How the Konrad Adenauer Foundation Assists in the Development of the Ukrainian Youth

Vitalii Naida is a student at the Kharkiv National University of Internal Affairs, Ukraine. He has experience in creating, coordinating and managing social projects, as his initiative group received a grant from UNICEF for the implementation of a social project on the re-socialization of struggling teenagers called “Step Up: School for Active Teens”. He received the title of public detective (trained in “Wikiinvestigation”) and participated in anti-corruption investigations. He also implemented the Derzhavotvorets project for active Ukrainian youth, the purpose of which was to familiarize young people with the activities of state authorities, business and public organizations in Kharkiv.

Ukraine | June 27, 2020 | Student Essay

Youth is our future! I want to believe that this future will give us all chances for development. And for this, young people must get a good education, work with government at all levels and start their own business. Ukraine needs such young people, but the situation in our country is far from ideal. In 2018, only 19.5% of young people participated in the activities of civil society organizations in Ukraine [1], and in 2017 only 2.9% of young people aged 19–34 indicated that they were members of some political party [2]. One in five working young people works informally, and a total of 3.7 million informally employed – 37.9% are people aged 15-34 [3]. The 2018 survey showed that 33.9% of young people surveyed in Ukraine have not attended any additional educational activities in the last 3 years [1].

         Behind all these figures are someone’s shattered dreams, unwritten books and unfinished projects. I was born and raised in a poor area of ​​Kharkiv, where I often encountered the indifference and passivity of young people. When I decided to become a police officer, my father, who had served in the police force for more than twenty years, told me that it would be better for me to go to work and study abroad. But I was adamant about my dream and later I was able to convince my father that a young man can find his place in Ukraine.

         The Konrad Adenauer Foundation played an important role in my dream journey. The activities of the Foundation in the field of youth work in Ukraine are similar to those launched in Germany in 1949-1963 by the first Federal Chancellor of Germany Konrad Adenauer. He restored a decent standard of living, built a social market economy and became famous in the international arena. The Foundation, named after him, helps young and active people in Ukraine to expand their understanding of Germany, implement their own social projects and explore the social and political spheres.

My acquaintance with the Foundation began with the Higher Political School program, where I was taught what political ideologies and legal culture are, how Plato and Aristotle looked at politics, why we need energy efficiency and renewable energy. Of all the political ideologies, the Christian Democratic was the closest to me. I value freedom, solidarity and equality the most. I also support the European idea, the social market economy and democracy. In my final reflection of this program, for the first time in my life I realized and expressed my life mission out loud – to promote the image of an honest and trustworthy police officer in society.

After this program, I decided that I wanted to become a scholarship holder  of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. At that time I had about forty scientific publications, many victories in essay competitions, but I did not succeed the first time… I realized that I have to improve the skills of community service along with scientific activities to have a better chance of becoming a scholarship holder. Then I realized that knowledge has value only when you can apply it in practical sphere to benefit people. My best friend Ivan Panasco and I implemented a project to help in socializing of difficult teenagers, understood what it was like to set a project budget, go to schools and select participants, organize trainings and fun trips to the movies for children in difficult situations. After that, on the second attempt, I was very happy to read the announcement that I had been selected as a scholarship holder.

My first Foundation seminar in Dnipro [4] was opened by the former President of the European Parliament Hans Petering with an inspiring Speech on Europe. I had the opportunity to visit the Museum of the Memory of the Jewish People. I was struck by the German nation’s highest awareness of the grave consequences of the Holocaust and its readiness to support the development of Jewish culture even seventy-five years later. The next day we met with the Deputy Consul General of Germany in Donetsk, who told us about the consequences of the Russian aggression in the Donbas and the need to establish peace in Ukraine. At this first seminar, I met other scholarship holders of the Foundation of both sets: young EU ambassadors to Ukraine, members of student government and physicists who can spend hours fascinatingly talking about the structure of the atom or dark matter. In such an environment, you feel a great desire for self-improvement, you do not hold back tears while saying goodbye to these people who are close to you in spirit.

At the second seminar [5] I was impressed by the presentation about the Duisburg Landscape Park, where a world-class amusement park was erected in the buildings of the old factory. I thought about dozens of abandoned factories in Ukraine… How creativity helps to save the economy and the environment! We met with Denis Tkachev, who told us about Germany’s donor support for social projects in Ukraine aimed at rebuilding war-torn schools in Donbas, opening youth centers and purchasing medical equipment[6]. This seminar coincided with the period before the Christmas holidays, so I had the opportunity to taste the traditional German Stollen, to learn about how Christmas is celebrated in Germany.

After these seminars, I took part in the Foundation’s Security Forum, where I learned how to remain as objective as possible in the context of Russia’s information war against Ukraine. The Foundation supported my social project to organize a Forum that would unite Kharkiv poets and singers around patriotism, democracy and other social issues.

The scholarship program gave me much more than just additional funding: new reliable friends, experience in community service and much more. I see that the activities of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation help Ukrainian youth to break the sad statistics of the past years and build their successful future.

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