human development, social justice and sustainable social systems
Approaches to youth volunteer engagement
Caritas Ukraine shares best practices
The Revolution of Dignity in 2014 was a significant stage in the development of volunteerism in Ukraine.
It gave a vital impulse for the development of new volunteer movements, though mostly oriented toward helping the army. Volunteers were cooperating with the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine to provide an image of transparency during supplies procurement. However, currently, volunteers are returning to more traditional activities like helping the poor or vulnerable population, animal rescue, eco or urban activism, social activism, etc. On the other hand, after 2014 many fraud volunteer organisations came into existence, collecting money from people on the streets and in the subway. They jeopardized the validity of volunteers for society, and now some people are afraid to volunteer to avoid being associated with these fraud volunteer organisations.
In 2018, 15% of city inhabitants had been involved in volunteering at least once. 56% of them also made cash or other kinds of donations. However, as it was in previous years, volunteering is mostly unsystematic. Kyiv citizens volunteer on a larger scale more than residents of other cities. Also, there is a tendency that in large cities (more than 500,000 people), residents are more likely to donate or to become volunteers. The current comprehensive portrait of a person engaged in charity in Ukraine is a married woman with a university degree who works a full day, and who doesn’t belong to any political force.
Caritas Ukraine aims to bring more social awareness into local communities. One way to do this is through volunteering. Most volunteers on the local level are engaged in direct activities to help beneficiaries: children from low-income families, youth and children with disabilities, the elderly, as well as performing tasks like the distribution of humanitarian aid, etc. In our headquarters, where we have fewer opportunities to involve volunteers in beneficiary related activities, we have to seek new approaches to encourage their engagement.
The Caritas Ukraine team regularly conducts short informational lectures in universities to inform Ukrainian youth on our activities and to interest them in becoming our volunteers. For instance, we held a networking meeting on the Role and Place of Today’s Students in Volunteer Movement in Ukraine. At this meeting, students from leading universities like the Technical University of Ukraine “Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute,” Taras Shevchenko National University, National University of Food Technologies, and Ukrainian Catholic University were present together with the members of the Steering Council of the Ukrainian Student Association.
Volunteers from Taras Shevchenko National University have helped us to spread information on the problems of human trafficking. We choose this subject for several reasons – it is a massive problem for Ukraine (about 230 000 were victims in 2017), Caritas Ukraine has experts on this topic, and volunteers were interested because it is an issues they study. Volunteers designed posters for a walking campaign around one of Kyiv’s central parks where they talked to people about the threat of human trafficking. Afterward, there was a lecture for students on how not to become a victim of human trafficking by a Caritas expert. The day before, students and representatives of Caritas Ukraine went on air to announce the campaign and to talk shortly about the topic.
Moreover, students as Caritas Ukraine volunteers took part in EcoFestival in Lviv. The event was the initiative of student organisation UCUActive. More than ten manufacturers participated at the fair devoted to environmental products and ecological lifestyle. At the event, Caritas held a charity campaign to sell its Christmas candles under the slogan: “More candles, less electricity.” All funds received from sold candles went to support children’s projects of Caritas Ukraine. One of our volunteers, who studied journalism, helped Caritas Ukraine to prepare informational podcasts about our focal activities. Podcasts were made in Ukrainian and English languages to better illustrate what Caritas does and how others may help or become our volunteers.
Caritas Ukraine also supported two eco-initiatives of students of Taras Shevchenko National University, as part of volunteer mobilisation activities. One initiate was to have a small piquet at the city park with ecological posters to attract by passers’ attention to the importance of environmental protection and sustainable consumption. Around 16 volunteers took part in the event. After this, students also organised a general cleaning of one of the Dnipro riverfronts to set a good example for the local community.
At the moment, Caritas Ukraine has in mind to develop a mobile application where people may register as volunteers. On this application, volunteers will have profiles – and they can register how many hours they have devoted to volunteering work, in what activities, spheres of interest, availability, etc., and they will receive invitations for trainings and newsletters. This will allow Caritas Ukraine to maintain a database of engaged volunteers. Also, Caritas Ukraine sees this application as a platform for communicating between volunteers of different local communities. A way to share experience, lessons learned, success stories, and to organise joint events between close local communities, etc. However, the development of such an application requires additional funding, which we have not found yet. We hope we can find a way to bring this application to life soon!