Youth volunteer to support vulnerable in Ukraine
Young volunteers are stepping up to help displaced teenagers and elderly people from the territories where intense fighting took place
Natalia Kalantaienko, 20, has lived through a year of war in her home city of Konotop, in the Sumy region of Ukraine. In an effort to help save lives, she has been volunteering with the Ukrainian Voluntary Service NGO.
Even at the height of the violence, amid power outages, air raids and explosions, Natalia did not stop – instead, she turned to the internet, using a volunteer chatbot to connect people who needed help.
“That was what was keeping us together,” she says. “Understanding that someone else needed you. Understanding your mission and that your advice is important to people. Even a little effort can help.”
Last year, the Ukrainian Volunteer Service recruited more than 100,000 volunteers from all over Ukraine to help in various fields.
Natalia has been helping by researching volunteering opportunities and listing them on the Volunteer Platform, where people can sign up to join NGOs, charity events or provide targeted assistance. This website, created with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in March 2021, has become a powerful tool during the war.
She is also helping to raise funds for humanitarian kits for elderly people who live along the contact line or on the territories where intense fighting took place.
In addition, she has founded the Krylati project, which is designed to help internally displaced teenagers adapt to their new environments.
“I had the similar experience when I was a schoolgirl,” says Natalia. “I travelled to United States on an exchange programme for a year, and this period became very difficult for me. Of course, then the situation in the country was different. But I understand how such teenagers feel. It is much more challenging for them, many of them survived hostilities or evacuation. Someone lost their home. We want to support them.”
Natalia studied at the Resilience Formula School of the Ukrainian Catholic University. There, she finalised the Krylati project, receiving funding from UNICEF and the Government of Korea for implementation.
As part of the Krylati project, teenagers communicate online with mentors, receive psychological support and participate in volunteer activities.
“In the paradigm of Ukraine, volunteering became the response to major crises,” explains Natalia. “We are very much looking forward to this trend being continued after recovery, so that it is sustainable. It is about social responsibility. Volunteering is about everyone’s personal contribution, to improve the place where you live with your small contribution. It is also about the community, when people unite not only to jointly identify problems, but also solve them.”