In a report made by Cross Cultures in 2019/2020 on the Open Fun Football Schools (OFFS) and the School+Sport+Police (SSP) project season 2 in Ukraine, several stories of change were collected by regional coach coordinators. The stories cover positive changes taking place at several levels in society – Children involved, voluntary coaches, changes within the community and in cross-sector collaborations. Changes that have materialised as a result of the Cross Cultures collaboration with UAF and AUFCR in Ukraine. Cross Cultures main focus in Ukraine is on engaging parents, schools, sport clubs, police, and local government in a united effort to promote social inclusion and build a cross-sectorial structure for juvenile crime prevention.
Below are the stories from the report:
It was in 2017 when Oleksandr Kurylenko got involved in the project. He was not an easy child to deal with and had learning and communication difficulties with his teachers and peers at school. His behaviour made him change schools – from school No.16 to gymnasium No.1, and then to No.18 in Bila Tserkva.
It was thanks to the OFFS project that he started practising football at “Zmina” Junior and Youth Sports School in Bila Tserkva. With the help of his coach and OFFS volunteer V. Merkushev, Oleksandr managed to improve his behaviour and study performance. He finished school No.18 at a “Good” knowledge evaluation level.
Upon completing secondary education Oleksandr continued to play football and entered the National University of Ukraine on Physical Education and Sport in Kyiv.
Myroslav Marchenko, an IDP child who was forced to leave city of Luhansk with his parents back in 2014 was among OFFS Festival participants in Artsyz town in 2019. At the Festival Myroslav made acquaintances with his peers from other schools in town. It stood out so clearly how much he enjoyed playing games and doing different exercises together with volunteers, being involved into creative activities with his school psychologist, as well as listening carefully to a policeman. When the Festival ended he even didn’t want to take his branded T-shirt off and was wearing it all the time everywhere he went. Shortly after big football festivity was over, he encouraged his new friends he had met at the Festival to join junior football school. And now they keep practicing football together.
Having enjoyed much their participation in OFFS Project, pupils of 4th B Grade at the secondary school No.75 in Zaporizhzhia suffering disorders of psychological development were keen on taking a try at extracurricular football club.
Zaporizhzhia Regional Football Association arranged free trial football lesson for them with 15 children involved. During the football lesson a friendly was played where pupils with disorders of psychological development from secondary school No. 75 celebrated their win.
The above fact proves that football is an unexpected game where there is no room for any division among children. All those involved into the lesson got so many positive emotions, and five of those continued practicing football at the football club. Parents also admitted how playing football created positive impact for children and especially for their health status.
Vika N. studies at the 4th Grade in Berezanka rural town and showed impressive changes in her behavior after she had taken part in OFFS project events and CSP team from Mykolaiv region helped her to work things out.
She was constantly displaying offensive behaviors to others and kept saying all people around her were bad. She showed signs of aggressive behavior (badly gossiping, screaming and stamping feet).
It was at the OFFS Festival that the girl found true friends and even opened her heart to them. CSP team members taught her to listen to others, keep negative emotions under control and how to try to resolve conflicts by compromising things rather than by mutual offences and shouting out loud.
The 6th Grade pupil Andriy V. from Rybakivka village was living in single-parent household and thus, found himself in an environment of animosity with ongoing conflicts between parents for a long time. This might make him feel very lonely with lack of self-confidence and isolated from others, impacted his bad studies at school and provoked indifference towards his classmates and school in general.
After he had taken part in OFFS Festival & related events and the psychologist from CSP team had worked with him, the boy got interested in sports and joined football club soon that helped him to develop his self-belief and gain confidence by virtue of winning and succeeding in football.
Maksym R.’s behavior from 3rd Grade in Mykhailivka village has also changed drastically. His self-esteem has always been too high and he expressed himself by humiliating his peers. By the way, such a behavior sometimes was appreciated by his parents.
His participation in OFFS Festival & related events made Maksym more sociable and helped him to learn to support people around him, and sometimes he was even the one who taught football elements to his peers & team mates in his team set up within the Festival.
Here goes the story of Kostia Liubymov’s life who was born in 2010 in Severodonetsk. The boy is very active and he never stuck with any particular extracurricular activity for long. However, he’s been always seen hanging around sports school.
