9 June 2017

The conflict in Eastern Ukraine over the past two years has resulted in the forced migration of 1.6 million Ukrainians. In a country that is already facing considerable financial and social challenges, the integration of such a large number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) puts a massive strain on local communities.

 

Within this context, streetfootballworld and its network member Cross Cultures Project Association have teamed up to build community cohesion in three of the most heavily impacted regions of Eastern Ukraine - Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhya. From May 29th to 31st, a seminar was organised with close to 100 representatives of the project from all three regions in the city of Dnipro to strengthen their local networks and develop strategies to further promote social cohesion using football. Participants were brought together from a diverse group of stakeholders, including coaches, school teachers, local authorities, the police, psychologists and young leaders from the communities. The diversity of the group is a reflection of the understanding that it takes a coordinated approach from many different sections of society in order to integrate young IDPs and their families and foster strong relations within their host communities.

 

The seminar included practical sessions on how to use football to inspire interaction between different groups, a mapping exercise of local networks and the agreement on core values, visions and targets for each of the three regions – all with the help of playing with Lego!

 

The conflict in Eastern Ukraine is the most serious in Europe since the Balkan Wars in the 1990s. Through this project, which is being supported by the GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Government, Cross Cultures Project Association and its Open Fun Football Schools programme is striving to ensure that the consequences of the conflict in Ukraine do not lead to the same division of communities that continues to hinder the improvement of daily life for young people across the Balkans. The energy and dedication of the seminar participants on building a better society for all Ukrainians is a sign of hope in very challenging circumstances.