How Berdyansk Residents Implement Strategies to Aid Victims of Full-Scale War
Publication date: August 14, 2023
Author: Halyna Kolesnyk, Communication Manager of the Legal Development Network
“In Zaporizhzhia, it’s like Berdyansk exists in a virtual space. There are people from our city, but the city itself is not there. We are here because we are closest to our homeland, and we work to return to it as soon as possible after de-occupation. We coordinate the displaced individuals: what assistance they can receive, where to spend their leisure time, meet up, and exchange information. Everything goes through us,” says Viktor Tsukanov, the head of the “Berdyansk – Our Own for Ourselves” Foundation, describing the internal motivation of each team member and the organization’s overall work.
The charitable foundation’s team consists of 17 residents of Berdyansk. For six months since the full-scale invasion by the Russian Federation into Ukraine, they worked on their own savings. They activated their connections and acquaintances to attract humanitarian aid. When these opportunities were exhausted, they started collaborating with other foundations.
In Zaporizhia, the “Berdyansk — Ours for Ours” foundation established two centers for internally displaced persons in February-March. One is a social center where free laundry services, co-working space, a children’s leisure room, a hair salon, and a copy center are available. The second is a humanitarian center where individuals can receive humanitarian, informational, and legal assistance. Every day, between 50 and over 100 residents of Berdyansk, each with their own stories and needs, visit the foundation’s locations. Overall, more than 6,000 residents from Berdyansk district and the city have been displaced to Zaporizhia.
Throughout its entire operation, the foundation received and distributed over 250 tons of aid, reaching out to 7,300 families of Berdyansk residents who had left the occupied area, providing them with assistance. Additionally, in partnership with other organizations, they implemented four initiatives to aid internally displaced persons and volunteers.
“None of our team members had prior experience in the public sector. Some had worked in local government, others were professional lawyers, academics, musicians. Now, we actively collaborate with international organizations and civil society. Together, we are achieving truly significant results,” says Viktor Tsukanov.
The project “Capacity Development of Local NGOs – legal aid providers in Ukraine,” implemented by the Legal Development Network with the support of the United Nations Development Programme in Ukraine and the Government of Canada, has helped to clarify the functioning of the civil society organizations. Through mentorship support, the foundation began to establish internal policies and procedures.
“We receive proposals for cooperation from many large organizations. They inquire whether we have these policies and whether we meet modern requirements and standards. It’s truly easier for us to respond to these inquiries. We already have experience in working with international partners and documentary evidence of transparency and openness,” shares Viktor Tsukanov.
“Thanks to the fact that the project is long-term, we had the opportunity to systematically develop all of this. So when we provide a document in response to a query that was adopted not yesterday, but several months ago, it’s also evidence of our professionalism and systematic work. However, there are still some questions that need to be clarified, and it’s great that we can turn to our mentor, Katerina Mal’tseva, for help,” Viktor Tsukanov explains.
Additionally, the “Berdyansk – Ours for Ours” Charitable Foundation received support from a micro-grant initiative by the UNDP, which allowed them to provide initial legal assistance to displaced individuals and residents of temporarily occupied communities.
To create this initiative, the team consolidated all the previous experience of working with internally displaced individuals, communication channels with people who already trust them and are willing to collaboratively solve legal issues.
“We have often witnessed how other large human rights organizations provide assistance in our center. However, such assistance is not always effective in certain cases. People are not always willing to communicate, and sometimes they are not ready to receive primary legal aid. We, on the other hand, offer various options for receiving help: personal communication, chatbots, phone calls, brochures, and more. We say: choose the most convenient method and time for you. That’s why both people from temporarily occupied communities and internally displaced individuals turn to us,” Victor Tsukanov points out.
The project “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 and the Government of Canada, provided within the framework of the UN Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme.
The UN Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme (UN RPP) is implemented by four UN agencies: the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN Women, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The Programme is supported by eleven international partners: the European Union (EU), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the Embassy of the United States of America in Ukraine, as well as the governments of Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, and Switzerland.
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