Finding the right tools and developing a project to engage a group of disadvantaged young people in their community kept Kateryna and Sofiia, two Ukrainian members of the EU4Youth Alumni Network, very busy at the end of 2021. And when all was finally set for the initiative to be rolled out, Russia invaded Ukraine, and everything had to be rethought.
Because of the war in Ukraine, Kateryna Korsun and Sofiia Korol had to completely re-conceptualise their project. Their focus shifted to helping the Ukrainian army and, at the same time, promoting youth activism by offering project participants more opportunities for personal growth. This is how ‘Sew to Survive’ was born, based in the Vinnytsia region of western Ukraine.
The group of young people who came together through this initiative learned how to sew, producing underwear and protective coats for Ukrainian soldiers. They would meet in a safe space, working on production but also talking about volunteering, what it means to engage in community issues as an activist, how to find peers with similar interests from other countries through Erasmus+, and which similar programmes there are to explore.
“We could unite youth in a difficult time and give them the opportunity to volunteer, be part of a team and to develop their skills. Every participant could contribute to helping the Ukrainian army and bringing Ukraine closer to its victory,” said the two activists. “Spending time together and focusing on active collaboration gave the youth a chance to distract themselves from obsessive thoughts about the war.”
Alongside the sewing workshops, Sofiia and Kateryna held informal lectures to share their experience and answer questions about the various EU-funded opportunities available for Ukrainian youth. Indeed, both young women are part of the network of Young European Ambassadors, and have participated in a range of EU exchanges under the Erasmus+ programme. Having heard Sofiia and Kateryna’s accounts of volunteering and youth activism, and having experienced it themselves through the project, the participants felt they wanted to become more active in the future.
When the war broke out, Kateryna left her hometown of Dnipro in Eastern Ukraine and moved to Germany. Conducting the project from abroad was a challenge, she admits. But being part of the Network and working on the project for the previous 10 months was a valuable experience, helping Kateryna and Sofiia, who stayed in Ukraine, in the Western city of Chernivtsi, to develop themselves as project managers and hone their communications and leadership skills.
Above all, both activists feel that they themselves were rewarded by doing something valuable for their community. “For me, the EU4Youth Alumni Network is an opportunity to develop yourself and develop youth in our country,” adds Sofiia. “The Network became for me a place where I got inspired by other Alumni, and as a result I got the motivation to inspire others for self-development,” concludes Kateryna.
The EU4Youth Alumni Network brings together young beneficiaries of the EU4Youth, Erasmus+ Youth in Action and European Solidarity Corps programmes, and the network of Young European Ambassadors from the Eastern partner countries. Find out more about the 2022 call for applications.
Interested in the latest news and opportunities?
This website is managed by the EU-funded Regional Communication Programme for the Eastern Neighbourhood ('EU NEIGHBOURS east’), which complements and supports the communication of the Delegations of the European Union in the Eastern partner countries, and works under the guidance of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, and the European External Action Service. EU NEIGHBOURS east is implemented by a B&S Europe-led consortium. It is part of the larger Neighbourhood Communication Programme (2020-2024) for the EU's Eastern and Southern Neighbourhood, which also includes 'EU NEIGHBOURS south’ project that runs the EU Neighbours portal.