One time he offered a treat to his football coach – a chewy candy – that made his coach feel little nauseous. The coach found out about cases when children were offered for free or were sold candies laced with drugs at a little price. He paid attention to the boy and had a serious talk with him where it turned out the latter was from a conflictual family – he had no father and his mother had an alcohol abuse problem.
By virtue of his involvement in OFFS Festival, the coach managed to make the boy interested in sports activities, and the latter displayed an interest to take football classes and was enrolled into football club at Junior and Youth Sport School No.2 in Severodonetsk in accordance with his age group.
The coach presented Kostya a football provided he would never take any candies like those again.
Now Kostya is being much involved in sports activities succeeding at his football classes.
After OFFS Festivals & related events were over all young participants from families in difficult circumstances were willing to enroll in sports clubs and now they all keep going in for sports equally with their peers from well-to-do families. Figures read as follows:
– Valkivsky district – 63 children under the aforementioned category;
– Kupians’k town – 9 children joined “Mriya” Football Club (football kit & equipment provided free of charge); 4 children joined “ALEV” private cycling club; 2 children joined boxing club at “Metalurh” Junior and Youth Sports School; 1 child joined handball club in Kupians’k Junior & Youth Sports School.
– Derhachivsky district – 10 children joined football club, 4 – tourism club; 2 – biathlon club; and 5 – basketball club.
CSP team members keep working with those children and admit how their achievements in sports made a major impact on improving children’s relationship with peers and their school studies.
Kateryna is a project volunteer:
«My name is Kateryna. In 2018 and 2019 I was involved in the OFFS Festival organization & management as a volunteer. This was a brand-new experience for me, ‘cause until then I haven’t got a chance either to work with children or organize major sporting events for them.
It was very interesting to prepare for such a major and important event as I had to familiarize myself with information on many important aspects of working with children, especially with those from vulnerable social groups, such as IDP children, children from conflictual families etc. Other volunteers in our team who were working as teachers, coaches, the policeman at juvenile prevention, as well as school psychologist were of great help to me. The seminar for volunteers right before the project launch in Zaporizhzhia was very useful for me as I learned a load of information essential for my volunteering for this project.
To be involved in the project means to be in constant contact with children who are in need of special attention from psychologists and school. I was very interested to know how to get it right when it comes to establishing collaboration with police and schools to achieve a common goal that is to help children having issues with social adaptation.
Having studied the files (photos, footage and publications) of the workshops for volunteers and on OFFS in the region, many teachers set their hearts upon organizing similar events at their districts.
The collaboration with volunteers in Akymiv and Zaporizhzhia districts and from Enerhodar town, where OFFS festivals had not been staged before, resulted in staging OFFS “Sweet Cups” competitions by volunteers and local communities under their own steam.
The emotional response and results achieved by children led to volunteers’ decision to run these events on a regular basis. “We consider staging events of such a kind to reward children for their school achievements. It will motivate kids a lot.” – was well-spotted by one of the volunteers.
In 2019 OFFS Festival was held in Skvyra town. At the Festival Bohdan Linchiuk, a coach of local junior and youth sports school has proved his skills as children’s festive event manager and a volunteer. His firmness and determination in decision-making encouraged more than 60 kids in Skvyra district who had taken part in the Festival to start taking football classes.
Now, two teams representing local junior and youth sports school compete in Kyiv Regional Football Championship.
After her involvement with OFFS Festival, Olena Kirpa, a practicing psychologist from Severodonetsk town, got interested in the idea behind this project and started to be of great help to “Khimik” Youth Football Academy.
She sets up free sessions with children with main focus on raising their emotional level of self-esteem and confidence.
That was OFFS Festival & related project events in Novoaidar rural town that made coaches at local junior and youth sports clubs drastically reconsider and change approaches to training and competitive process for young footballers.
The approach was shifted from «team win hell or high water» towards the development of personality and individual skills & qualities for every young footballer. Trainings sessions started to be held in more positive playing and entertaining environment, less shouting from coaches was admitted at competitions that resulted in more positive emotional response from children towards football classes.
The coaches admitted that kids were set freer and started to smile at training sessions more often and enjoy matches more.
While recruiting volunteer teams for project implementation in Mykolaiv, some volunteers doubted the success of non-governmental non-profit making initiative based on pure volunteerism.
