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Supporting young people to make their ideas come true

By Chris Schuepp

Mariupol, UKRAINE, 16 May 2017 - Anya, Eva, Elina and Ira are four active teenagers from Mariupol. They had an idea - and they made it happen!

The girls heard about the opportunity to write and submit a project when their teacher at the Mariupol Technical Lyceum encouraged the class to participate in the UNICEF Ukraine Small Grants initiative.

It didn't take Eva, 16, the "mastermind" behind the project idea, long to convince her friends, so they put their heads together and decided to take action.

Taking action for people in need

"We wanted to do something for people who need our support most," says Eva. “So we had an idea and walked around the city to check the accessibility of pharmacies, stores and some other public buildings for people with disabilities, mothers with strollers and elderly people who have problems with climbing stairs. The idea was to install wireless bells at the entrances of those stores without ramps or difficult stairs so the people in need could alert somebody in the store that they need assistance.”


Two girls presenting the new bells at a local store in Mariupol - Eva Beschastnaya / 2017

The Mariupol Youth Union, with support from UNICEF Ukraine, has opened four youth clubs in different regions of Mariupol and another two in the nearby towns of Mangush and Nikolskoe. All of youth clubs rolled out the Small Grants initiative and the proposals keep coming in. Almost 100 project ideas have been submitted so far and 36 have been approved, among them the ‘Second hope’-entitled project developed by Eva and her friends.

“Our total project cost is about 12,000 UAH (about 400 USD), so it’s not very expensive. But with this money, we can outfit 20 pharmacies and stores and make them accessible for many people,” says Eva about the cost-effectiveness of the idea.

Preparing youth for their future

Dimitry Oleinik, Small Grants coordinator for the Mariupol Youth Union, sees another important advantage in the initiative: “It gives young people a practical opportunity to develop an idea, make it happen and get a lot of belief in themselves in return. Many of those who participated in the first call for proposals submitted another one later on and also tried to find other sources for funding. They grow with the challenge and improve their proposals and get more sophisticated in the process.”


Ring the bell for help! - Eva Beschastnaya / 2017

Maria Melnikova, Project Coordinator with the Mariupol Youth Union, adds: "The Small Grants initiative is especially important for vulnerable teenagers - internally displaced persons and local families who are in difficult life circumstances. This program gives them the belief that they are heard, their opinion is taken into account. You can see the excitement in their eyes and they show a great desire to bring their projects to a positive conclusion and have real results."

Numbers and figures

From the launch of the initiative in eastern Ukraine in 2016 until now, more than 500 projects have been submitted and 130 of them were approved. Almost 1,000 young people participated in the drafting of the project ideas and another 8,000 helped in their implementation.

A total of 2,150,000 UAH (around 75,000 USD) is available for the Small Grants initiative in eastern Ukraine, which is supported by UNICEF Ukraine thanks to financial support from the German government through KfW (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau).

The initiative still runs until the summer and is administered by the eight local implementing partners running the 15 UNICEF-supported youth clubs in Mariupol, Volnovakha, Sloviansk, Sviatohirsk, Dobropillia, Kharkiv and Avdiivka.


 

 
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