Young diversity ambassadors. Going on visits 

The second stage of the Young diversity ambassadors program is ongoing. In the framework of the program, participants will travel to meet their peers in Volyn, Zakarpattya, Ivano-Frankivsk and Chernivtsi regions. First visits have already taken place. Young people have met strong local initiatives and projects in Volyn and Zakarpattya regions, they have gotten a chance to get acquainted with each other better. What this process has to do with the building back and the development of Ukraine, read in this publication.

Second step

STAN NGO implements the Young diversity ambassadors program together with the “Action Aid” alliance for rights, equality and international solidarity. The program aims to support young people in their first steps in civic activism, and give them knowledge, tools, and some experience in project implementation. More than a hundred people have already taken part in the introductory workshops and obtained the basis that will allow them to move forward.

Participants come from diverse regions, cities and environments, have diverse skills and experiences, but this is not a complication but an advantage. It’s important for them to learn how to benefit from it. That’s why the second stage of the program constitutes four interregional trips. Let’s talk about them with an example of a visit to the Volyn region. 

Visiting the Volyn 

A team of 14 participants and two facilitators was visiting non-governmental organizations and initiative groups of the Volyn region during four days.

“We planned the program according to the recommendations. We were recommended whom we should visit, who could be interesting for us. These visits are a platform for communication, for people to exchange contacts and plan their further activities together. Our task is to bring together people who have experience in the field, and participants who are interested in a particular topic”, says Valeria Tkachenko, a facilitator and co-coordinator of the visiting trip to Volyn.

Participants were accommodated in Lutsk, but they visited other places in the region. They went to Volodymyr to meet Space VV NGO, to Novovolynsk and Ratniv village to see how youth centers are working there. In Lutsk, they met Youth council representatives, Harmyder theater troupe that has founded the Hanhar volunteer center, and local ecoactivists. 

The value of diversity

When the team was reading through the applications for the program, they paid attention to participants being internally displaced people. This program will help them to continue working in the civic sector and to integrate into new communities, find new friends and partners.

This is very important for participants themselves. Having people with diverse backgrounds in the team gives one a chance to look at his or her projects from a different angle, to see the issues they are working with from an unexpected point of view.

“I was very curious to listen to the thoughts of people from other regions of Ukraine, people from the east, north and south. To hear their impressions from my town and my organization. And also it was very interesting to hear what people from other towns in my region say: from Torchyn or Novovolynsk”, says Uliana Us from Volodymyr, Space VV member.

We should not forget that when we work together, we are not only “establishing contacts” and “implementing projects”. We talk, we give advice, we worry, empathize and support each other. This is so crucial that people know each other, are on the same page, and understand and respect others’ experiences and circumstances. Participation in the program and the visits helps locals and IDPs (both participants and organizers) to get closer, to find mutual understanding and trust.

“It was important to me to hear Yana’s and Valeria’s stories about how they got out from the occupied regions. People have lived through difficult times. To know about this from TV channels or from psychologists is one thing. And another one is to hear about this from people who lived through it. This influences your views and your attitude more than the media”, says Uliana Us.

Old friends, rediscovered cities

Uliana Us had a chance to participate in two visits. She applied for visits to Zakarpattya and Volyn, and this was a motivated decision, not a kind of “applying everywhere” approach. Uliana wanted to meet people from her region, to know more about activists in her area, not only in her town.

At first, the STAN team supported only her trip to Zakarpattya (after all, the idea was to have interregional trips). But there happened to be a vacant place in the Volyn visit and it was offered to Uliana. It turned out it was not in vain. Uliana says visits in her region gave her not fewer discoveries than in the Zakarpattya trip.

“This is a strange feeling. I came to Lutsk where I have been many times, but this time I’ve discovered it again. Or take a small Ratniv village. I was going there without any expectations, and found a wonderful space, with wonderful people who do great things and love what they do”, says Uliana.

Popasna – Kyiv –Popasna

The schedule of a visit is very intense, so maybe participants did not have enough time to learn or adopt certain experiences. However, they had enough time to meet each other and arrange future meetings. The visit to the Volyn region became a starting point for future cooperation.

“When we were visiting different initiatives, I saw people talking to each other. And after this, people approached me and asked when we are going to open a call for projects. That means they already were looking for people who work in the same sector, discussing their ideas and possibilities to implement them together”, says Valeria Tkachenko.

“We got along well with the Volyn regional youth center. We spent several hours after a visit talking about our current projects and opportunities. I am going to Lutsk in a week, and will visit the Volyn regional youth center again. They organize many activities we are interested in. We see a potential for our development, we learn from their experience”, says Kateryna Shulakova, participant of a visit, a secretary general of Young generation NGO.

Kateryna says she liked a visit to Ratniv village, where a youth space was opened recently. Local business, local authorities and teenagers (locals and volunteers from all over the country) got together and helped with the renovations. And this happened in a small village with less than a thousand residents. This example is inspiring, it reminds us that not all the ways lead to a big city, that we are important for our native towns.

Kateryna is from Popasna in the Luhansk region. She was forced to leave it when Russia’s full-scale invasion started. She lives in Kyiv and studies in Kyiv Mohyla academy. It is important for her to participate in the rebuilding of Popasna after its de-occupation. She wants to establish a youth center in the town and is currently doing research on how to do it.

“I was curious how these youth centers are organized, where resources come from. We have now contacted several youth centers and are planning common activities together. They shared their secrets, funding sources and showed us diagrams of their developments. We already understand how much time and resources we will need to open a youth center in Popasna”, she says.

Tomorrow and the next day 

The town of Popasna is destroyed and under the occupiers’ control. Anyway, Kateryna is thinking farther than today. She is intended to take part in the town’s revival.

“I understand more than a year or two have to pass until the youth center idea would become relevant there. Youth has settled in the new cities, new countries, but our mission is to make sure it would have a place to come back, a place with perspectives. These are the thoughts for the distant future, but it is so important to me, as I used to be a part of those young people who dreamt about going to a bigger city. I am in Kyiv now and I understand the value of our views on such a local level. We have the most influence in places we have spent most of our lives at. For my parents, for people I know it would be so important to come back and rebuild the town. Many people want to come back. I believe the best and hope we will make this real”, says Kateryna.

This is not about today or tomorrow. However, the Young Diversity Ambassadors program focuses on inspiring youth to make changes, to strengthen the communities that are only learning today, that start working today and will have a stronger voice in the future. These are far-sighted prospects too. But even the explorers of the distant past knew: to keep on your way, you should choose a distant landmark, not the one in front of your face.  

 The project “Young Diversity Ambassadors” is implemented by STAN NGO in partnership with the “Action Aid” alliance for rights, equality and international solidarity with the support of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC). Revitalization and insulation of the safe spaces for youth is implemented with the support of Global Fund for Children (USA) та terre des hommes (Germany).