A story of development within young communities
A true revolution is ongoing in Transcarpathia within the teenage and young people movement. It is not going really fast but rather effectively. Old abandoned village clubs or community centers are being equipped and turned into youth hubs, where they watch movies in the open air at stadiums or in the village center and the young ones from villages and townships are actively receiving grants and implementing useful and essential projects for their communities. And they do it, by the way, without involving political candidates, shouting political slogans or holding any pre-election campaigning.
And they invest their own funds. You will ask, where from? We also got interested in the question. In Perechyn we were answered, for instance, that it is their reward for singing carols. With every Transcarpathian this answer will raise a sincere and a kind smile on the face, because for teenagers that is a really nice way to earn money as a seasonal income. And on top of it, they still gather around and played the Mafia game during the quarantine. Of course, observing the social distance. In what way? Using the Telegram app.
In this article, we will dwell on such creative and venturesome active young people, not unconcerned, with a flame in their eyes and hearts, as well as on the way they create youth centers and hubs in Tiachiv, Perechyn, Batiovo, Dovhe and Rakhiv. And we will also tell of the volunteering movement established by the BUR (shortened from Building Ukraine Together). Each of our characters is inspiring, making daily small steps ahead towards great changes, in a seemingly rather depressive and passive society.
They have launched their own youth hub, have successfully completed some of their own projects. They have clear plans for the future and are eager to scale up their activity. The youth council at the Tiachiv united territorial community was founded in December, 2019. Now they have 32 young men involved, representing all the educational institutions of the united community (schools and colleges), both students and young teachers having progressive views.
Mykola Chekh, deputy Head of the Youth Council, explains: “This composition of the council allows for a maximum involvement of all the young ones, since we have our agents of influence in every residential place. They can simply ask their friends, classmates or acquaintances of their problems they are worried about, show interest how the event went off, etc.”
A youth hub was launched in February, 2020 in Tiachiv under the name BULB, as a part of the project “Foundation of a youth pub network in Transcarpathia”, in partnership with the public association “Space for youth” supported by the USAID. Before the lockdown, apart from the grand opening ceremony, they were just in time to hold some events in the hub – an English speaking club with a volunteer from the Peace Corps and a film show. But as the lockdown began, they had to close down. Mykola remembers: “That was hard. We had only just opened and started working. And there you are, a surprise. A bit lost in the beginning, we were but then started looking for new ways and means and online tools. The main thing is that for everybody to stay in good health.”
During the lockdown, the Facebook and Instagram pages of the Youth Council have been working actively, launching challenges, posting interesting facts and quotations every week. In particular, they held an online presentation for the volunteering activity of the BUR organization. They also signed up with their own page in the Telegram.
The first event after the lockdown started was the online educational program within the framework of the mini project Media School. Students learned basics of communication, and at their practical workshops they learnt how to fly quadcopters. So now the Youth Council has their own team of operatora filming and editing videos with beautiful landscapes in Tiachiv area.
As a part of the project “Establishing a youth hubs network in Transcarpathia”, members of the Youth Council have managed not only to win their first mini grant but also to complete a course in project management in youth centers, cooperation with communities and compiling projects. This knowledge was soon to come in handy. They shortly won a grant for the project “Youth travelling center” from the Kyiv dialogue, supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany. It is aimed at involving young people from the united area community to active participation in the public life.
Mykola Czech says: “As we were planning our events, we came across a problem: young people from far-away villages of the united area community did not have a possibility to attend the events. Regular bus routes don’t run after 5 PM, and few of them have their own car. So we decided to visit them by ourselves.”
Evening film shows are the most popular events. Depending on the weather and the level of mosquito aggressiveness, dozens and even hundreds of viewers attend the events, with an absolute record of 150 people that came to the show in the village of Velyki (Great) Lazy. For young ones it is not only an opportunity to have a nice time in a company of their friends but to get to know others.
An intercity project will be carried out in October and November, at the cost of a grant funds from the Kyiv Dialogue. The united communities of Tiachiv and Batievo will be sharing their experience in establishing cooperation between the Ukrainian-speaking and Hungarian-speaking youth in the communities. Not only joint meetings and discussions are planned to be held but a startup of a Ukrainian and Hungarian hub in the village of Ruske Pole (Russian Field) in Tiachiv united community and a street youth open-air space in the township of Batiovo. The latter already has a youth hub Zdybanka (Rendezvous). Mykola says they have something to share: “We will deliver a lecture on establishing their own youth council, introduce a public budget, take a poll among young ones and involve them to active work”.
