Photo from left to right: Herbert Paulischin, Rory Truell, Yana Melnychuk, Ana Radulescu & Mykhailo Simashkevych.
The International Federation of Social Workers, along with the President of the Kamianets-Podilskyi region, and community members have agreed on a partnership to start a Community Centre and social work hub in the Western Ukraine province of Kamianets-Podilskyi. The Centre will occupy parts of the ground floor and the entire 3rd floor of the centrally located district council building and provide space for community services and activities.
The district’s population has nearly grown 50% this year as internally displaced people have escaped the frontline of the war which is 20 kilometres away. The additional 30’000 refugees, combined with the near collapse of the economy, trauma and the closure of many public systems have resulted in multiple and critical social challenges.
The province’s President, Mykhailo Simashkevych said, “We are so happy to be working in partnership with IFSW on the many practical challenges we face. We urgently need social expertise and support now and as a basis for our future”. IFSW European President, Ana Radulescu commented, “This partnership between the district government, the communities and IFSW to jointly start a Community Centre will create much-needed resources, mutual support systems and possibilities for incomes for the district’s communities. It is built on the foundation of community ownership and their relationships with social workers from throughout the region and beyond”.
In working to develop this partnership, IFSW has supported community initiatives such as the Community Kitchen, where women create food security by dehydrating vegetables and wheat that can be distributed for free across the country. Through donations organized by IFSW to purchase equipment, the community kitchen has expanded its production to produce over 1200 meals per day. Tatyana, a volunteer in the kitchen said, “This work is so important to me. It takes my mind off the worry that my husband is every day in battle and all the things I have lost. I feel like I am now a part of the solution and I have the support of others”.
The aim of the Community Centre is to act as a one-stop-shop where the public can gather to consider what systems need to be developed, make appointments with volunteer medical practitioners, social trauma experts, organize activities for children, support vulnerable populations, utilize the skills in the community to form businesses, as well as from mutual aid groups. IFSW Europe has contracted the county’s local ex-Deputy Mayor who was responsible for social protection, Yana Melnychuk to set up and run the service. Donations received so far will also support the employment of two other full-time local social workers.
A further visit from international social work associations has been organized for next month where people from other countries will be given opportunities to work alongside or invest in community-led projects that realize the capacity and build the wellbeing of the district’s populations. IFSW Secretary-General, Rory Truell commented, “This pilot project can change the world’s understanding of social development in war zones. The approach is not one of aid or charity; it involves respecting people’s dignity, recognizing and supporting their capability and the importance of managing the short and long-term effects of trauma through social action. This approach is based on experiences of transformational social work in other war zones, but only now is it being formally tested at a whole provincial level. I have no doubt it will be successful and become a model in other war and disaster zones around the world.”