Since the beginning of russia’s full-scale invasion in Ukraine NGO “Feminist workshop” has opened two shelters for women and children that were affected by war or/and that are in need of accomodation. Providing social services and social guidance to internally displaced persons (IDPs) is completely different from what our non-governmental organization was doing previously. However, we took on this work since a substantial number of people in our country currently lacking accommodation, food, and means of survival need to have their basic rights covered.
Since 2014 our organization has worked with women and girls, transgender and nonbinary people. Some of them belong to different categories of vulnerable populations: internally displaced persons, sexual minorities, people with different physical and mental health conditions profiles etc. Over the years we tried out different methods of providing non-violent help and applying various resources to solve difficult situations. When working in shelters we use these approaches and constantly improve them.
We opened our first shelter in mid-April. It is called FemApartment. There are 5 activists from all over the country (Kharkiv, Kyiv, Lviv) living there. They are young women experienced in volunteering and social activism, some even members of the NGOs. In that project our organization aims to support those that help other people.
FemApartment. Photo: Tanya Jafarova
By the third month of war, burnout of activists and volunteers is already a relevant problem in Ukraine. To a great extent it can be explained by the fact that it’s impossible to combine inspiring, albeit chaotic volunteering and work, and at times, with unemployment. We provide activists that live in our shelter with free accomodation, psychological counseling, minimum food basket, household chemicals and hygiene products.
Our residents engage in different forms of activism and volunteering: two girls are part of the team of Kharkiv grassroot initiative Bilkis. Since the beginning of the war they have distributed one-time humanitarian aid to more than 700 people. Another resident is an artist: she’s a musician that creates feminist rap and manages an Instagram page for military wives that fundraise for ammunition for the military. Mother and daughter from Kyiv lived in the FemApartment for a month and a half. Archaeologist and professor spent her off-duty time volunteering in “Center of united solutions” while her daughter was weaving camouflage nets. We were recently joined by the activist from the Lviv oblast. She asked for shelter as she’s a student and she can’t afford to rent an apartment given recent price increases. She wants to be closer to people in need of help. That help is indeed much needed: there are more than 242 thousands of officially registered internally displaced persons in Lviv. Therefore, our collective decided to support her by offering temporary accommodation. That provided her an opportunity to become a manager in another shelter of ours. Since the beginning of war she has volunteered a lot, translating for American doctors that were helping IDPs in Lviv and distributing humanitarian aid on the Polish border.
Shelter for women and children
On June 1 the team of the Feminist Workshop opened the large shelter for IDPs in the center of the city. This shelter creates a comfortable environment offering temporary stay and rehabilitation to internally displaced women and children affected by war. This shelter is a spacious and lovely house with 18 people living in it. 9 of them are children of different ages, with the youngest being two months old and the oldest 13 years old. 90% of people are families from the Donetsk oblast, there is also a girl from southern Ukraine and a woman from Kharkiv.
Shelter for children and women* in Lviv. Photo: Tania Jafarova
There are three duty managers and a coordinator in the shelter. For 12 hours a day they help to handle everyday problems, support the residents, keep order, spend time with children, and order and distribute food, water, hygiene products on a daily basis. Thrice a week our professional babysitter and tutor Ivanka spends three hours a day with children. They play in the playroom or go to the parks, visit eco center etc. Since June 15 child psychologists/ art therapists from the Malteser Ukraine began working with children. They will hold a meeting once a week. Every two weeks adult residents of the shelter have the tenant’s meeting moderated by the psychologist Natalya. There we discuss important daily matters and get to know each other better, learn to live together and to help each other. After two meetings some residents asked for individual therapy sessions, and we consider it a good result of our work. World Central Kitchen provides us with two meals per day for every resident and fruit for children every day till the end of June. Residents of the shelter can also participate in the open events held by our organization.
Both shelters are stocked with everything necessary (bedding, blankets, dishes, towels, home decor, games for children etc.) thanks to the help of our friends and partners. We are greatful to Arena Lviv, Lviv activists of the Feminist Workshop and dozens of people that keep bringing things necessary for the comfort of our residents.
All members of The Feminist Workshop including the crisis team that coordinates the work are proud of the shelters we made.
The majority of municipal shelters organized in schools and kindergartens are to be shut down by the end of June, in order to get the facilities ready for work in autumn. Large number of refugees are once again in search of accomodation. The majority of people that live in our shelters had lived in Lviv and Lviv oblast for several months, but they faced the need to search for new accommodation. Two members of our team are internally displaced persons themselves. That is why helping women with children affected by the war is also a personal matter for us — all of us aspire to return a feeling of Home and Safety in our own special ways.
Text: Kateryna Dovbnia, manager of NGO "Feminist Workshop" Translate: Kira Leonova