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How a relocated organization from Donetsk region helps veterans with amputations protect their rights

Publication date: August 14, 2023

Author: Halyna Kolesnyk, communications manager of the Legal Development Network

The NGO “Initiative Center Toloka” was established in 2017 by local activists in Pokrovsk, Donetsk region. While volunteering in a assistance center for internally displaced people, they realized that humanitarian aid was more of a quick fix rather than systemic changes that could be implemented through a project-based approach. Thus, they founded a civil organization and started working on local community development.

Photo: Tetyana Moiseieva-Shylenko, the head of the NGO “Initiative Center Toloka.” Photo by Halyna Kolesnyk

Initially, we received a grant for the restoration of the local library in the town of Rodinske, located near Pokrovsk. With the grant funds, we managed to renovate and equip the premises, as well as replenish the book collection. Following this, we organized the “DNK Pokrovsk” festival, where participants explored the local ethnography: food, clothing, and customs. After the consolidation of communities, we implemented the “Community Animators” project, which involved training activists from villages that became part of the Pokrovsk community. They were educated on dialogue processes, reforms, and the mechanisms of state functioning, enabling them to be equal partners in the community and participate in decision-making processes.

Furthermore, we established a network of working groups for social cohesion and community work. Within this framework, we implemented projects aimed at social cohesion and safety. We assisted in creating a psychosocial support room at the Pokrovsk State Emergency Service fire station for those affected by emergencies.

“After the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation onto Ukrainian territory, we were forced to relocate. However, we continued our collaboration with the State Emergency Service. Once, the rescuers approached us with a request for help in obtaining washing machines, as they were on duty around the clock. This became our first fundraising campaign. Within a few days, we collected funds and approached a store to explain the situation. They provided us with washing machines with dryer functions for the same amount of money,” says the head of the organization, Tetyana Moiseieva-Shylenko.

From this point, the organization’s collaboration with the State Emergency Service of Donetsk Oblast began on a new level.

“In cooperation with the Lviv Defense Cluster, we facilitated the first provision of licensed Class 4 ballistic vests for the State Emergency Service of Donetsk Oblast. Prior to this, they did not receive ballistic vests, and according to emergency workers, they had one vest for every ten individuals. In total, we managed to acquire over 370 units of ballistic vests, equivalent to more than 4 million UAH.

Furthermore, we procured an off-road vehicle, Mitsubishi Pajero, for the operational work of pyrotechnicians at the State Emergency Service of Ukraine in Donetsk Oblast. Additionally, we obtained rescue kits, flashlight-power banks, gas stoves, professional rescue kits (Rescue Kit), powerful flashlights with power bank functions, gas stoves for cooking, evacuation and demining stretchers, various accessories for office equipment, and additional firefighting vehicle equipment, as well as medical kits, mattresses, bedding sets, gloves for safer debris removal, and more.

With the assistance of international organizations and the support of volunteers, we managed to procure 22 different types of bulletproof vests, two trailers for transporting industrial generators, and 30 sets of anti-fragmentation protection (helmets and ballistic vests) for evacuating children using State Emergency Service of Ukraine resources in Donetsk Oblast.”

Photo: The NGO “Initiative Center Toloka” established the FabLab Truskavets in the town of Truskavets, Lviv Oblast. With the support of the NGO “SpivDia,” the laboratory has been equipped with 15 laptops. Photo from the Facebook page of the NGO “Initiative Center Toloka.

Due to the challenges posed by the large-scale invasion, two members of the organization’s team left the country and discontinued their collaboration with the organization. A pivotal moment occurred when the team expanded and a lawyer joined, leading to the identification of specific work directions and fundraising efforts.

While located in western Ukraine, a portion of the organization’s team volunteered at a local hospital where war veterans with amputations were completing their rehabilitation. They observed that there was a significant number of individuals who were independently seeking ways to access prosthetics, and there was a lack of clear information about the necessary documents.

During discussions with a mentor who was involved in the project ” Capacity Development of Local NGOs – legal aid providers in Ukraine,” he suggested the idea of involving a lawyer to address this issue. When they received funding as part of a mini-grant support from the UNDP Ukraine, they recruited a lawyer into their team and started working on creating a roadmap for veterans.

Photo: Providing legal consultation to veterans with amputations. Photo from the Facebook page of the NGO “Initiative Center Toloka.”

“We have already conducted research. An expert conducted 20 interviews with veterans who have undergone prosthetics. They shared their stories, the challenges they faced, and areas that could be improved. Based on this, we will develop a chatbot and a visual roadmap that we will print and distribute in hospitals.”

“Thanks to this project, we tested our capabilities and realized that the legal aspect doesn’t hinder other activities, but rather has the potential to strengthen what we do in parallel,” notes Tetiana Moiseieva-Shylenko.

Analytical report on the state of prosthetics for military personnel.

For reference:

The initiative “ Capacity Development of Local NGOs – legal aid providers in Ukraine” is implemented by the Legal Development Network with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Ukraine, funded by the Government of Canada, provided within the framework of the Peacebuilding and Recovery Program.

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