How Businesswoman from Donbas Became a Volunteer and Helps Refugees

The businesswoman from Luhansk oblast of Ukraine Oleksandra Izuita organizes humanitarian aid for refugees. At the same time, Olesya (as she calls herself) is twice internally displaced person.

The woman first left her home in 2014, when the war came to Luhansk and the Russians occupied her hometown. At that time an actress by education, Olesya worked as an art director of an entertainment center and had a group of animators. Together with her family, the woman moved from the regional center to the town of Kreminna of Luhansk oblast and began looking for a way to earn a living. There was no children's entertainment center in the small town. Olesya decided that this idea could be promising.

«Mosaic» center became the first such center in a small town «Mosaic» center became the first such center in a small townIn 2019, with the grant support of international donors, the woman created a children's entertainment center «Mosaic». It became the first such center in a small town. Children came here to play air hockey, celebrate birthdays, and jump on trampolines among bright balls.

A whole team of animators worked with Olesya. Gradually, teenagers, who had nowhere to go, began to gather at the door of the center. They saw that the institution was bustling with life, although younger children were having fun there. Olesya decided to organize teenagers and created a youth organization. Now the teenagers also had an active life — volunteering, eco-camps, workshops, and trips. Altogether they were already preparing to open the first hub in the city.

All this was suspended on February 24, when Russia attacked Ukraine.

In March, Olesya and her family left Kreminna. All the equipment remained in her center, the woman became an internally displaced person for the second time.

«I regret that did not take the equipment out of the center because I had the opportunity to do so. Then I thought, who needs children's entertainment if the war in Ukraine. Now it's scary to go to Luhansk oblast, Kreminna is occupied, I don't know what happened to my center.»

Once in Vinnytsia, Olesya decided not to sit back and help people. So the businesswoman became a volunteer.

«In the first days of the war, I wrote an application for a small grant from the Danish Refugee Council. I knew how to write such applications — because I already had experience in communicating with donors. My application for assistance to residents of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts was approved,» Olesya says.

By the time the grant was allocated, Kreminna was already under occupation. So Olesya started buying food and delivering it to places where Kreminna residents settled compactly.

«I saw that many people came out from the shelling, they did not have basic necessities. Many needed pillows, kettles, and hygiene products. I saw a situation where people lived in a dormitory, and there was an electric kettle on the whole floor, in which they heated water for tea and to wash. At the same time, people were given pasta and cereals every day, but in fact, they often did not need it at all,» Olesya says.

A team of teenagers who went to Olesya’s center created a Telegram channel, which united the residents of Kreminna, who were forced to leave their homes. 17-year-old Mykyta Horbatenko created this channel, which allowed to unite the residents of Kreminna in different regions and cities. Now Kreminna residents live in Vinnytsia, Volyn, Dnipropetrovsk, Rivne, Cherkasy, and other oblasts.

«Thanks to this channel, we have united people who moved around Ukraine, elected coordinators in each city, studied the needs, communicated, and tried to help. People of retirement age need food and medicine, and those over 40 need knowledge. This is what the refugees are saying. It inspires me that people are ready to work, study, and adapt to life in a new place.»

Olesya says that in a few months she learned to ride new vehicles, including trucks, learned where there are wholesale bases, how to negotiate a discount in supermarkets when buying products for humanitarian aid, and how to support IDPs from the East who sew bedding. linen.

«It's not something I'm used to doing at home, but if I can be useful now, I'll do it.»

She is also looking for an opportunity to open an early childhood development center in Vinnytsia, where six-year-olds can come to prepare for school.

Olesya believes that soon her cozy green Kreminna will be under the Ukrainian flag again, and she will return to her center to develop with children her small town in Luhansk oblast.

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