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Challenges unite. How the Beehives of Meanings have already helped half a thousand families of displaced people

Publication date: October 19, 2022

Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the “Vulyk Zmistiv” (Beehive of Meanings) social initiative has been helping displaced people find a home or temporary shelter in the communities of Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Vinnytsia oblasts. The initiative is implemented with the support of the Legal Development Network.

In total, since February 2022, more than 500 families (1,595 displaced persons) have been getting help with housing. Thanks to the initiative, not only internally displaced persons (IDPs) are able to find new meanings and revive lost ones, but project teams as well.

Kolomyia, Ivano-Frankivsk oblast

The “Beehive of Meanings” initiative was launched in Kolomyia, Ivano-Frankivsk oblast. A team of local activists began helping to settle internally displaced people as early as February 24 and has already achieved significant results: 120 families received shelter in February-early April. However, the activists understood that they lacked a systematic approach to this work. Vitalii Okhrimenko, program director of the Legal Development Network (LDN), who has considerable expert experience in creating and implementing sustainable systems, helped in its development. It was at that time that he was forced to move to Prykarpattia from Kyiv. Therefore, “Beehive of Meanings” began to help IDPs not only with the settlement but also to provide legal, psychological, and humanitarian assistance, and also help with employment. They even worked with children to give their parents the opportunity to improve their lives, learn new professions, or integrate. Using this approach, they helped another 148 families (437 people) find housing.

“We have established a large number of partnerships. Among them are the city council and other public organizations, such as “Community force” and the youth organization “STAN”. On a volunteer basis, we were helped by a large number of experts in their field, who were forced to move to Kolomyia because of the war. The latest, for example, we were offered to design our new space for free, where the “Beehive of Meanings” team and the NGO “Triangle” will be located. And in April, we managed to open a free temporary shelter thanks to a local business that provided the hostel on the condition that we furnish it”, says Solomiia Zinets-Matsyshyn, coordinator of the initiative and head of the NGO “Triangle”.

Another example of a good partnership is the cooperation with the local mass media “Gluzd”, and its manager Olena Heletiuk coordinated the public communications of “Beehive of Meanings” for six months.

“Our goal was to encourage the Kolomyia residents to provide their accommodation, and the displaced persons to contact us. We encouraged people to help each other and unite together. We introduced people to our team. We talked about our services and also invited people to the events. We did a lot of analysis and learned what works and what doesn’t. For example, at some point, we realized that the displaced people do not use our Facebook page much, and printed materials will be more useful to them. So we started creating and distributing them. These developments have become useful for “Beehives” in other communities. And, of course, we worked very hard to create trust in us, because this is the basis of the effectiveness of “Beehive of Meanings”, says Olena Heletiuk.

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Photo: created printed materials were used by “Beehive of Meanings” in three communities
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Photo: Event for displaced persons “NOTparty”, which was held with the assistance of the Legal Development Network and DOM4824. Photo from the “Beehive of Meanings” Facebook page

Among the challenges the team is currently dealing with is the involvement of IDPs in activities. The experience of 2014 showed that IDPs are very reluctant to participate in such events. Despite this, the «Beehive of Meanings» team organizes integration events – language clubs, trainings, psychological support events, and much more.

The development of the procedure for ensuring the work of IDPs based on the example of the Kolomyia community using the Service Design methodology has been completed. Testing the stages of the procedure in practice, the experts helped to employ 6 IDPs, taught them how to write resumes, conduct interviews, create communication channels with employers, and much more. Implementation of a similar procedure can help more effectively establish employment in other communities. According to the results of the work, the experts are already preparing a report, which will be published soon.

Kamianka-Buzka, Lviv oblast

“Beehive of Meanings” in Kamianka-Buzka, Lviv oblast, with the support of the Legal Development Network, started its work in March 2022 with the creation of a “housing bank”. In addition to Kamianka-Buzka, the initiative also works in Dobrotvir, Zhovtianets, Novoyarychiv, and Radekhiv communities. 

