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Relocated human rights activists from Donetsk oblast help IDPs find housing, jobs and more

Publication date: January 31, 2024

Some of the member organizations of the Legal Development Network not only expanded their areas of work but were forced to change their residence due to the challenges of russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine. One is the NGO Agency for Democratic Development of Donbas, which moved from Sloviansk to Zaporizhzhia.

Today, the organization provides legal assistance, coordinates evacuation processes, and advises on employment and psychological support. Since February 2023, the Legal Development Network (LDN) has been supporting the activities of these areas as part of a program to strengthen local organisations’ capacity to respond to war challenges. The changes and results of the organization’s work are described below.

Tetiana Pliasunova, a lawyer at the NGO Agency for Democratic Development of Donbas. Photo from her archive

The team moved from Sloviansk to Zaporizhzhia

Some members of the Agency for the Democratic Development of Donbas from Sloviansk have moved to other regions and keep in touch by phone. Despite the difficulties of displacement, they continued their work and expanded their team. Currently, six activists and volunteers are providing consultations to residents of Zaporizhzhia oblast. 

The challenge for the team was that while providing legal assistance and processing documents, they discovered that people were also concerned about other social problems that needed to be addressed. 

Every month, more than 30 IDPs contact the organization with requests to find housing and work. Tetiana Pliasunova, a lawyer with the Agency for Democratic Development of Donbas, understands the problems and needs of IDPs well, having experienced similar challenges herself. She had to move twice: first from Luhansk to Sievierodonetsk, and then because of the fighting, she moved to Zaporizhzhia, where she now lives with her daughter. Tetiana’s son serves in the Armed Forces of Ukraine as a medic.

Since the relocation in April 2023, the team has counseled more than 300 people with the support of the LDN, 200 of whom requested assistance in finding housing and more than 160 in finding employment.

Lawyer Tetiana Pliasunova knows the problems of IDPs very well, having lived through them herself. That is why IDPs trust her more and come back again and again. Photo from her archive

“We recently counseled a woman who moved to Zaporizhzhia with her child. We were lucky enough to find her both a job and an apartment.  It became possible thanks to the help of two specialists simultaneously – a job-search mentor and a psychologist,” says Tetiana Pliasunova.

Established mentor positions for psychological support and job-search

Over a year ago, the team realized IDPs needed comprehensive support. Therefore, they developed and implemented an algorithm of action with additional services for people dealing with legal issues. In this way, the LDN supported the organization’s core activities by raising funds to provide legal assistance. It enabled the organization to find additional resources and expand the range of assistance to IDPs.

A lawyer on the team provides the necessary legal support. A job-search mentor uses their connections with local businesses and employment centers to suggest job opportunities. Another mentor refers people to shelter providers and assists with the settlement process. And a psychologist helps IDPs adjust to new living conditions.

If necessary, people who have sought legal counsel can attend meetings with a psychologist. During these sessions, they are engaged in art therapy to improve their emotional state. Photo from the archive of the Agency for Democratic Development of Donbas

“At our legal consultations and online training on the first steps in employment, people receive general information and individual advice to solve complex issues. Among the legal issues, there are a lot of questions about digitizing the employment history because scammers want to do this for money and ask for access to the electronic cabinet. People also often ask about insurance services. Companies are including war and injury cases in their insurance contracts. There are a lot of legal problems with payments under such contracts,” says Tetiana Pliasunova.

Each mentor keeps an electronic journal of contacts and consultations. Later, they follow up on situations identified as problematic, especially in cases where IDPs are struggling to cope with their circumstances and lack the confidence and strength to look for work. After a while, the mentors call to check on the person to see how they are doing and if they need additional help.

“Our mentors often work as volunteers when we lack funding. We have a separate assistant who looks for ways to fund the team’s work, even for a few months, so that people can devote all their time to it. There is a need for stable support for the mentoring service, and we are looking for resources for that. At the same time, we are open to new projects. Some specialists can join us,” says Tetiana Pliasunova.

The material was created with the support of the international charity platform GlobalGiving and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The publication’s content is solely the responsibility of the Legal Development Network.

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