In Depth Society, 04/05/2020

Volunteering as a Key to Community Cohesion

Ukrainians face tough times nowadays. An effective response from civil society organizations and even more active social cohesion in the community is crucially needed at this very moment. The project of the Kharkiv Regional Youth “Kharkiv Volunteer Center” NGO which is calledVolunteering is a Key to Community Cohesion” is dedicated to this major topical issue.

For 13 years, Kharkiv Regional Youth “Kharkiv Volunteer Center” NGO has been working on social functioning on the principles of social partnership with the authorities, public organizations and media.

The organization has been holding the following social events and actions: “School of volunteers,” “Give your Love to Children!” “Dialogue between Generations,” “Happy Family – Happy Country,” “You + Me = One Family,” “Wonderland,” “Spring Week of Kindness,” “Youth for a Healthy Lifestyle,” “Volunteers’ Meeting,” “Christmas Child,” “Social Backpack,” “Easter Basket,” “Saint Nicholas,” “Christmas Tree of Wishes” and many others. The City Family Club consists of families who got through hard times, large families, foster care, needy families, families raising children and youth with special needs, families of internally displaced persons from the frontline zone, volunteers’ families. For 10 years, the “Meetings of Friends” club for people with special needs has been operating as part of the organization.

The organizers believe that volunteering is now capable of promoting social cohesion of the community, preventing community tensions, being inclusive in strategic decisions concerning the development of the community. That is why, the coordinators decided to dedicate a project to this very topic, which was successfully implemented in the Kharkiv region.

According to organization president Svitlana Sitnik, the project aims to promote the development of social cohesion of the Kharkiv region community, the involvement of target groups in active participation in the project. The goal of volunteer movement is development and community cohesion at the local level.

The “Shkola Yednosti” (School of Unity in Ukrainian) training course was held in partnership with the Center of Gender Culture. The project became unique and special due to the organizers who managed to bring together volunteers, people with special needs, internally displaced persons from the frontline zone, family members who got through hard times, students and youth. All these people have acquired useful knowledge and skills based on the principles of the joint group in social cohesion, advocacy, dialogue, opportunities and mechanisms of cooperation with local authorities, public organizations, mass media, the business sector to realize their useful initiatives in the community of Kharkiv region.

By the use of inclusive forum-theater techniques within the project implementation, training of the project’s target groups was held. Thematic productions-performances of voluntary social integration inclusive amateur theater involving IDPs, volunteers, families which belong to benefiting groups, children, and youth with special needs were created.

“Particular feature of holding on-site volunteer actions and project activities was that our volunteer team was integrated and consisted of a target group. Volunteers, people with special needs, IDPs, social categories of families, rehabilitation centers were among our target groups. With such a real team, we were able to visit foster centers and orphanages, rehabilitation centers and hospitals, preparing a full and exciting volunteer program,” the project manager, Oleksandr Sitnik notes.

The Center founders consider that an active volunteer movement should be a driver of positive change and a guarantee of community cohesion at the local level.

The project is supported by International Alert in partnership with Thomson Media with financial assistance from the European Union.

Text, photo: Svitlana Sitnik