USAID DOBRE Program: Youth Council and Yelovytsky Culture Center Initiatives in Lanivtsi Community

Co-authors: Olena Paseka, press secretary at Information and Public Relations Department at Lanivtsi City Council; Yuri Matevoshchuk, director at the Yelovytsky Culture Center

Despite encouraging youth to be proactive, come up with ideas and initiate critical decisions in a community, it can be much easier said than done. In practice, young people do not always have the support and tools to make the first step. That is why, to bring about more efficient youth policy implementation in communities, local governance became involved in Lanivtsi consolidated community (CC).

Background  

Lanivtsi town CC of Lanivtsi Rayon in Ternopil Oblast was established on December 1, 2017. It soon consolidated with one town and four village councils, made up of  10 constituent communities: Lanivtsi town and the villages of Volytsya, Mali Kuskivtsi, Oryshkivtsi, Krasnoluka, Tataryntsi, Yakymivtsi, Zahirtsi, Mykhailivka, Yuskivtsi. The CC administrative center is in Lanivtsi town. Lanivtsi CC is located in the north of Ternopil Oblast. The total number of residents is currently more than 12,000. 

The consolidation into the community allowed Lanivtsi and CC villages to reach a comparably new level of administration and financial provision. At first, they worked on the development of education, medical service delivery, beautification of community land, and international relations. Less than in a year the first feasible outcomes were attained. Specifically, in 2018, such entities as Inclusive and Resource Center and Town Primary Healthcare Center opened their doors. On the premises of Lanivtsi secondary school #2, they built a new soccer field with artificial covering, established a systematic waste collection among the livelihoods, including villages, and allocated budget funds for repair works in schools. 

No Decision for Youth without the Youth: Start of the Youth Council Work

Meanwhile, the local youth started demonstrating their proactivity in the community. They organized bike rides, engaged in the organizing activities for the Day of Town celebration, met with the CC head and suggested their ideas. Everyone understood that for the youth policy to be implemented efficiently, its stakeholders – the youth – should be engaged, as appropriate. 

With the motto “No decision for youth without the youth,” CC Head Roman Kaznovetsky started actively developing the idea for creating the Youth Council (“molodizhka” in Ukrainian). In late 2018, based on the Local Town Council resolution, they adopted a policy on the Youth Council establishment under Lanivtsi Town Council. In January-February of 2019 they held online enrollment, and in March, they conducted the first session of the Youth Council. Among the Youth Council members were 20 various community representatives including those aged 15-30, schoolchildren, students, entrepreneurs, lawyers, young mothers, a writer and even a moto biker. The Youth Council head, by unanimous vote,  elected the active and creative Yurko Matevoshchuk, under whose leadership they started working immediately.

Meeting Point: the Yelovytsky Culture Center 

 USAID DOBRE Program has played an important role in the Youth Council activity since day one, and continues to today. First trainings, first winner project and grant award the Youth Council received due to the CC partnership with DOBRE. Currently, at the stage of implementation, is a big youth project aimed to install a playground with inclusive elements titled “Your Unlimited Space.” And very soon the Youth Council with USAID DOBRE support and Town Council will hold the opening ceremony.

A highly significant event in the life of the CC and the Youth Council was the opening of the Yelovytsky Culture Center within the Day of Lanivtsi Town celebration on July 28, 2019. At that time the Center became the meeting point for the Youth Council, their office and simply a comfortable recreation place. All ordinary and extra-ordinary sessions, event preparation, meetings with youth and local governance representatives are held at the Yelovytsky Center. In addition, Yurko Matevoshchuk, the Youth Council Head, became the entity head.     

Today, youth, children and senior representatives of the CC gather there. In nine months, Lanivtsi residents watched more than 70 movies and programs, and the first movie screening was special.

“With the first movie screening at the Center we would like to demonstrate our position – we watch quality Ukrainian and foreign movies adhering to the copyright policies. I selected “The Stronghold,” as this is a family movie reaching out to wider public, ideally fitting the first event organized. The main principle based on which we screen the movies at the Yelovytsky Culture Center – the official permit for screening. For me it is important to adhere to the copyright policies. We actively cooperate with Ternopil Cinema Committee, the State Cinema Agency of Ukraine, the “Arthouse Traffic” company and Ukrainian filmmakers. Football matches are live streamed with the permission by the Football channel,” says Culture Center and Youth Council Head Yurko Matevoshchuk.

