Kyiv, January 20, 2016. In 2015 volunteer organization “Novy Donbas” (New Donbas) implemented a series of projects that aim at restoring peaceful life in Donbas and establishing a dialogue between Ukrainians from frontline areas and other regions of Ukraine. Last year volunteers cooperated with three schools in Nyzhnyoteple and Plotyna villages in Stanytsia-Luhanska district (Luhansk region) as well as with the Kindrashivska school in Stanytsia Luhanska itself. “Our project aims not as much at restoring physical damage but at helping people get back to peaceful life, establish a dialogue and start communication between the east and the west. […] It can be achieved only through a step-by-step complex method of assistance,” said Larysa Artyuhina, Head of NGO “Novy Donbas” at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
Volunteers were coming for three-week periods. They were installing windows and doors, engaged local community into repair works, were bringing new educational materials, literature and sports equipment. At the same time students-volunteers held workshops on dancing, playing block flute and guitar, acting skills, held English language and professional orientation classes etc. “Such joint cooperation changes us all – our volunteers who come from central and western Ukraine and see the situation with their own eyes as well as local residents who often have propaganda-planted myths in their heads,” notes Larysa Artyuguina. “It is our biggest victory: we got a dialogue, we got mutual understanding.” In Mykolayivka, Sloviansk district, after the volunteers left the shadow theatre that remained after St. Nicholas holiday continues existing as well as dancing classes – children keep consulting with volunteers via Internet. Student newspaper “Voices of town” that was established under support of the German journalist Daniel Schulz continues to be published. The journalist first came to report about their journalistic hobby group and in the end taught them almost everything needed to produce a full-fledged publication. He even presented them two computers with the necessary software. “Our children from Mykolayivka do everything themselves: collect information, write up articles, take pictures, produce layout, take the newspapers from the printing house and distribute them,” explained Artyuhina.
“One of the foreign policy priorities the Republic of Lithuania has got is to be helping Ukraine in all spheres. One of the priorities of such assistance is to be supporting the projects implemented in Luhansk and Donetsk regions as well as the projects that focus on assistance to internally displaced and humanitarian aid,” noted Jonas Daniliauskas, Deputy Ambassador of Lithuania to Ukraine. Several actors are now actively contributing to the charity. They are the Lithuanian initiative “European Help for Ukrainian Children of War” by the Lithuanian couple Vaidotas and Virginia Sankalas who provide financial support, “Creative Partnerships” part of the project “Creative cooperation for schools of Donbas” and the Embassy of Lithuania to Ukraine. Over 2014-2015 Lithuania assisted Ukraine in the amount worth of EUR 2,5 million. “It includes projects similar to the one in question (implemented by the ‘Novy Donbas’ – UCMC), our humanitarian aid and fees we pay Lithuanian experts who are working in Ukraine,” noted Ambassador Daniliauskas. He reminded of the recently signed Lithuanian-Swedish memorandum that foresees joint financial support by these countries to educational projects in eastern regions of Ukraine.
“Novy Donbas” plans to expand its project and restore 24 schools in Stanytsia-Luhanska district. The organization plans to invite a group of experts from Ukraine and the EU. They are going to define which schools can be saved through major repair works and which ones need to be rebuilt from scratch. Next steps include preparation of business plans, budget and fundraising is to be launched. “I would like to emphasize that almost 190 schools in eastern Ukraine are destroyed. We can wait until the state starts doing it or we can follow the example of the ‘Novy Donbas’ organization that is doing it with their own hands,” said Lenna Koszarny, Executive Vice-President of the Western NIS Enterprise Fund (WNISEF). She also said the WNISEF is ready to financially support the organizations that are ready to engage in these uneasy activities.
“Drawing on our experience we now understand that the approach to volunteer work needs to be changed. We have done everything we could providing ‘first aid’. We realize that this ‘emergency situation’ needs to be changed in a systematic way, changes of quality are required,” emphasizes Larysa Artyuhina. “The school is bigger than just the walls. It is also relations between students and teachers. It is not only about knowledge but also about communication and understanding.” Taking this into account the organization’s future projects will definitely include training sessions on innovative teaching techniques and various workshops.