The Youth Council’s activity has many aspects, including not only entertainment events for young people but also environmental protection. In particular, they have started monitoring the air quality, purchasing special sensors. These are to measure out the level of PM10 fine silt and that of a more harmful dust fraction, PM2.5, and some even serve for metering the CO2, CO, NH3 concentration levels, the radiation background, atmospheric pressure, humidity and temperature. Sensors of this type were installed in Vilkhivtsi, Mukachevo, Perechyn and Irshava. They help monitoring the air conditions in these communities, utilizing a chat-bot, Saveecobot and on a map.
Now they have set up another goal – to establish a nature reserve area with age-old oak-trees.
“Once the age-old oak trees were growing at the outskirts of the village of Ruske Pole in Tiachiv district but they cut them down in a day or two. Currently only a minor lane of continuous natural plantation of age-old oak forest. We noticed it accidentally in May this year, as we were tracking bike routes through our united area community” , – Mykola remembers. – At a meeting of the youth council of Tiachiv community we approved a decision on the necessity to preserve the plantation and assign a conservation status to it. We did a polling among residents of the village of Ruske Pole and started a signature collection against a further deforestation and formed a working party with representatives from the youth council. In case the resolution by the working party proves positive, with the conservation value of the oak wood confirmed, we will be applying, supported by Tiachiv city council, to the Regional Council of Transcarpathia with a demand for an official establishment of a nature reserve or join the plantation to the territory of the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve.”
However, Mykola also mentions their hardships: “I cannot say everything goes on smoothly. It never happens in real life. Actually, it is very hard to motivate young ones to be proactive and develop this skill. But we are prepared to overcome these difficulties, for we can see results – the city council consults us on youth matters, and young people get involved and are willing to work. Like any of our team, I feel I am helpful here, at my own place”.
Mykola reassures that the winning formula is not so complicated: “We have a team willing to work and making an active professional advancement. And then the local authorities supporting us in everything, as well as good friends and partners motivating us and helping us in every way. In particular, the team of the public association Space for Youth, assisting us in compiling projects, looking for opportunities and consulting in case of difficulties. As a result, we have successful work of the Youth Council and an increasing potential of the young in Tiachiv united area community”.
By the end 2021, the team are planning to establish a real youth center, in a dedicated building. It should be added here that the youth councils at the Tiachiv and Perechyn united communities have participated in the foundation meeting of the Ukraine Youth Councils Association, hence they will be able to make an impact on the youth policy development in Ukraine.
Along with the youth council at the Tiachiv united area community, the youth council of the Perechyn united area community became a co-founder of the Ukraine Youth Councils Association.
Yulia Hanchak, the secretary if the youth council, recollects that the very history of founding this body was long and interesting: “It all began when we, as active members of the pupils’ self-government, were invited to a meeting by the Head of the Community center. She suggested we should do some creative work and organize an interesting concert for youth, dedicated to Valentine’s Day. We agreed, of course. We made up a sketch we wanted to play and we were helped with the scenario. After the performance we realized there was more to it and we wanted more”.
Oksana Kydora, a coordinator at the “Khyzha” (Hut) hub continues: “A few days later, Ihor Vyshniak and Mykola Hodovaniy held a meeting for pupils and teachers at the district library, dedicated to the subject of opportunities for youth. In particular, Mykola Radchenko and myself, being representatives of the first youth council founded at the charity fund of the Center of Public Initiatives yet in 2008, held the floor, speaking of our experience”.
After the meeting, the young ones that got interested, held more meetings and made a decision: it is time to change their town. So they started preparing to the Town Day – developed a quest, built a sign “I love Perechyn” with their own hands and organized the first ever open-air film show.
“As they were in the making, they came to me to have an advice, – Oksana remembers. – And since then we stared working together”.
Getting to know the “Space for Youth” public association and Kyiv Dialogue, a Ukraine-Germany program became a land mark for them. It was then that they, together with participants from other areas of the region, took trainings, studying basics of youth policy and participation tools, which helped them a lot in compiling their first projects.
“But then it became clear to us: we need to somehow announce ourselves officially, for at that time we actually were all but an action group, – Oksana Kydora explains. – We could not get registered as a public association because most of our activists are under aged. So we approved of the decision to found a youth council. The town mayor supported us, so in some time we elaborated our Statute and – on November 22 we had the foundation meeting. Officially there were 18 members included to the newly established consultative and advisory body, as well as a few volunteers”.
An important stage in the Youth Council’s activity was their participation in “Creating a youth hub network in Transcarpathia”, supported by the USAID. The young ones were delivered possession for a facility belonging to “Communalhyk” (Municipal Employee) public utility company, free of charge. As Yulia was substantiating reasons why they needed the hub, she simply said: “Now we have a place to live” (laughing – Editor).
