More than 700 participants from Eastern oblasts of Ukraine took part in the trainings «United Community» («Yedyna Hromada»)

The last of 36 trainings «United Community» («Yedyna Hromada») took place on 23-24th of September 2017 in Borova, Kharkiv oblast. Within the framework of the project, implemented by IREX and GURT and with the support of U.S. Agency for the International Development (USAID), training activities brought together 12 communities from 5 Eastern oblasts of Ukraine. Besides Borova there were people from Izium and Chuhuiv (Kharkiv oblast), Bakhmut and Novogrodivka (Donetsk oblast), Pershotravensk and Mezhova (Dnipropetrovsk oblast), Starobilsk and Novopskov (Luhansk oblast), Primorsk, Berdyansk and Huliaipole (Zaporizhia oblast).

During the trainings, participants gained the skills of effective communication, active listening, studied the ways of avoiding stereotypes and hate speech. They also discussed events and projects for the social changes in their communities. In addition, participants studied dialogue as the method of uniting the community and as the element of resolving the conflicts.

“Training «United Сommunity» changed my perception in some way. Before, it was quite difficult for me not to divide things into “black and white”, into “us” and “them”. People`s actions root in their life experience. So when a person acts bad, it`s bad because I see his/her experience in this way. Anyway, you should be able to hear your opponent and make him hear you. It is interesting that the first community where I used the skills, gained during training was my family”, Ihor Korovin, the journalist of “Obrii Iziumshchyny” newspaper (Izium, Kharkiv oblast).

Participants noted the benefits, practicality and importance of the training for their communities. The theory was always with the practical exercises and work in groups, during which they could get to know other participants better and map out the following steps for the cooperation.

“I became a civil society activist not so long ago, during «From country to Ukraine» festival in summer 2016 in Starobilsk. During the training «United Community» I first encountered the theory of the conflict resolution and a wonderful tool of a dialogue. Now, before replying aggressively to the attacks of an angry person or group of people, I try to understand the reasons which have caused the conflict and to find some reasonable solution. I think that one of the main problems in our town is misunderstanding between citizens and municipal enterprises that are responsible for the order in the town. On one hand, I see that municipal enterprises try to do their best but they lack modern equipment and human resources. On the other hand, the locals who didn’t even sign the contract about the solid household wastes removal are certain that municipal enterprises do nothing at all and just pour funds of the taxpayers down the drain. After the training I offered to improve the relationships between the parties by creating on-line interactive maps where each citizen could map spontaneous garbage dumps, cut branches or other problems that should be solved. Municipal enterprises, in their turn, would present the results there. However, because of the bureaucracy, municipal enterprises haven’t supported my initiative yet”, Mykola Molozhon, the deputy of Starobilsk city council (Luhansk oblast).

During two-days trainings participants analyzed the cooperation inside their communities in order to create trust and unity between internally displaced people, the ATO (Anti-Terrorist Operation) soldiers, local government and local citizens to solve the problems that are urgent for each community.

“Training «United Community» opened my eyes to see how deep is the soul of local citizen. Training also showed me that each person is unique and has a right to have his/her own opinion. Person does what he/she does, says what he/she says, because he/she have own experience, have had own challenges, and we can`t judge anybody because of his/her opinions or actions. I think that we should be more sensitive to others’ problems, understand each other and accept each other as we are”,  Ivan Chubukin, the Head of the Youth Hub “City’ (Chuhuiv, Kharkiv oblast).

During training locals discussed their points of view on the community, resources, required for its development, and the ways of creating dialogue between different social groups.

“After moving to Starobilsk, I saw misunderstandings, arising between internally displaced people and locals, representatives of the volunteer battalions, Armed forces of Ukraine and citizens of the city. For me project «United Community» was remarkable. I realized that it has been unity and synergism that could create miracles. Thant`s why I work on my social capital now, I manage “INVETORS” youth initiative that has already implemented the “Charity wardrobe” project. We plan to create a dialogue between students and professors in Starobilsk in October, the professional facilitators will take part in it. Not only the city, but also the whole area was inspired by these trainings. While meeting other participants we still discuss the most interesting moments, exchange our experience using the “Do Not Harm” method, work together on two projects, inspire others and have an intention to wake and change the city with our activity”, Kateryna Kotelenets, activist, professor of the Taras Shevchenko National  University of Luhansk (Starobilsk, Luhansk oblast, former Luhansk).

More than 700 participants took part in the trainings. Among them were representatives of the non-governmental organizations, local and regional authorities, entrepreneurs, librarians,  internally displaced people, veterans of the Anti-Terrorist Operation and students.

“Dialogue is a bridge between social groups. That`s why practical usage of communication rules is extremely important for everyone. Due to the participation in the training «United Community» I understood why in Novopskov area of Luhansk oblast dialogue «authority — community» was absent. Knowing the reason, you can create more effective algorithm of actions. And, by the way, after the training I bought the recommended book “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life” by Marshall Rosenberg. This book is travelling from person to person in Novopskov activist community”, Tetyana Soloviova, social journalist (Novopskov, Luhansk oblast).

“At school we study literature, foreign languages, math. But, unfortunately, we don`t develop the skills of listening, ability to paraphrase, clarify to avoid or resolve the conflicts. I think that these skills are extremely important both for self-development and career growth, social activity. Training «United Community» taught me this. Thanks to the participation in the project I understood how to behave in conflict situations in order to resolve them in a civilized way, clear up the questions and create the plan of actions and basis for cooperation. After the project other participants of the trainings in our city made the same conclusions. Some of them got rid of the stereotypes, learned effective communication, and the majority of our citizens unite into the COMMUNITY of Starobilsk. I run the non-governmental organization that works with the internally displaced people. All of us want to be the part of the community of Starobilsk, even more euro-community, in order to develop our city and arrange the cooperation between people,’’ Oksana Ochkurova, the Head of the NGO “Centre of the Common Development “Active Community” (Starobilsk, Luhansk oblast; former Kadiivka (Stakhanov)).

Project «United Community» aims to unite the society, raise the level of tolerance and respect for each other that will help to create a dialogue and common view on the future between citizens.

Project «United Community» is implemented by IREX and GURT, with the support of U.S. Agency for the International Development (USAID).

Translated by Nataliia Iaremchuk

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