In cooperation with the local authorities, the team promptly advises the displaced people on settlement and provides legal and psychological assistance. In total, 376 families of IDPs received assistance.

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Photo: IDPs families during counseling in Radehiv

“Beehive of Meanings” also helps with the integration of IDPs. In April-May, city tours were held for them. A visit to the exhibition of meter-long Easter eggs was organized. This exhibition traveled from Kyiv’s Dobropark to the cities of Lviv oblast, including to Kamianka-Buzka.

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Photo: restorative classes for children from IDP families in Prybuzhany village. In general, practical psychologist Zoriana Storozhynska conducted classes for more than 70 children from the villages of the Kamianka-Buzka territorial community.

Later, restorative psychological classes with children of IDP families began. Practical psychologist Zoriana Storozhynska taught children to overcome their fears, establish communication, show their strengths and understand their weaknesses, and better understand the world around them. Such classes were held from August to September in three villages of the Kamianka-Buzka territorial community.

“We also helped several displaced persons with employment. We learned that people were able to find a job on their own after their housing issue was resolved”, says initiative coordinator Andrii Korbetskyi.

Andrii Korbetskyi notes that despite the cultural peculiarities of Lviv oblast, there have been few conflict situations between local residents and displaced people. There are many more good examples of communication. In case of conflict situations, the team is always on call for prompt resolution. The main cause of conflicts, for the most part, relates to disputes about the conduct of life, and for its settlement, it is enough to find another shelter.

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Photo: provision of settlement consultations, legal or psychological assistance

The approaches and capabilities of the “Beehive of Meanings” are also used for wider assistance within the framework of cooperation with the Consultative and Coordination Centers of the Lviv Regional State Administration.

“Having learned that the Advisory and Coordination Centers began to help IDPs, we began to cooperate with them as well. With the help of an online form, the center collects the need for legal, psychological, and humanitarian assistance. With access to results, we can see needs and allocate resources to meet those needs. It is also useful for coordinating work with other organizations in the Lviv oblast. In this way, we do not duplicate the work of other organizations, but complement each other”, says Andrii Korbetskyi.

“Beehive of Meanings” will continue to develop areas of settlement, provide legal and psychological assistance, and conduct integration activities. In addition, systematic work on assistance with the employment of forced migrants will begin.

Khmilnyk, Vinnytsia oblast

Although in Khmilnyk of the Vinnytsia oblast, the NGO “PRAVO” has been implementing the “Beehive of Meanings” initiative only since the beginning of July, they started helping displaced people as early as February 24. Activists and volunteers provided legal advice and organized a humanitarian aid distribution point. A “bank of things” was opened. A space for working with displaced persons has been set up – the humanitarian hub “Murashnyk” (Anthill). All these functions even today with the addition of the settlement component as part of the “Beehive of Meanings”.

The “Beehive of Meanings” team has already settled five families (13 people). An important part of building strategies for responding to challenges is studying the requests and problems of IDPs. Everyone who comes for help has to fill out a form and indicate their additional needs. “For example, someone may need some additional household items – furniture, dishes, baby food, hygiene products, or psychological or legal help. We see these requests and respond to them. I remember how a couch was found for one family, and several chairs and mattresses for beds were found for another,” says Taras Nosalskyi, a communication manager at “Beehive of Meanings”. In addition to the prompt identification of needs and problems, the NGO “PRAVO” also conducted a more in-depth study. Some of the obtained results have already been made public.

In addition, “Beehive of Meanings” creates platforms for communication between IDPs and local residents, such as meetings on the occasion of City Day, weekly psychological support events, and an English-speaking club. About 15 events are held every month for children from 10 years old on media literacy, cyber security, mine security, and many others. According to the need, classes are organized for preschool children in order to create additional opportunities for their parents to arrange their lives, find a job, etc. There are so many “Beehive of Meanings” activities, which are in demand and which can be implemented, that it is difficult to place them within the walls of the humanitarian hub “Murashnyk”. Therefore, some of them temporarily take place on the premises of the local branch of the INTERSOS organization.