In fact, the community did not acknowledge the new institution in the town. Yulia remembers that “at first people could not get a simple thing – a hub is not a pub. That it is a place for social activity of the young ones”. So the members of the youth council started sharing their activity in social networks actively, showing all the stages of the new youth space foundation process. And it paid off – the opening ceremony of the hub with a speaking name – Hyzha (The Hut) attracted over 60 people.
Oksana reassures: “The opening of Hyzha bound our team the more so. We then had a clear vision of our space and what we needed for that. Some funds we got by simply as an award for singing carols, as they say. We purchased some things at a discount, and we spent our grant money for the furniture and office appliances. That’s how we managed to fill this room with all the essentials – the poufs, the chairs, the kitchen stuff, the film reader, the stationery, table games etc.”
As for advantages, it is worth mentioning that we already have some skills in painting, drilling, shaping and, on the whole – in redecorating” – Yulia laughs.
Various events used to be held in the hub before the lockdown began – meetings, round-table conferences, evening events with playing Mafia table game.
Oksana reassures: “We have never had it in sight – to keep organizing events continuously. Our aim is two larger topical events per month, involving speakers etc. And at all other times young ones may as well self-organize. We are glad it happened exactly so. Youth used to come for a film show or play games. They really liked ‘The community World’, and we have our own Mafia club meeting every Wednesday. Interestingly, even at the times of strict lockdown, when meetings were prohibited, they still played Mafia…via Telegram!”
Just as well, under the quarantine conditions they implemented their mini-project “A square meter of cleanness”. Hence they compiled a whole series of video clips showing their personal example of how to make everyday life ecological. For instance, they showed, together with a female expert, products of utmost ecological level sold in a local shop or taught sorting rules.
After the lockdown limitations were loosened, they have already held a few film shows, both in the town and in villages of the united area community. And they are not going to stop with those activities. In particular, they have recently received participants of the project “Establishing of a youth hubs network in Transcarpathia v. 2.0” supported by the USAID. In this way they presented their activity and shared their experience.
Their plans are to activate youth over villages and launch more hubs there.
Oksana reassures: “Probably the best what our youth council provides for youth is an opportunity to self-organize and make their own choice. They are not afraid to accept responsibility, knowing what they want; and they could be relied upon. Every day they learn to be leaders in their environment”.
The hub in the township of Dovhe was launched a year ago. Its female initiators were the pupils Myroslava Chernushevich and Karina Fechka and their teacger of computer science, Halyna Levko-Rubets.
Відеоісторія про заснування Довге Хабу, сворена в рамках попереднього проєкту UCBI
In the hub they watch movies, teach computer science of various levels according to the children’s age, learn spoken English, compile projects on the village amenities and construction of sports grounds and a lot of other things as well. However, the lockdown made its allowances to the everyday life of the hub that they were so used to.
– The lockdown started on March, 12th and, since it was then believed that it would only take a week, we decided to sit it out and closed down. Then we learnt that the Plast office in Dovhe and the Code Club (who taught programming) moved their activity online and so we did not hold our other events. To keep in contact with our visitors, we made a short review of our books available for book-crossing. As for me, April and May went off in learning the activities of youth centers and compiling projects that could be launched within the hub. By the end of the month we got approvals for two projects. In July we resumed our activity, though observing the restrictions and protection. We conducted a series of trainings for teenagers concerning informational security and digital literacy, as part of the project “Teach me! Teenagers and elderly people against Covid-19”, supported by the British Council of Ukraine.
August of the same year became the time for a real discovery, when we united the hub and an open-air event within the park in the Counts Teleki former mansion. We held some trainings for the youth aged 13-17 in the hub of Dovhe. All of them live in villages of Dovhe united area community. The training was dedicated to improving skills of leadership and communication. Then autumn came, school started again, and life ran in normal channels again: co-working studies for schoolchildren, clubs launching – namely, the Chytailyk Club (the Small Reader) for kids aged 7-8, programming studies, the Math club named “Mudrunchyky” (Young Wise Ones). The club of “Arduibo Robot Technics” again set to designing their devices, and the English TEDx studies every Friday continued. And of course, the Plast movement got their home again.
We are currently planning to implement garbage sorting in the hub, install a mini-kitchen and he main thing – to legalize the hub being included to the asset list of the village council of Dovhe united community area. Then we can have a hub administrator with an official salary.
What the lockdown showed us is that we need flexibility in respect to the hub functioning formats and a quick response to the current situation. Though we all realize the world has changed and the main thing is to support one another. Then everything’s going to be alright, – says Halyna Levko-Rubets, a cofounder of the club.
