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Pravo transforms humanitarian hub into a center of civic activity in Khmilnyk

Publication date: March 4, 2024

The NGO Pravo, based in Khmilnyk, Vinnytsia Oblast, has been providing comprehensive support to IDPs and the local community since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Even with limited resources, the team of six permanent members and volunteers has managed to implement a number of important projects. Their work is a vivid example of how a group of activists can have a significant impact on community life.

Since February 2023, the community’s initiatives have been supported by the Legal Development Network (LDN) as part of a program to strengthen the capacity of local organizations to respond to the challenges of war. Among them is the provision of legal aid to community residents, IDPs, legal support for community development, and much more. We will tell you more about the work of the organization and some of the results achieved thanks to the support below.

We added a humanitarian component to the strategy

Vitaliy Dorokh, head of the NGO “Pravo”. Photo from the LDN archive

“Previously, our efforts were focused on community development, fighting corruption and protecting human rights,” says Vitaliy Dorokh, head of the organization, “However, the war has brought us new challenges, such as a large number of internally displaced persons (IDPs), shortages of certain products and goods (especially at the beginning of the war), and others. To contribute to solving these problems, we revised our strategy and decided to add a humanitarian component.”

The team members constantly keep their finger on the pulse, studying the needs of the community through surveys, responding to requests received during legal consultations and personal communication. In the spring of 2022, there was a shortage of animal feed, and in cooperation with local animal rights activists and feed manufacturers, they organized feeding for both stray animals and pets that the IDPs had brought with them. Later, they distributed seedlings and held lectures on gardening for those who wanted to start gardening in the new place. The initiative was named Victory Gardens because it helped to boost the morale of nearly 200 IDP families. The Bank of Things social initiative, launched at the outbreak of the full-scale war, continues its work. Through surveys, the organization’s team forms a database of IDPs’ needs, and local residents bring items for those in need.

Most of the integration and assistance activities for internally displaced persons are carried out within the framework of the Murashnyk Humanitarian Hub, which was created by NGO Pravo in response to the challenges of the war.

The hub provides social and legal assistance. It has become a platform for more than a dozen initiatives aimed at helping adults and children going through difficult times. With the help of the Legal Development Network and the international charity platform GlobalGiving, the space was renovated in the summer of 2022 to create opportunities for various events involving local residents and IDPs.

Distribution of humanitarian aid from donors to IDP families from Bakhmut district on February 19, 2024 at the Murashnyk hub. Photo from the archive of the NGO “Pravo”

The initiatives being implemented together with partners at the Murashnyk hub include a Public Dialogue Club, Ukrainian language classes, psychological assistance, various workshops, a chess club, and a guitar club.

Recently, the chess club at the Murashnyk Humanitarian Hub hosted a simultaneous game session for representatives of different age groups. Chess fans gather in this space twice a week. Photo from the archive of the NGO “Pravo”

“The hub is now not only functioning as a humanitarian point, but is also becoming a center of social activity, where two or three events of various kinds are held every day. It really looks like an anthill – everything is in motion, filled with people every day. One day our volunteers noted that it would be nice to take courses in business Ukrainian, and we have someone among our volunteers who can organize them. Thus, we managed to hold a series of classes, and everyone was satisfied. If necessary, we will organize courses again. We try to respond flexibly to requests from people,” explains Vitaliy Dorokh.

The Murashnyk Hub has been granted the status of an Endurance Point, turning into an important center for the local community in the midst of war. Here, people can not only receive humanitarian aid, but also keep warm, drink tea, use the Internet, work and charge their gadgets, and attend events that regularly take place in the space.

The opening of the exhibition “Khmilnyk. The City You Don’t Know” in February 2024 at the Murashnyk hub was a significant event, attended by many citizens. Photo by “Zhyttia Obriyii” edition

Even a group from one of the kindergartens came to the hub to see the photo exhibition. Photo from the archive of the NGO “Pravo”

The hub is also known in the city as a creative space, and it was chosen to host the 20th Docudays UA International Travelling Human Rights Documentary Film Festival in December 2023. As part of the festival, the team of the NGO Pravo organized a training session “Introduction to Human Rights”.

From employing IDPs to stimulating civic engagement

The organization’s team took on the cost of renting the hub’s premises. They realized how important it was to have a space that would become a base for launching various initiatives. This allows them to launch a number of projects, including cooperation with the employment center.

In January 2024, at the initiative of the Khmilnyk branch of the Vinnytsia Regional Employment Center and the NGO Pravo, the hub hosted a discussion on the involvement of IDPs in socially useful work that would be paid for by the state budget.

“The executive committee of the city council included us in the list of public organizations that can be customers of socially useful works. The employment center will send people to us for temporary employment at the jobs we have created,” says Vitalii Dorokh. “For example, people can weave a net with us and get paid by the state. We have already employed 17 people in this project since February. They work for 10 days and then take a break, so we will have 30 to 50 people working with us in a month. This practice of temporary employment has already proved to be effective and can be used by other NGOs.”

NGO Pravo became a member of the LDN in 2015 and continues to provide free legal aid. In 2023, the organization’s lawyers provided more than 1,000 legal consultations, answering various questions from community members.

“The legislation on IDPs has changed, and all IDPs come to us for clarification. We announced in the community that the donor would hold a competition for business start-ups, and many people came to learn how to register a sole proprietorship and so on,” says Vitaliy Dorokh. “Many of those who previously received answers to their questions come back again. Recently, we were approached by a man whom we had previously helped to register a public organization in the village. Now they want to join a water pipeline project and need advice on paperwork… Even when there is no grant funding, we still provide advice because people have known us for a long time and are confident that when they knock on the door, they will be helped or at least advised.”

In addition, the NGO has taken on the mission of raising awareness and training community members and government officials to effectively use the tools of local democracy. One of the key goals is to create conditions under which citizens can influence the decisions of the city authorities through electronic petitions, local initiatives, public hearings, etc.

In November 2023, the Murashnyk Humanitarian Hub hosted a training on e-democracy for city residents, internally displaced persons and city council officials. They learned about various forms of citizen participation in government decision-making and electronic services for their effective use, such as petitions, appeals and consultations. Photo from the archive of the NGO “Pravo”

As a result of the organization’s activities, members of the Khmilnyk City Council amended the Charter of the Khmilnyk community regarding the number of signatures in support of an electronic petition. Now, the petition must collect 50 signatures within three months instead of 100, as it was before.

Pravo also helped develop and implement a plan to improve the effectiveness of local democracy tools in the community, which was approved by the mayor. This initiative also includes training for residents and officials, in particular, in the “Anthill” space.

The material was created with the support of the international charitable platform GlobalGiving, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The content of the publication is the sole responsibility of the public union “Legal Development Network”.

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