Screening cartoons on Fridays and movies on Sundays has become a beloved tradition, and Yurko jokes that soon they will need a bigger hall. The number of viewers grows consistently. The Yelovytsky Culture Center the Youth Council organizes many other events, including community cohesion events which are youth favorites, such as “Lanivtsi Praznyk Party” and “St. Nikolas Day.” These events encompassed various trends including literature, informal education, music, cinema and even sports. The format for joint celebration enables knowing the local youth better, their interests and hobbies, as well as to encourage solidarity within one community youth team.  

 Lanivtsi resident Tetyana Demchuk has not missed any events since the Center opened its doors.  “The Yelovytsky Culture Center diversifies my family pastime and mine, brings an opportunity to spend free time nicely and usefully, in a pleasant atmosphere, and to train children how to behave politely in regard to others in such places. This location allows me to revive long forgotten impressions from my childhood about the halls full of viewers to watch cartoons, films, concerts, various master classes and other events. Children, teenagers and adults can find what interests them. It is pleasant to acknowledge that there are people who spend their free time and make 200% effort in order to let community members feel comfortable, interested and have quality leisure time.

Engaging with People and Working with the Public

The Youth Council also works in the field of civic engagement.  In 2019 with USAID DOBRE Program support, the RCSO Zakhidnoukrainsky Resource Center and Lanivtsi Town Council organized an information and awareness campaign, “Civic Participation Workshop.” They convened meetings in the CC villages and in Lanivtsi, where youth advisors familiarized residents on citizen budgeting and the opportunities this engagement mechanism offers, and encouraged them to submit project proposals. To that end, the local youth developed information posters and booklets with answers to the frequently asked questions about how to take part in the citizen budget initiative.

To engage youth to the awareness campaign, they organized a bike ride dedicated to the Day of the Youth. In general, all the Civic Participation Workshop relatable activities reached 150 persons, and for the 2020 citizen budget they received 10 proposals from CC various constituent communities.

The bike ride format was so well-received that shortly thereafter they organized another one and invited peers from the Terebovlya Youth Council. The “Your Independence” bike ride route covered approximately 30 kilometers and extended to the village of Molotkiv, Lanivtsi Rayon. The ride served as a sporting event and historical journey with a tour at a local museum. 

Very often, it is challenging to get young people interested in events of a patriotic nature. However, thanks to the bike ride, the participants not only spent their time in a good and healthy manner, they got to know better the history of the home community.  For the Youth Council representatives from Terebovlya and Lanivtsi, the bike ride became a step forward to establish cooperation. 

The Youth Council also engaged in organizing community cohesion activities such as “Get-Together with Community Head” in the villages of Yuskivtsi and Yakimivtsi, including the awareness campaign “Impact Your CC Budget!” for which, together with students, they released a video in UA “What is the CC Budget?”

Viktoria Rubets, a high school student and regular visitor at the Yelovytsky Culture Center, shares her impressions: 

Having attended the Impact Your CC Budget event, I realized that youth can also propose some ideas and activities that the CC can allocate budget to. I think this is a great decision by the local government, as the youth would like to help the CC develop, and we as the current generation can submit really interesting and unique ideas”.

Additionally, the Youth Council took the initiative for the second time in a row to install theme photo zones. One was for the Day of Town on the street, and another one, dedicated to New Year’s celebrations, was put up at the Yelovytsky Center.

In March 2020, the Youth Council developed and presented the “Lanivtsi CC Monopoly Game”, developed by the Youth Council, and supported by USAID DOBRE together with RCSO “Zakhidnoukrainsky Resource Center”. For one night, the Yelovytsky Center turned into a brain ring where the fight was for CC infrastructure.

The impressions from the Lanivtsi CC Monopoly Game presentation are the best ones. I really liked playing the game. I advise everyone to attend such activities as they bring use, not only entertainment, and develop business skills as well as financial literacy,” says Daryna Ostapyuk, who together with her friends traveled the distance from Zahirtsi village just to be able to participate in the presentation event.

