"The war changed my life greatly. This is the moment of growing up"
One 16-year-old girl from Kyiv is helping children overcome their fears.
Sixteen-year-old Alina Shevchenko from Kyiv is interested in everything. Sports, acting, drawing and sewing are just a few of her hobbies. But, in February, war turned Alina's life upside down.
"On February 24, my mother rushed into my room and said, ‘It has begun’,” she recalls. “I will remember those seconds for the rest of my life. Looking at the morning news, I couldn't believe that was my country that day."
During the first few weeks of the war, active military operations took place in the capital and its surrounding areas, forcing Alina and her family to leave home. However, the teenager missed Kyiv desperately and wished above all else to be useful in her home city.
As soon as Kyiv became safer, Alina returned. And when she saw that the ‘Dobrodiy Club’, with the support of UNICEF, was helping to distract children from the war, she realised it was a chance to fulfil her wish.
"The war changed my life,” says Alina. “This is the moment of growing up, the time to think not only about yourself. I understood that sitting and crying or worrying is not my option. I have to help where I am."
Through the ‘Dobrodiy Club’ foundation, and as part of the UNICEF project ‘Together. Meeting point’, Alina helps to conduct creative classes and masterclasses for children in Kyiv.
These classes have become a valuable lifeline for scores of children and their parents who, due to the war, lack communication with their peers, are unable to attend a school or kindergarten, and endure constant air raid alerts. Children, now more than ever, need a safe space where they can laugh, find joy and also learn new and interesting things.
"Because of my young age, children take to me even better than they take to older volunteers,” says Alina. “For them, I am not a teacher but a friend, who, among other things, can suggest things and give useful advice."
Alina runs classes on creativity, art, careers and other social aspects of life. She can see how much the war has affected her students. Yellow and blue paints run out faster, and most of the children’s work focuses on themes of war and the desire for a happy childhood.
🏆 UNICEF Youth Award 🏆
Alina Shevchenko, 16 years old
The essence of volunteering:
Running free creative activities for children and teenagers during the war.
Classes in Kyiv are also attended by internally displaced children. Those who have witnessed active military operations can sometimes seem much older than their peers and talk about war as if it is something ordinary.
"I feel that I have to help children grow and develop,” says Alina, determinedly. “Life is not over. It's just different now."
Thanks to UNICEF, Alina and her fellow volunteers from the ‘Dobrodiy Club’ have managed to welcome more than 2,000 children and conduct 306 hours of creative activities, creative workshops, masterclasses and lectures.
Alina believes that volunteering has changed her too. People cannot be afraid, she says – they have to try something new and discover new horizons.