Youngsters become driving force for change in Ukraine

oung Ukrainians who created new ideas for their communities have met with UNICEF and business leaders in Kyiv

14 April 2023
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UNICEF

On 27 March, 40 teams of youngsters gathered for the “UNICEF Youth for Recovery” event in Kyiv, where they were presented with awards for working to solve issues in their local communities as part of the UPSHIFT programme.

It marked the second time these teams had graduated from the youth innovation programme, after being invited to return.

UPSHIFT is a youth innovations programme implemented by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Participants have the opportunity to receive training according to the methodology based on Human Centered Design, receive funding and eventually turn their ideas into effective projects that bring benefits to communities.

The war in Ukraine in 2022 caused a number of serious humanitarian challenges in all regions of Ukraine. As youth are one of the driving forces in communities, UNICEF decided to engage UPSHIFT graduates to address these challenges. As a result, 40 teams of UPSHIFTers, who had participated in the programme in previous years and had already been trained, volunteered to develop new projects and received funding from UNICEF for their implementation.

UPSHIFT youngsters implemented initiatives in the following areas – helping homeless animals, technological solutions, psycho-emotional support for children and adults, self-reliance in emergency situations, educational and awareness raising initiatives, and support for internally displaced people. 

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Ivan Panasco, 23
UNICEF
Ivan Panasco, 23

“This wave of the UPSHIFT programme was very rich and intense,” says Ivan Panasko, 23. “We created projects in three months. When someone needed help, we provided it here and now. We did everything to help people and animals. I would call it ‘The Wave of Today’. I really liked the final event. Our team received the support from both other Upshifters and experts.”

As well as the awards ceremony, young people also took part in a discussion in the format of a world café. The group shared their vision for the recovery of Ukraine and how representatives of business, public authorities and international organisations can help them in this field.

Maryna Popatenko, Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports of Ukraine, Oksana Zbitneva, Head of Ukrainian Mental Health Programme, Taras Kytsmey, cofounder of SoftServe, Yuliia Fedorko, Corporate Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at Winner Group Ukraine, and Olesia Zhulynska, Head of Public Relations and Communications Department at PrivatBank, joined the discussion.

During the discussion, the youngsters highlighted that it was necessary to create more safe youth spaces where they can spend their free time and implement projects. Young people also need services where they can easily receive psychological support and find new opportunities for development. In response, entrepreneurs shared information about training programmes at their companies and assured the young participants that they would help through youth projects and technical support. 

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Bohdan Yemets and Maria Kurakina
UNICEF
Bohdan Yemets and Maria Kurakina

“The format of discussion was incredible,” says Bohdan Yemets, 21. “We had a great opportunity to show off our achievements and at the same time talk about what bothers us. It was interesting to hear the opinions of experts who have been working for years in the areas where we are just beginning our journeys. I discovered new ways of realising dreams and implementing ideas that I had accumulated after the implementation of my first project. In general, the event and the guests opened up unlimited and fantastic opportunities to develop, learn and demonstrate your skills.” 

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Vira Dause and Mrs. Ambassador of Germany
UNICEF
Vira Dause and Mrs. Ambassador of Germany

“Meetings with UPSHIFTers are always about emotions and experience,” adds Vira Dauze, 16. “This is not only an opportunity to present the development and successes of your projects, but also an opportunity to discuss important social problems and ideas to address them. This communication often results in excellent collaborations and new initiatives. The idea to cooperate with business was incredibly interesting and useful. Their proposals prompted us to think about our project, to create a vision.”

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Orlando Bloom also attended the event. The actor presented an award to teams of UPSHIFTers who evacuated homeless animals from dangerous areas and continue to care for them amid the ongoing war. 

Media contacts

Oleksandra Burynska
Communications Specialist
UNICEF Ukraine

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