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Our trips to Balakliia for community support
June 8, 2023

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, our company has been involved in volunteer activities, helping both the military and civilian victims of the conflict. Many of our colleagues were forced to leave their homes. Some of the Brights are defending our country, some are helping our defenders, and some are working on its restoration. As a result, our experience is constantly being enriched with new stories. Today, our COO, Yevgen Gubanov, shares one of them.

This volunteer story began with my friend Andriy, who managed a candy workshop in Kharkiv. Since the full-scale invasion affected the demand for sweets, he and his friends decided to turn the candy shop into a volunteer hub. There you could get the necessary things, as well as treat yourself to a cup of coffee. This became the basis for the creation of ART Help, a charity organization that helped fulfill requests from soldiers and people affected by the war.

Unfortunately, the humanitarian front is currently experiencing difficult times. While many people want to contribute and help the victims, some unfortunately seek to profit from it.  Establishing cooperation was extremely difficult, but an acquaintance recommended contacting the director of a boarding school in Balakliia, that needed help and gave us her phone number. Since then, we have been working with Tetiana and taking requests without intermediaries.

In the fall, many families with children returned as well. Prior to the full-scale invasion in Balakliia, there were six educational establishments. Currently, the classes are held remotely.

In one of the schools, volunteers from Europe and Ukraine organized a center for psychological support through joint efforts, and we also joined this initiative. Both adults and children of any age can visit it. Psychologists come to the center to give lectures, and special classes and developmental games are held for children.

Moreover, the center provides necessary humanitarian aid such as cleaning supplies, food, toys, or school supplies.

Life on the occupied territory has its nuances. Every meeting and class, children are reminded of mine safety rules, where can they go and where they shouldn’t, even in the city. It is necessary for this information to be imprinted at the reflex level for their safety.

Our first trip to Balakliia took place in January of this year. It was just to get to know the people: we prepared toys, sweets and useful gifts for the children, and things and cleaning supplies for anyone who needs it.

I thought that the occupation would leave its mark on the residents, but most families left Balakliia at that time, so it is not noticeable. Children in Balakliia are knowledgeable, informed, and well-educated. It is a pleasure to communicate with them.

On our next trip, we purchased everything necessary for children's activities: watercolors, paper, pencils, markers, as well as plushies for the youngest.

After a meeting at the psychological support center, we went on a trip to the unit in Bakhmut that Andriy is helping. We suggested that the children draw posters and write wishes or words of support for our military. We organized this in a game format: each team had to come up with and create their own project, and then present it. Each team had an idea and they explained why they chose to write or draw something for the defenders. 

In April, we received a request to purchase sports equipment for the students at the school, stationery and sweets for the children from the center, and started collecting money again. Usually, we share this information among friends and in our corporate chat. We asked who wants to participate and thanks to the activity of our people, we were able to buy everything on the list and even had extra money left. 

During the meeting, we planned to talk mostly with older children, but in the end, we danced and gave autographs to the younger ones ?

The restoration of the boarding school is gradually being planned. Tetiana says that before the full-scale invasion, comfortable conditions for teaching children from the entire district were arranged there. However, after the de-occupation, the educational institution was looted. There was no equipment left, not even basic necessities like kitchen utensils or mattresses. For our next trip, we already purchased a boiler and projectors for interactive lessons. We agreed to have the meeting outdoors, cook kulish and try out the new sports equipment :)

In addition, we want to involve our specialists to give a lecture on the most popular IT fields. Many children will be applying to universities this and next year, and perhaps this conversation will help them choose their future profession.

Finally, I want to say that volunteering is an important experience that not only brings benefits but also enriches our treasury of stories. A reliable home front brings us closer to victory every day.

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