“Today, millions of Ukrainian children are scattered around the world. We’re committed to strengthen their ties with their hometowns by developing ideas on how to improve those cities after the kids return. We analyzed their experience in Warsaw: infrastructural, environmental, and human-centered solutions that could serve as an example for many Ukrainian cities and communities. We saw how strong the children’s love for their cities is and how useful the experience of living here in Warsaw was, despite the hardship,” tells Iryna Ozymok about the Club.
The Club presupposed five special events with invited experts. In their course, the participants discussed nature in the city and sustainable development with a focus on what the strategies of modern cities should look like, keeping in mind the preservation of the environment for future generations; business as a key element of urban development; and rebuilding schools as safe, creative, environmentally friendly and barrier-free spaces. The children scrutinized examples of interaction in cities, studied interesting initiatives, and most importantly, developed and proposed their own solutions to improve their cities.
The events were attended by kids from Kyiv, Kharkiv, Pavlohrad, Bucha, Lutsk, Hrebinka, Dnipro, Lviv, and Simferopol. The participants not only had a chance to get acquainted and share their personal experiences of staying in Warsaw, but also learned to analyze the new knowledge they had gained on the topics chosen by the Club. The children skillfully “tried” the international experience they have heard about and were living through “on” their hometowns in Ukraine, defining possible options for the practical implementation of ideas upon their return home. An important part of the program was meetings with industry experts, where kids could hear firsthand practical advice, exchange ideas, and discuss current urban issues in Poland and Ukraine.
Oleksandra Sladkova, an urban ecologist from Lviv, who told about green spaces in cities and their importance for the future, was among the invited experts. The kids also met with Marharyta Didichenko, an architect and urban expert who helped model the dream schools, and Kyrylo Zharkovsky, a geoinformation solutions specialist at a Warsaw-based technology company SmartFactor, who spoke about innovative solutions in cities, including those to fight illegal advertising and improve the efficiency of local services. Another expert from SmartFactor, Shymon Tsiupa, shared insights about projects and services in the smart city sphere, sustainable development, geoinformation, and e-administration that are being brought to life in many Polish cities. Making a step to curb excessive consumption, children also gave a second life to clothes. To do this, Ukrainian designer Yasia Khomenko developed special stickers for kids.
“The City Is Me” Urban Club is truly unique. We have developed an exceptional method of working on complex and adult topics in an interesting and informative way, where children learn about new aspects of city life through games and interactive presentations, and at the same time can start a discussion with top industry experts, offer their solutions, and ask for their advice,” adds Anna Olkhova, Head of the “Child Effect” NGO and co-initiator of the Urban Clubs program.
The format of the Club presupposed each meeting to be attended by volunteers from local universities who helped the organizers hold classes and showed how to be active youth by their own example, sharing their experience and impressions of life in Europe, and talking about student life and their universities. In Warsaw, students from the Leon Kozminski Academy and Vistula University joined the Club. Thus, the Club organizers focused on the future of teenagers and gave them a chance to learn at this age about various university courses on urban studies.
“Supporting educational initiatives for children and youth is one of the basic action lines of our foundation. Understanding the trends of rational urban development is a long-term investment in cooperation between Ukraine and Poland,” said Yelyzaveta Maiorova, coordinator of the Children and Youth Department at the Ukrainian House in Warsaw.