Youngsters team up to transform the environment in Ukraine
When school children from the Ukraininan village of Maiaky decided to take part in World Water Week, they knew exactly what to do
When school children from the Ukraininan village of Maiaky decided to take part in World Water Week, they knew exactly what to do.
Cleaning up the local beach was their first priority. The river came next. And, thanks to a small grant from UNICEF, they went even further – starting an eco-club called Chysto Tak (‘Clean just like that’) and giving talks about the environment.
The children are among seven teams of young people from across the Donetsk and Luhansk regions who were awarded small grants of up to UAH 60,000 to implement environmental ideas, with the help of funding from German government.
Olena Horbenko, 16, came up with the idea of Chysto Tak, with the help of her peers and teachers from Maiaky school.
“To be honest, we just thought we'd try, we didn’t expect to win the contest,” she says. "Our mentor was Alla Drannikova, our school principal. We drafted a project, submitted the documents, and… we made it! There is a lot of garbage in our village – on river banks, in the forest, along the road and in the quarry. You can't solve this with cleaning only. That's why we need to make the idea of protecting the environment trendy. We decided to develop eco-tourism, to promote this idea among children and adults."
Dmytro Chornyi designed ‘I Love Maiaky’ T-shirts and banners that were displayed on the beach. Volodymyr Konovalenko edited videos for the eco-club.
"You need to start with the family, with the children," says Volodymyr, 16. "The only way is to gradually build and shape environmental attitudes. If a child knows how long it takes for plastic to decompose and why it is harmful to throw batteries out together with regular garbage, they will care more about nature and won't throw juice or chips packs out right on the beach, but will bring it to the garbage can."
At first, locals in Maiaky were skeptical about the children’s idea. But interest in environment issues has since grown. Locals learned how to sort garbage and clean the river bank at an environmental festival, organized by the children and their teachers. Four large garbage bins are set to be installed in the village.
Environmental issues are no less important for people living in towns and villages than for those in cities, especially in Ukraine. In June, UNICEF warned that escalation in fighting was threatening access to safe water and sanitation for 3.2 million people living within the conflict zone, including 500,000 children.
However, as teenagers and children make their voices heard across Ukraine and around the world, there is hope for the future.
UNICEF is working to ensure sustainable management of water resources and solid waste in Ukraine’s conflict-affected areas by improving fair access to safe drinking water and safe sanitation, reducing exposure to environmental risks, improving hygiene in communities, schools and health facilities, and engaging young people in environmental projects with support of the German Government.