What are the coordinates of the successful community?
May 4, 2023
An NGO in the Novoushytska hromada (community) of Khmelnytskyi Oblast, with the support of the EU4Dialogue project of the European Union and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has opened a social laundry and thus brought together internally displaced persons and locals.
When trying to save yourself and your family from the occupation, you don't think about a bed with an orthopedic mattress and don't drag a washing machine with you. You take everything you can and pack it into a small suitcase.
We decided to visit a community that had opened a social laundry for internally displaced persons. This place has become a cozy, safe space where people do their laundry and find new friends and support.
“This project is about people, not washing machines,” says Tetiana Hotsuliak, the NGO "Coordinates of the Successful Community" co-founder
The GPS navigation led us to the Novoushytska territorial community in Khmelnytskyi Oblast, which unites 58 villages, the village of Zahrodske, and Nova Ushytsia urban town settlement. Tetiana Hotsuliak, the NGO "Coordinates of the Successful Community" co-founder, was waiting for us here.
Before the full-scale invasion, the team had been promoting children and youth comprehensive development. They held various events and organized hikes, including hiking routes along the Dniester River.
"When I worked at a college—my first job—I spent much time with young people aged 16-18. I always felt they were underestimated and not paid enough attention. I wanted to contribute to developing these girls and boys. As it turned out, these children will become fully launched if they get proper knowledge and skills in this period," says Tetiana. "However, the invasion forced us to radically change the direction of our work and implement projects to support IDPs."
With the support of the European Union and UNDP in Ukraine, under EU4Dialogue program, the NGO team opened a social laundry in Nova Ushytsia for internally displaced persons living in small villages in the community.
"In the beginning, when we discussed the coming laundry, we were thinking more about how to meet the basic needs of newcomers and help in everyday life. But shortly after the opening, we realized that the socialization of people was the core. Even though they must make an appointment for a certain time, they come with their families and stay for three to four hours to talk to like-minded people," says Tetiana.
There is a washing machine and a dryer in the Novoushytske Village Council's Social Services Center. Two more washing machines are in the dormitory of the Novoushytske lyceum. In addition to the appliances, both premises have everything necessary for washing, drying, and ironing. These services are free of charge for internally displaced people and socially vulnerable groups.
"In the center, we distribute humanitarian aid, provide social services, and do laundry. The IDPs are like family; here, something is always going on! Therefore, this project is about people, not washing machines," assures Tetiana Hotsuliak.
The NGO team faced numerous challenges in starting the social laundry.
"I thought this was probably our most unsuccessful project. From the beginning, we faced ongoing problems," says Tetiana Hotsuliak. "We believed the whole thing was pretty much effortless, the budget was minimal, and we expected neither renovation nor any events."
In the summer of 2022, the NGO "Coordinates of the Successful Community" budgeted funds for washing machines, small appliances, and a salary for the person to oversee the laundry. In reality, it took three weeks to find three matching washing machines.
"As soon as equipment for the laundry was ready for installation, the sewer broke, and we asked the village head for help as reporting deadline was approaching. The head allocated funds from the local budget, and soon after, they began replacing collectors and repairing pipes," says Tetiana Hotsuliak.
The long-awaited moment finally arrived: everything was fixed, the laundry room was set up, and invitations were sent. Five minutes before the opening, the air raid siren goes off.
"People came, but we couldn't let them in and asked them to go to the shelter and wait until it sounded all-clear. It felt as if everything was against us," Tetiana recalls with a smile. "We opened the social laundry in the presence of the village head and local authorities. The raid lasted for three hours. Since then, there have been no more troubles."
"It is crucial for us to work not only for IDPs but also for people with disabilities,” says Tetiana Hotsuliak, the NGO "Coordinates of the Successful Community" co-founder
One of the unique features of the social laundry is its exceptional availability for people with disabilities. The facilities are equipped with not only wheelchair ramps but also specially designed restrooms and places for rest.
"It is crucial for us to work not only for IDPs but also for people with disabilities. For example, my friend's son has severe cerebral palsy: although Denys can't walk, he actively helps his parents," says Tatiana Gotsulyak.
"I remember coming to work; everyone was shocked, stunned. I just stood there with those oranges in my hands," Tetiana Hotsuliak, the NGO "Coordinates of the Successful Community" co-founder, about the beginning of the full-scale invasion
24 February 2022 is the day the NGO "Coordinates of the Successful Community" co-founder associates with oranges.
"I was not ready for the invasion; I did not believe it. I got up on Thursday morning, dressed, and went to the market to buy some oranges. Because it's a tradition: I always buy oranges in winter. Immediately my sister calls and cries hysterically: "Where are you? Are you running home to our parents in the countryside?" Tetiana Hotsuliak recalls that day. "I remember coming to work; everyone was shocked, stunned. I just stood there with those oranges in my hands."
After nearly a week of uncertainty, the team gets back to work. Someone with diabetes needs needles for injections; someone needs medicines after surgery. We ought to get it done. Someone was collecting aid for IDPs. Someone was delivering food by truck. Some picked newcomers up, and others resettled them.
“Despite the problems, life goes on,” says Tetiana Hotsuliak, the NGO "Coordinates of the Successful Community" co-founder
"In this way, we managed to overcome apathy and internal burnout pretty quickly, which helped us a lot," admits Tetiana. "I am extremely grateful to my team for everyone's role. Someone calms me down; others run to make arrangements. Someone quietly does their job, and someone does more than they should. Despite the problems, life goes on."
Tetiana believes that Ukraine will be totally different after the victory: free as well as strong.
"Of course, it will not be easy for everybody. But I think Ukraine will change. People will start appreciating things they may not have noticed earlier: family, home, children, a piece of bread, and electricity. A peaceful, quiet sky. Victory will give an impetus, an inspiration to quickly restore everything and make it better. It will be difficult in the first years. However, by working together we will be able to make a country where people will want to come and stay," Tetiana is convinced.
So, what are the coordinates of the successful community? Is it where you were given a safe haven, or where you help people yourself? Everyone will find the right answer in their hearts. "The key is to never give up," believes Tetiana Hotsuliak.
The NGO "Coordinates of the Successful Community” is one of the organizations that received support within the program “Response of civil society to the needs of women and men, especially those living in hard-to-reach places and representatives of vulnerable groups” supported by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the EU-funded EU4Dialogue regional programme to address the most urgent needs of war-affected communities in Ukraine. The EU4Dialogue programme aims to build a solid foundation for peace by creating better socioeconomic conditions and a safe environment for war-affected communities.
Author: Marharyta Lubkova
Photos: Artem Poznanskyi
Note: This article has been produced with the European Union's and UNDP's financial assistance under the EU4Dialogue programme. The contents do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of the European Union and UNDP.
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