need it. Since my colleagues and I collected funds for the cafeteria from our salaries, we decided to participate in the "Idea Bank 2.0: MOLO, diy!" initiative. To accumulate money for the needs, to make something creative and ecological, and at the same time, to unite the community's youth around conscious leisure. As a result, our team organizes shopper and t-shirt customization events and creates upcycled products in our community by purchasing second-hand clothing. The idea for the name was born immediately: an attic is a place where old and unnecessary clothes are usually stored, so we give a second life to shirts, suits, and t-shirts in a creative way. The clothes from the first custom collection are dotted with quotes from Ukrainian poems and poetry."

The initiators of "Attic" believe that the best way to support young people during the war is to create communities that will help solve problems in communities. "That's why it's worth forming such communities of changemakers who will enjoy these transformations in the community," Mykhailo adds.

Equally important is the integration of IDP youth. Word of mouth helped "Attic" when those who had already attended the events invited their friends to the next ones.

"Having meetings with young people and informal training for them is very important, as we can see from the feedback. Many young people are not interested in public activism because they do not know what a youth center is, what advantages volunteering can give, or what the value of activism is," Mykhailo Regeshuk concludes.

How to help youth in communities?

These three stories are vivid examples of how young people are ready to develop new initiatives for communities. The listed projects were implemented within the framework of the "Idea Bank 2.0: MOLO, action!" initiative from UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and MoloDvizhCenter.Lviv. In total, the project covered 2,500 young Ukrainians from 12 communities of the country. These are 14 projects from youth workers from 6 regions of Ukraine who created safe spaces for young people and held lectures and workshops on mental health, volunteering, IT, pre-medical care, acting skills, conscious consumption, photography, art, and promotion on social networks.

"For the UN Population Fund, working with young people and supporting programs that promote the vitality of young people and develop their ability to successfully realize themselves in their communities, especially in times of crisis, is one of the priority areas. Even last year, we piloted the "Idea Bank: Make Your Dreams" project, in which we supported youth projects aimed at implementing innovative solutions for young people: from creating thematic podcasts and educational YouTube channels to conducting art therapy classes for youth with inclusiveness. This year, "Bank of Ideas 2.0: MOLO, diy!", in addition to expanding the geography of projects, shifted the focus in line with new realities, calling on and uniting young people to implement projects of humanitarian direction and restoration of our country," says Pavlo Zamostyan, deputy representative of UNFPA, of the UN Population Fund in Ukraine.

If young people are given opportunities for development, the necessary value base, and support, they will strengthen Ukrainian society, shed light on problems and find solutions. And they will lead the country into a conscious future with critical thinking, mental health, and landmarks that will captivate Ukrainian men and women and encourage them to follow them.


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