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Photo: workshop with teenagers

The “Beehive of Meanings” team is also establishing new partnerships. In addition to cooperation with local authorities and organizations, they were assisted by animal feed manufacturers. Another example is the placement and arrangement of the humanitarian hub “Murashnyk” on symbolic lease terms with local businesses.

And five volunteers have been working in the team for a long time. One of them is a local resident, and the others are displaced persons. They have different professions and qualifications – teachers, IT, and infectiologist. The last one, by the way, discovered a knack for working with children and began working on a permanent basis within one of the initiatives.

“We will continue the current directions because they continue to remain relevant. Take, for example, the direction of the settlement. Today, more than 6,000 displaced people are registered in Khmilnyk. In our base, there are 105 requests for housing and not a single offer to provide housing. We understand that there is a lot of work ahead to build trust to the IDPs and to us as well,” says initiative coordinator Vitalii Dorokh.

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Photo: NOTparty in Murashnyk, where everyone does what they want

“We are gradually seeing progress. If for a month and a half, the same IDPs and local residents came to our events, that’s about 15 people in total, now new people appear at every event,” adds Taras Nosalskyi.

In addition to the settlement, providing psychological, legal, and humanitarian assistance, and integration activities, in the future the team plans to provide assistance with employment. However, currently, we have no enough resources for this.

The “Beehive of Meanings” and Domivka (Home)

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In addition to the local partnerships, Beehives of Meanings also has national reinforcement. Thanks to cooperation with the Ukrainian educational platform, the Beehive of Meanings in Kolomyia and Kamianka-Buzka strengthened the components of the settlement, within the framework of the Domivka project. It is a combination of resources and experience.

In addition, thanks to this cooperation, a home will appear in Kolomyia for the temporary stay of approximately more than 70 forcibly displaced people. For this purpose, the former kindergarten is being overhauled, with which Building Ukraine Together (BUT) is helping.

Volunteers for repair work are currently being recruited. This is the seventh race of the BUT-camp. A total of 11 such camps are planned.

A shelter for 15 IDPs will also appear in Kamianka-Buzka by the end of the year. The premises of the communal property of the former hospital are being renovated there. The repair works are planned to be fully completed next year. At the same time, a total of 50 internally displaced people will be able to stay there temporarily.

A recipe for help

“While providing expert support to local activists on the development of comprehensive assistance to internally displaced persons, we took into account all the experience of building ecosystems of access to justice that we already have in communities. Although we did not conduct any special research at the beginning of the full-scale invasion, we had to respond to challenges very quickly. But that experience helped to establish an approach to meeting basic needs – settlement, provision of legal, and psychological assistance, and an inclusive approach to this. Today, from numerous studies, we can see that our strategy was justified, and we have already implemented many of the developed recommendations of the researchers,” noted LDN program director Vitalii Okhrimenko.

This is how the Beehives of Meanings teams work to ensure that assistance is comprehensive. As stated in the recommendations of one of the recent studies: strategies take into account the context of each community and, at the same time, use a unified approach – taking into account the needs of each and every one. Thanks to the involvement of a wide range of partnerships and cooperation with local authorities, Beehives of Meanings accumulates information about assistance and does not duplicate the work of other structures. At present, an employment procedure has been developed and successfully tested, which will help to more efficiently establish the process of finding employees and interacting with employers. The focus of Beehives of Meanings’ attention is the integration of IDPs into local communities. The lessons learned are enough to implement in other communities.

Currently, the Beehives of Meanings teams are actively seeking new partnerships and resources to implement the described approaches and plans in existing and new communities.

The first stage of the implementation of the “Beehive of Meanings” Initiative was made possible with the support of the Global Giving Fund and within the framework of the Legal Development Network #StandWithUkraine program.

P. S. More relevant information on legal and humanitarian issues – is in the special section #StandWithUkraine. It accumulates materials that may be useful to those who suffer, whose rights are violated as a result of the war between russia and Ukraine.

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