We are doing more digitally to empower young people as they prepare for independence. Teenagers have joined our weekly online meetings during times of isolation. For those who lost jobs, food support was a lifeline. And we are developing an app to reach many more care leavers with advice and support.
When a young person leaves a children’s home there are many challenges as they take responsibility for their own life and enter the working world for the first time. Other young people need extra support because their families have problems or because they lost their homes in the fighting in east Ukraine. Our STEP programme supports these vulnerable teenagers to give them better opportunities and preparation for independence. Every year we organise camps, master classes and excursions for young people ages 13 – 18. When quarantine was introduced we had to quickly rebuild plans and how we work.
Meeting up online
We know how hard it has been for families to cope with the corona crisis: parents lost their jobs, school was closed, and children’s homes were closed so young people went to relatives. What about teenagers? They went from busy classrooms and meeting up with friends to isolation and challenges at home.
So our STEP team organised weekly meetings to talk about staying safe online, myths and facts about the corona virus, and useful resources for self-development during lockdown. The world will be different after quarantine so we encouraged resilience and flexibility, and shared ideas to help young people stay connected, positive and active.
Giving food and understanding needs
In March we started giving food and hygiene products to families in crisis. You can read more about this in our news. This also helped young people from our STEP programme. A young mother who grew up in care had lost her job, and she was very thankful for the help to feed her two small children.
When delivering food in rural villages we took the chance to talk to the teenagers, as some of them usually live in children’s homes. They felt “detached from civilization” with so few opportunities near their homes. We asked about plans and so many said “to work abroad”. Sadly this can bring risks of exploitation or trafficking.
An App to empower independent living
How can we reach more young people to help them get a good education, find decent work and escape the cycle of poverty? A mobile app offers a solution, as it is an easily accessible platform for advice about work, gaining skills, and where to go for support.
To help us develop the concept for the app, more than 60 vulnerable teenagers from different cities of Ukraine responded to our survey. This gave insights to their needs and interests so we can create content tailored for them. We are also developing partnerships with experts and companies who can offer work experience so the app can be a link to practical help.
Stories on the app from young people who made the transition to independence will give opportunities for others to learn from their experience. Real examples of dishonest employers, difficulties of living in institutional care, problems with loan sharks and more will highlight challenges and offer hope for getting through them.
Once we introduce the app and provide more support to care leavers in the Lviv region there is potential to replicate the app for other regions of Ukraine.
If you want to join the STEP programme as a volunteer or partner, or have ideas for how to help, we will be very happy to hear from you!