Real lives

Volunteer Vova: “A simple window pane separated me from death”

With the support of social workers, Maria was able to avoid the biggest mistake of her life

Inna: from Kyiv to Odesa. Hostage of circumstance

Angelika from Mykolaiv: looking for home

The most vulnerable children are the most affected in the conflict in Ukraine

Maria: “I feared for the lives of my children. There was no question, I had to take them away”.

Mother of two children from Donetsk: It is necessary to build a new life. And we are going forward.

Sisters from Luhansk are overcoming their fears after life in the conflict zone

One boy’s journey of change and coping with crisis

12-year-old Sumaya from Crimea is back to being ‘herself’ thanks to the psychosocial support she received from UNICEF

Football helps street children to become fans of sport and healthy lifestyles

Young activist asserts the rights of her HIV-positive peers

Liuda is sure that prevention will help her to give birth to a HIV-free baby

Prevention and treatment will make it possible for HIV-positive Kateryna to give birth to a healthy baby

Social workers provided care when all other people gave up on dealing with me, Maria says

Hard life is hard to change

An attempt to start a new life

What matters in life – success in football

Vinnytsya Becomes More Child-Friendly

Korosten Became More Friendly to Children with Disabilities

“Football gives me different life”

Football did not let him down

There is a way out. Widening a range of services for the most-at-risk adolescents in Mykolaiv region

A mistake in your life is not a full stop; it is a comma

A Boy from Odessa: from the street life to the dream of becoming a famous footballer

Changes that save lives: a story of success

Children with special needs: “To be not worse than others!”

From darkness to light: A social worker’s story

A true meaning in life: success with football

If to compare him today and then – it’s as different as day and night

Indifference may ruin lives: Children who No one Helps

A better life for at-risk girls in Ukraine

Hope in darkness - Olena’s story

Street children in Ukraine are among the most vulnerable groups to get HIV/AIDS

“Fathers are as important for newborns as mothers”

Child development in Chernobyl-affected Ukraine

Anastasia Polishchuk: “We thought that our child was just cutting teeth and we almost lost her because of meningitis”

“I had never even dreamt of such wonderful big family...”

Mediation as Implementation of the Right of the Child to Legal Protection

Sebastien’s story: A young Haitian earthquake survivor speaks

Breast-feeding: a Woman’s Happiness, a and Society’s Maturity Test

God and the Sun

The Price of Safer Sex Goes Up

The Duties of Real Men

Joined Hands Can’t Be Wrenched Apart

A Perfect Future

I did not want my son to be an orphan

I will not give him up… I will not be able to live knowing my child is somewhere along…

HIV positive mothers in Kherson oblast in Ukraine know their children can be born virus-free

Children’s authority in the world of adults

“It’s Just a Bug”. The Story of One Unvaccinated Boy’s Struggle with Meningitis



A mistake in your life is not a full stop; it is a comma

© UNICEF/Ukriane/2012/V.Musienko
A workshop on risky behaviours and HIV prevention

Young Dima* had a girlfriend and his dream was to get married and start a family. He could not imagine that his life would take a different direction. Just one misstep and everything crumbled away. Dima's life never resembled a fairy-tale but in the correctional colony for juveniles where he ended up a couple of years ago, life seemed completely dark.

A ray of hope broke through the darkness when volunteers from the All-Ukrainian Public Centre "Volunteer" came to the colony. This Centre has been working with UNICEF on HIV prevention among youth for many years. Initial meetings and workshops on risky behaviours and HIV prevention were not met with much enthusiasm from Dima and his peers in the colony. Why would they need it? But soon the boy started to participate actively in the workshops and is now being trained as a leader. Dima's attitude to his own health has drastically changed after a couple of months of talking to volunteers and attending workshops. He started to exercise and quit smoking, though he was a heavy smoker before and has even tried pills.

"He has proved to be a good person. He is respected by others. He has leadership skills", - says Kateryna Sergeyeva, senior social worker at the Centre, about Dima's strengths. With these qualities Dima has the chance to become a peer-to-peer leader and positive role model for other adolescents showing others  that health is your most precious gift, but it can be destroyed by risky behaviour.

Juvenile convicts in penitentiary institutions such as correctional colonies and investigation facilities (SIZO) are vulnerable to HIV infection. At the same time, there is no statistical data about HIV-positive juveniles in the penitentiary system in Ukraine.

Olena Sakovych, Youth and Adolescent Development Specialist at UNICEF Ukraine, explained: "Risky behaviours, such as tattooing with shared unsterile instruments and unsafe sex, are widespread among adolescents in conflict with the law. They increase the risk of contracting HIV and other infections. That's why "Volunteer" and UNICEF play an extremely important role in informing imprisoned and detained adolescents how to protect their health and avoid the risk of HIV infection upon deinstitutionalisation." 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and other international organizations, in all countries of the world HIV prevalence among imprisoned and detained population is 5-10 times higher than among the general population. Unfortunately, Ukraine is not an exception. Therefore there is an urgent need to raise awareness among vulnerable groups.
All-Ukrainian Public Centre "Volunteer" jointly with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has started the EU-supported project "Elaborating the system of service provision for most-at-risk adolescents and adolescents vulnerable to HIV infection". This project is being implemented in Pryluky correctional colony for juveniles and the Kyiv investigation facility. Best practices developed through the project will be made available for all penitentiary institutions. 

Dima is not the only one actively participating in the workshops and rethinking life values. Gradually, more and more adolescents in the colony have been joining the workshops. Ordinary lectures and sermons tend not to captivate the attention of children and adolescents ,. The workshops in the colony are interactive and game-based. They encourage individual thinking, analysis and drawing conclusions. The main goal of the sessions is to increase motivation for behaviour change and HIV testing.

"Of course, initially we face resistance. We do not force anyone to participate - it's purely on a voluntary basis. But we have noticed that adolescents, who were sceptical at the beginning, gradually started joining in the workshops", - says Kateryna Sergeyeva. 

Only time, patience and openness help to get through to these boys. Kateryna said that recently the boys were given the task of writing a story about their dreams and plans for the future. Despite harsh life experiences, deep in their hearts these adolescents dream about a family.

Dima's biggest dream is to become a successful businessman, to start a family and to raise children. He is already taking first steps towards his dream. After becoming a volunteer leader he will help his peers to take their first steps by changing risky behaviours and protecting their health.

Background information
Juvenile crime rates are high in Ukraine: nearly 22,000 children come into conflict with the law annually. Over 8,000 young people under 18 years old are convicted, out of which 2,000 are imprisoned. At the moment 1,100 adolescents are being kept in the penitentiaries. (Source:

According to the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine, only 50% of juveniles have attended school or other educational institutions before going to prison, over 30% have neither studied nor worked before committing a crime. Each year nearly 50-70 illiterate adolescents are being sentenced to correctional colonies. 

Over 60% of juvenile convicts are social or biological orphans and do not receive adequate care and upbringing. Before imprisonment they are mostly spending time hanging out on the streets in asocial and criminal gangs. Their values, role models and patterns of behaviour are formed and developed there. 

* The name is changed for ethical reasons.



 Email this article

unite for children