In order to make it possible to open up a youth space in their native village, Dovhe, the teenagers had to employ a lots of options to get funds. The facility was given free of charge by the village council, computers were given by the Code Club and the company EPAM. They also collected money by holding open-air film show events, collecting garbage paper, charity fairs and also with the support of the American platform GoFundMe.
The hub activities are focused on the following: education and communication, financial literacy, foreign language studies, documentary film shows, STEM education, exhibitions.
The Dovhe hub features a book-crossing point, the first ever one in the village. In order to take a book to read it, you are supposed to bring one of your own and put it onto the shelf. The hub founders were concerned of a possible problem: people might start bringing shabby and uninteresting books. However, their fears did not prove, since the readers bring really nice editions and share them with pleasure. Valentine Kuzan, a photographer originating from Dovhe, helped make the book shelves more modern. He managed to collect over 10K hryvnias utilizing his own page on the Facebook and buy modern books.
The active members of the public association The New Yasinia have implemented lots of projects: minor and major ones, equally global in their own sense. Yasinia is now clearly shows how a small team sharing common values has united the whole community and obtained a considerable support – from friends, partners, donors, and sponsors. As a result, there is a powerful ecological movement, environmental cleanup, urbanism, cultural and educational events for kids and adults, the educational hub Credents – all are active.
Actually it all began with garbage. To be more precise, from heaps of garbage right in the downtown of Yasinia and unconcerned authorities. That became a true driver of the changes. Back in May, 2018, the very heart of the township was snowed under with garbage, while the officials kept silent. The locals finally had their lid coming off, so they blocked a highway of state significance, leading from Mukachevo to Rohatyn, making a meeting. It took a few days to have a Viber chat for concerned residents to gather up. They united and started to act, since ecology is a truly personal issue for everyone. And – all hell broke loose! Litter pick events, arguments with the local utility companies, a dialogue with authorities, popularization of garbage sorting and an ecological way of life on the whole. Finally, the first ecological festival, the Family Picnic. And that was only a beginning.
“We are a team of Yasinia villagers, gathered around an idea – to create a healthy and comfortable environment for living, developing, working and leisure time activities. We manage to find time to work for the benefit of our native Yasinia, to promote high-quality changes within the community – this is what the public association founders declare. – we find funds to support the organization’s activity, and we find our home folks who stand shoulder to shoulder with us. For only with our common efforts can we build a flourishing Yasinia”.
The team members focus their activity on the following: ecological goals, cultural and educational initiatives, urbanism, ecological tourism.
The Family Picnic became one of the most broad-scale events. In 2019, it had lots on the program: bike rides and sport events for adults and kids, 10 workshops and an ecological quest, art clinics and a lecture, a charity fair and a food spot, a party and a dancing flash mob. And sorting of garbage, of course. And on top of that – 24 business sponsors and larger companies; 13 sponsors as private persons; 60 volunteers and 895 registered guests.
One of truly incredible and life-affirming stories is the one of creating the art space for alternative education, the Credentz (a wardrobe in Transcarpathian).
“A multimedia complex, a peculiar case of co-working, a creative space, inclusive education and opportunities for development for would-be leaders. And it’s all not about Kyiv or a regional center, – says Svitlana Junjik, a communication manager. – this has been one of our goals we have lived with ever since the launching of the public association in one of Transcarpathian resorts, the township of Yasinia”.
The young ones got extremely interested in the idea! For where there is a need, there is an initiative, and interesting successful and important events are held, and people to do the job. There used to be no facility ever. A space to become the hub, the brain for the changes to come in Yasinia – ecological, social, urbanistic, creative ones. A space for alternative education. However, there was a cultural center in Yasinia, not working for a few years by the time, abandoned and in a long run – to become a wreck. And then it was high time to act: first of all, rent a part of it, then carry out a high quality redecoration, to make a depressive building into a comfortable light modern location equipped for various events to be held.
The volunteers had a talk with the council authorities, revealing their intentions, so they eventually rented a part of the facility and started searching for funds to support redecoration and equipping of the would-be creative space. That was in the fall 2019. The money was collected via “SpilnoKosht” (Common Funds) and via the platform BigIdea, so by St. Nicholas Day they already had some 78K Hryvnias. More 85K arrived from the grant by the International Fund of Renaissance as part of the project “The Community. The Culture”. The rest came from sponsors of the program “Building Ukraine Together” (the BUR). It is essential to realize that the SpilnoKosht money are that collected on public among the local people, however the SpilnoKosht is also a sponsor controlling the usage of the financial resources in accordance with the budget confirmed. After all the processes are completed, the public association has to report for all the activities.
