It was still warm when I arrived in September in Severodonetsk, eastern Ukraine. In this small city located on 30 kilometers from the contact line I would assist the local NGO Postup in awareness raising on human rights and conducting different educational activities. Though as a volunteer I was not allowed to come any close the contact line, I would ‘see’ the conflict on a daily basis through our contact with the locals and IDP’s, or seeing the soldiers and army tanks heading to the front.
As the autumn arrived, temperature dropped below zero and white snow covered this grey Soviet city, daily life was taking place inside most of my stay. On a weekly basis I would conduct different weekly activities: my local English speaking clubs for teenagers and for adults, a psychosocial creative activity for children on the Saturday morning, weekly teaching on a local school. We would visit schools in the region and talk about different issues.
On Thursday nights it was time for women issues. As I am convinced that there are many women intimate subjects that deserve more attention and less taboo feelings, I started together with my colleague volunteer a Women circle. We talked about issues like menstruation, PMS, sexual consent, vulnerability of woman, but also practiced self-defense. We even found a gynecologist that would talk about different ways of contraception and would any answer any question about health. After some months we created a little group of women that would regularly visit our group in an atmosphere of trust.
No big mountains were moved by me, but it are those little things, that were very rewarding and made this all worth it. The happy faces of people that really appreciated the activities we organized, or the students in my weekly class that in the last lesson all would thank me in English.
*The story of Francisca Westgeest within SuDHAV project (EUAidVolunteers Initiative) from eastern Ukraine.