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How volunteers help restore schools in the Donbas

How volunteers help restore schools in the Donbas

Who helps to restore buildings destroyed by war and what officials say about that. Donbas Public TV journalists in «Donetsk Dialogue» program visited a school in Slovyansk which was destroyed by shelling and restored by volunteers.

How many schools did not open in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions this year? What was damaged, and what problems do they face. In order to answer these questions and start restoration to resume the schooling, volunteers went to the Donbas.

The first school, activists came to help, was a school in Mykolayivka, Lora Artuhina, author of «New Donbas» project, recalls. They helped locals to restore school #3 which was damaged by shelling.

“The project has already been completed in Mykolayivka near Slovyansk. The children and teachers told us then that even if we had come without building materials, they would still have been happy. Support, talk with somebody are a very important thing, not only money and building materials. A lot of people who suffer from war need help», says Lora Artuhina.

Children from the Mykolayivka school arrange and hold various events and plan their future. It was difficult to imagine that a year ago when the school was in ruins. «There were no windows, no doors, and holes in the ceiling. We started the school year without glass in the windows, we just overshadowed them with pieces of glass and cellophane», school #3 director Olha Hennadievna recalls.

The school administration addressed many people for help. Nobody said «No». However, nobody rushed to help. The problem was solved at random. The school in Mykolayivka was visited by its former student Artem Butov. Artem was shocked by what he saw and decided to help. He came back with a team from cultural initiative «The New Donbas».

It was not only material and technical basis that was restored. They offered rehabilitation therapy; painting studios started working; there were master-classes; psychologists came. So we became friends and cooperated for a year», said school #3 director Olha Krasnopeeva.

“We are happy to meet these outstanding people, creative and energetic, who offered us help. We are still friends, and our children visit them in Kyiv and Lviv, and they kindly welcome us», says Olha.
In the beginning, their team was not big, but it has been increasing with every passing day.
«Several schools had been restored, but this one changed the whole town. To me, the most distinct thing was the contrast between children from Mykolayivka, who lived in the war and know what it is, and other children», says Olena Makarenko, media manager of «The New Donbas».

In order to stop the war in the country, it is necessary to stop the war in people's heads — Lora is sure. Only with the help of communication, cultural events and mutual understanding, success may be reached. «People are offended, and their reaction is quite natural: after 23 years of independence they are called ‘a cancer tumor’. These stupid opinions exist and they are offensive. We want our project to become a movement, and we want the people to know that we help them and love them», the project author Lora Artuhina says.

It is even more unpleasant when officials present unflattering comments on their compatriots

«Doing that, they demonstrate booring behaviour: «We don't know you. Who are you?» This exactly what Putin's plan is about — to divide the country. That is why such people are kremlin's agents though they may not understand that themselves. This is the behaviour of people without any brain and heart as our citizens are the hostages of the situation, of the interests of oligarchs, and various clashes in politics. The same situation may have happen in any part of the country», Lora reflects on.
About the responsibilities of the state. Unfortunately, there is no national strategy. And activists are tired of wasting their power and energy on officials. So, they took the initiative, and the result achieved by volunteer organizations is amazing.

«Volunteering in Ukraine is a unique phenomenon. I think one third of the country in involved in it this or that way. Some people help openly and spend a lot of time on it. And I think it is neither logical nor effective asking the state for help», Lora Artuhina thinks.

New service "Explain Ukraine". This is a daily mailout of five articles which were written about the situation in the Donbas by Donbas journalists and translated into English. Honest vision of people who work in the field is unbiased and fresh which is crucial in the world which is full of desinformation and propaganda. We try to share this vision in out daily mailout.  You can subscribe here.

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