Through Training to Success: Project Participation

Youth Council Head Yurko Matevoshchuk and Youth Advisors Olena Paseka, Vasyl Redka and Nastya Gorobets are the participants of the “Youth Worker in the CC” training program, implemented by the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Ukraine jointly with USAID DOBRE. “The Youth Worker in the CC” in the working group, besides the advisors, are active women of the CC – staff of the Rayon level Court, Tetyana Demchuk, and a psychologist of the pre-school institution, member of the Committee in the Child’s Rights Protection, Vira Vygonna.

To work with youth, professional evolvement is important,” says Vasyl Redka, the program participant and advisor. The group actively works on the Youth Worker in the CC assignment. Hence, they carried out a youth needs assessment and CC youth infrastructure map which elaborated an action plan for youth work development, and presented it at the youth meeting in December. It has been under implementation, notwithstanding the quarantine. To date, the Youth Council and the Youth Worker in the CC working group advocate for the amendments to make in to the Lanivtsi CC Youth Development Program 2019-2020, in the part for additional funds for the program. The funds will be spent for the Youth Leadership Academy project implementation that includes a series of professional orientation trainings, and is executed with USAID DOBRE and RCSO Zakhidnoukrainsky Resource Center support.  

The Yelovytsky Culture Center and Youth Council team were selected among the best 10 teams for the project “Pump up the Youth Center of your CC”, organized by USAID DOBRE and CSO Molodizhna Platforma (Youth Platform). Under this initiative, they administered a youth needs assessment concerning the services offered at the Yelovytsky Culture Center, along with a detailed work plan. During the quarantine, participants actively go through trainings at which they learn how to work at youth centers. In the training framework, they developed an advertising presentation for the Yelovytsky Culture Center and the quarantine exit plan, aimed to help re-start the work after a long pause.  

Not Only Entertainment: Working with Legislation Framework

Similarly, another important part of the Youth Council work is the work on local youth policies. With the Youth Council participation, they created and adopted a target program for Youth Development in Lanivtsi town CC 2019-2020 and Strategy for CC Youth Policy Development 2020-2022.  Young adults together with the responsible official staff made decisions on what activities to include in the program, how to distribute roles among implementers, and who to engage in order to have the program adhere to the youth needs and CC development priorities. The advisors believe this approach will bolster youth work sustainability.   

Responding to Challenges: on the Way to Evolvement

Along the way, the Youth Council and the Yelovytsky Culture Center came across some difficulties too. At the beginning, it was hard to gain community member credibility and loyalty. They encountered questions and comments including:  What is your salary?” When will you make a recreation spot for youth? So, you are the Youth Council – you have to do something for us! Even though I have never been at the Yelovytsky Culture Center, I am confident, that nothing is interesting happening there.  It would be better if the funds were spent for road maintenance!”

But today, the majority understand what the Youth Council does, and that the 20 volunteers who work for the benefit of the CC are a reality, not a fantasy. Through its work the Culture Center has gained the CC loyalty as the content is cultural, in addition to activities encouraging involvement, active engagement in civic life and being a patriot here and now.

Though the enforced quarantine has brought about significant challenges to the Youth Council and the Yelovytsky Culture Center by slowing down some of their initiatives, the youth do not stop: they keep on making their internal work excellent, they develop grant support project applications, work on online communication and build plans for this summer.    

This time period became a challenge for us – we got used to working live, to seeing people’s emotions and asking about their impressions. However, today we are actively establishing the work in the online format: in social media we share ideas, what to do during quarantine; we hold challenge contests in Instagram stories; we live stream discussions with interesting personalities and elaborate plans,” says Yurko Matevoshchuk.

They have many more plans in the works. Currently they are developing a program for professional orientation called “Youth Leadership Academy,” which includes a series of trainings for high school students. Also, they have planned an opening ceremony for a youth recreation zone with inclusive elements titled “Your Unlimited Space.” The Youth Council also plans to finish a presentation tour with the Lanivtsi CC monopoly game. Later, with the Youth Council participation, they plan to establish two clubs at the Culture Center – a reader’s club and a desk game club. They are going to transform it from the event-based center into a regular operating one.

Today, visitors value more openness – what the Youth Council and the Yelovytsky Culture Center aim for. There is a long way to be walked, yet success will happen with the support of true friends and residents of Lanivtsi CC.   

 

This article is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of Global Communities and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.