Well, life was seething then but the lockdown put some things on hold. It was already with its release that the working parties began, to get the area ready for the redecoration and designing. Purchasing of all the necessary things had begun. A volunteering team from the BUR were involved for the redecoration. For instance, the youth space appeared as a result of some two weeks of a building entertaining camp.
Two other individual building projects are envisaged: equipping of the public space, and Yasinia is going to have its own artistic mural. Another initiative is to support a few local families with redecoration. Each of the projects above envisages an individual budget and involving funds from the community budget, as well as from local peopled and businessmen. By the way, thanks to the BUR, the New Yasinia may rely on professional assistance of a designer and a craftsman.
The Transcarpathian affiliate of the BUR was founded in October, 2019. To be more precise, its anniversary is going to be celebrated on October 14.
It was then that a volunteering program grew into a powerful volunteering movement all over Ukraine, founding their affiliates in various regions of Ukraine.
– I like telling the story of launching the BUR in Transcarpathia, for I consider it is truly exciting. As the BUR started founding their branches over Ukraine, it was a challenge at first to find the person to become the coordinator of the regional affiliate. We then elected our today’s coordinator, Pavlo (Pavlo Pryzhehodskiy). He is a man fond of travelling and at that time he was in Paris. So our office was launched at the Eiffel Tower. After electing the coordinating manager, it was time to shape a team. On October 14, Transcarpathian activists and volunteers had a meeting, all of them had been participants of the BUR camp events at least once. Since that time we have been working on the BUR concept and sharing it over Transcarpathia, – tells Angelina Chyryban, the team’s communication manager.
The BUR’s activity can be subdivided into two fields: cultural and educational events and volunteering events. The latter, such as the BUR-chick and the BUR working party, are a good example of an opportunity to meet people over a common job. And working together is something to deal with unity. Volunteers do know: once they come to such events, they will spend their time to the benefit.
– We hold such events on people’s request. Suppose a Transcarpathian knows an object where assistance is needed. He only has to fill in a form, to be found on our pages in social networks. Within 2 weeks we get in touch with the person and arrange all the details. Who do we help? It may be a family that needs assistance in furnishing their home or a park to be cleaned or a place to become a youth center or some redecoration in a socially important object in a town or a village, – Angelina says.
The BUR-chick is a two-day’s event of mutual assistance and neighborliness, when volunteers help furnish and redecorate facilities in public spaces or rooms of peopled in need. And the BUR working party is a single-day event for performing tasks of minor scopes involving a large number of volunteers from the local folks. Such events are aimed at beautification and cleanup of a location selected in advance.
– Another focus in our activity is the cultural and educational one, – they share with us at the BUR. – We work not only manually, our spirits are at rest at the same time. We hold the BUR home concerts for those willing to listen to some nice music or sing for themselves with a free microphone. During the lockdown, we transferred this event format online. We also have the BUR talks, something similar to the TEDx format: there are a few speakers with a limited time for their speeches. Each of the BUR-talks had its own subject, and we invite experts in a certain field to hold the floor. This format is also supported by the hub volunteers and people working in the field of that subject.
The BUR of Transcarpathia is a community of the BUR volunteers and supporters, developing social conscience via volunteering events and cultural and educational event. It is a pleasure to watch the team growing in Transcarpathia. They are all people accepting the BUR’s values and are responsible, first of all, to themselves. Some members of the team got to know the BUR only a few months ago, and now they are ready to spend their time for the development of the volunteering movement in Transcarpathia. This is heartening to see that people can hear the message and be inspired with it.
– The format of the volunteering event the BUR-chick can be definitely considered as the most powerful one throughout all the time of our activity. The first of these events took place back in 2019, on November 16. We were then supporting a family living in the Social Hostel of Mukachevo. Well, the living conditions were certainly far from the best: for the last 8 months the family had lived without water supply, the bathroom accessories had been stolen from their flat unit, there was mold all over their walls…And now they are an exemplar for everyone around them, since they managed to hold the same event for their neighbors. You get passionate about such families and do your best, – Angelina shares her achievements.
Throughout their existence in Transcarpathia, the BUR team have involved over 100 volunteers into their events. They are people ready to accept responsibility for the development in Transcarpathia. Suppose everyone makes baby steps or major steps ahead believing in Ukraine, then we can definitely call it a truly volunteering movement and a contribution from every one of us to our common matters.
Text by: Halyna Hychka, Rosana Tuzhanska, Eveline Hurnytska, for Varosh.
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