At the beginning of the year 2016, the Red Cross happened to be in the middle of a huge scandal.
Due to a journalist investigation, some very unpleasant facts were unveiled. It became known that humanitarian aid was secretly sold, that first aid courses were becoming commercialized, that the management of the organization was reluctant to let activists check its activity.
There are two worlds inside the Red Cross which have practically no contact with each other. The majority of charity projects are realized not by the staff of the organization, but by volunteers who are directly coordinated by foreign supervisors.
Recently, Ukrainian volunteers, who were financially supported by Danish Red Cross, helped internally displaced young people to adapt to life at a new place and to overcome social isolation.
The project was realized in the Lviv, Ternopil and Kharkiv regions and in the city of Kyiv.
During ten months, the Red Cross conducted about one hundred and fifty events, approximately three thousand people took part in them.
“The first thing which comes to people’s minds when they hear about volunteering is distribution of humanitarian aid. However, in this case we did not distribute anything, we created situations which encouraged communication, self-development and interesting leasure opportunities. This strategy had already been used in Palestine and Armenia and now, in 2015, it was Ukraine’s turn to try it.”, explaines Maryna Kozhedub, national project coordinator.
After the results of the project were analyzed, the Danes decided to prolong the project for nine more months.
“Actually, this was a gift from Danish youth, the money for the project was collected at a famous music festival in Roskilde and then sent to Ukrainian volunteers. They, in their turn, reported about the results to Mads Ostergaard, coordinator from Denmark”, continues Mariya.
First of all, there were special events which helped internally displaced people to learn about the place thay had moved to due to circumstances.
Besides visiting theatres, museums and galleries, internally displaced youth from the target regions also went to a resort in the Ternopil region in July 2015 and to an eco-camping in the vicinity of Kharkiv in August. This was a real gift for them after the summer of 2014 when the war was in full swing.
“I learnt a lot of new and interesting things about the west of Ukraine. Now I will visit this region and bring my friends as well”, remembers Olsana S., an internally displaced girl from Donetsk.
There were dozens of evenings devoted to poetry and music, master classes and other events, from painting classes to bike quests, organized by the Red Cross to help internally displaced young people overcome moral and social isolation.
“The mission of our project is very simple. We want those guys who were forced to leave their home, to find new friends and to remember that they are young and energetic people”, says Victoria Nazina, coordinator of the project in the Kharkiv region.
One of the biggest events which took place in Kharkiv was a social photograph competition “Feelings in pixels”.
Internally displaced persons even had an opportunity to take part in the life of the city. A street library, the first one in the Kyiv region, was opened in bila Tserkva with the help of the Red Cross in October 2015.
According to the volunteers’ opinion, the brighter the city life is, the more events happen there, the easier it is to integrate into the local community.
It is interesting to note that internally displaced persons became involved in charity themselves.
In Kharkiv, for example, they helped to refurbush the building of a future school for autistic children, in Lviv they created hand-made presents for orphans.
Some internally displaced persons even decided to join the Red Cross.
“Today people help you and tomorrow you will help somebody. Even realizing the fact that someone cares of you inspires and encourages to do something good”, confesses Ruslan I., internally displaced person form Torez.
Thus, the Red Cross communities do not only become centres which help IDPs, they are points where destinies are restarted.
As for the facts of corruption which have recently been unveiled, volunteers are optimistic: it is possible to correct everything, they have enough enthusiasm and power to do this.
Maksym Vikhrov for the Ukrainian Truth
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