The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Romania is mobilizing to support displaced young people from the war in Ukraine.
The impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on children and young people has been extraordinary, a press release from the British embassy said on Thursday.
According to the UN, more than 5 million people have already been displaced, with 3 million fleeing the country, primarily to neighboring countries. More than 1.5 million of these refugees are children and young people: displaced, lost, and vulnerable. They face a future that is deeply uncertain and numerous challenges not of their making. By improving their access to support and services these children and young people can be supported to build their strengths and resilience.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award in the region, with a focus on Romania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and working in partnership with the UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia , has been working to support the Ukrainian refugee response and humanitarian efforts. Through the joint Stand By Me initiative, the Award has mobilized participants and volunteers who have been actively involved in supporting these efforts through voluntary service. The Award’s focus is on preventing the medium to long-term disruption to the well-being of young people and their communities and on building their resilience and social inclusion.
Therefore, the Stand By Me initiative with the “Buddy Up” scheme is aimed at supporting young people deal with the huge impact of war and displacement on their mental health and well-being, mitigate the myriad of challenges and identify solutions to support and nurture new communities. The program aims to help young people build and sustain their resilience and provide safe spaces for them to come together.
We know from experience around the world that the Award’s focus on developing community service, peace-building, social action, improved physical and mental health and resilience is crucial for all young people and particularly for refugee communities. Moreover, leveraging UNICEF’s expertise in responding to emergencies, safeguarding and providing psychosocial support for the young people is a fundamental asset for the project and volunteers involved.
The ambition of the Stand by Me “Buddy up” program is that every young Ukrainian aged 14-24 would be supported by a young Romanian, Czech and/or Slovak buddy during their stay in our countries, for at least the first 12 – 24 months after their arrival. This would facilitate the process of social inclusion for young Ukrainians who will be better acquainted with their host communities, are supported to continue their studies and prepare for work and for life, whether back in Ukraine, or in other countries. This will be made possible by our unique infrastructure and educational framework, powered by Award Leaders (mentors) who support participants through their Award journey.
The Stand By Me program will run until July 2024, with the aim of scaling it further based on need. The project is already generating interest in other countries, including the Award in Bulgaria which is planning to join the Stand By Me program. The Award hopes to be able to share the initiative with any other country that has capacity to support displaced Ukrainian communities.
British Ambassador Andrew Noble said: “We have seen the devastating effect of Russian aggression on Ukrainian children and youth, so I welcome the launch of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award’s ‘Stand By Me’ initiative here in Romania and in the region.
„The Award is a global framework for non-formal education and learning, which challenges young people to dream big, celebrate their achievements and make a difference in their world. The „Stand by Me” program will focus on building the personal and social well-being of young Ukrainian people by equipping them with skills in problem-solving and teamwork. It seeks to empower them to overcome some of the challenges and obstacles they face today, and also, by giving them the tools needed to develop the confidence and resilience, they can start building a better future for a free and democratic Ukraine.”
Philippe Cori, Deputy Regional Director, UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia says: “UNICEF recognizes the importance of engaging with young people as partners in any humanitarian and crisis response. Whether it is war, epidemics, natural disasters or climate action – young people have demonstrated their capacity to make a unique contribution to the lives and well-being of their peers, families and communities. The joint UNICEF and Award Stand by Me program helps create connections and a sense of belonging and social cohesion between Ukrainian and host-community youth. It is a program that builds the skills and competence of young people and also builds bridges of peace and understanding among peoples”.
Olena Koval, Ukrainian Cultural Mediator acting as a UN volunteer in Romania says
“I see a lot of value in the Award program. It can influence Ukrainian youth in a good way. With an initiative such as Stand By Me, Ukrainian young people can continue to be active in their communities and take responsibility for themselves and their lives. I find this topic extremely important in the case of my community to help change some of the predominant narratives. So why shouldn’t we start with the youth? This generation is going to build the future Ukraine, right?”