However, having attended project workshops and OFFS Festival and actually seen the fruits of the job done and children’s eyes lit up with enthusiasm, teachers and coaches affirmed that this project turned out to be as exciting for them as it was for kids.
Volunteers set up a strong team and now keep doing activities for kids on a voluntary and regular basis.
Yulia Kostiuchenko is a P.E. instructor at the secondary school No.53 in Mykolaiv and teaches aerobics and fitness classes.
Yevhen Gryshyn is a psychologist and helps children to manage difficult situations they face in life.
Hanna Hlibova is a P.E. instructor at the boarding school No.3 and assists to grassroots sporting event management.
Olena Klepatska coaches at “Spartak” Junior and Youth Sports School and gives free football classes at football club both for boys and girls.
Olena Kryventsova, regional project coordinator in Kharkiv region:
«Volunteering as a team is very rewarding for parents and children and for the community. Especially it is important for those who need this kind of motivation.
There are volunteer groups who motivate a lot by doing on-site traveling educational seminars in picturesque locations of Ukraine, the way they do in Derhachy. Others act like Merefa dwellers and establish their own team brand. Such experienced volunteer groups do training & educational sessions for those who is willing to become a volunteer using OFFS toolkit.
Unique interregional festival held at the premises of “Yuvileinyi” children’s recreational summer camp in Prymorsk town in Zaporizhzhia region is a role model. Volunteers from Kharkiv region submitted their proposal to stage a festival to the camp management, and once it was approved they set up a group of interested camp staff to held coaching sessions. It should be noted that at the same time volunteers from Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia region were also working in the camp. Throughout the week of Festival preparations experienced volunteers were sharing their experience and expertise in staging similar events and giving instructions on training methods. In return, well-trained volunteers demonstrated a great deal of creativity and were very initiative. At the date of football festivity summer camp was caught in a swirl of emotions with more kids than expected having taken part in it – 196 in total. As always, the festivity was remembered for a bunch of new and good acquaintances. Participants confessed they didn’t expect this event would bring them such good vibes and positivity.
One of the young camp leaders Maksym Kovalenko was so enthusiastic about the whole OFFS idea that decided to kick-off street games in his local district in Kharkiv. Today his team successfully has their training sessions at the school sports camp, takes part in city tournaments while their inspired leader does his military service at the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Youth leaders / Young volunteers / Senior pupils and their networking
OFFS Project encouraged young volunteers to open two extracurricular football clubs at their schools in Mykhailiv and Orikhiv districts.
Owing to their invaluable experience to this project, volunteers give qualified regular classes for 7-year-olds obeying the rule: the most important thing at this age is to inculcate a love for playing into kids and not to train them like sportsmen. It’s so pleasant to note that more than 20 IDP kids from temporarily occupied territories train at these sports clubs.
The project itself inspired three senior pupils, who are young project leaders, to try to enter pedagogical academic institutions. They said they wanted to work with kids in future.
Yaroslav Kulahin is a true leader among young project volunteers in Kyiv region. In 2018 he got involved in the project for the very first time by joining international camp for young leaders in Kharkiv. He was playing for “Zmina” Bila Tserkva and demonstrating his leadership traits with every step he made.
Over his time at the camp and project volunteer workshops he gained invaluable experience of volunteering, and in 2019 he was the one to involve other young volunteers into staging OFFS festivals in Kyiv region.
Nowadays Yarovlav is a student at National University of Ukraine on Physical Education and Sport in Kyiv.
The role of young leaders in OFFS project in Mykolaiv region is just as important as of adult volunteers’ one.
Sometimes their impact on children is even higher due to a small age gap. For instance, young project leaders – male and female footballers – encouraged a number of children from boarding schools with obvious problems with education and discipline to take football classes. Those kids were missing school and disrupting lessons, smoking out behind their schools. And kid parent-teacher meetings had no significant effect.
That was the time young volunteers came to rescue because they knew their interests and circle of close friends. The kids were flattered by all the attention given to them by senior comrades, so they followed their piece of advice to try themselves at football school. It took a while for new sporting environment and football interests to bring those children good positive effect.
It was quite telling to see how young leaders changed, i.e. project participants, boys and girls aged 16 – 19 from Artsyz district. It stood out how much their attitude towards youth volunteer movement changed. Before they took their involvement with very first project events and experience of staying at the Camp for Young Leaders in Kharkiv like “fun”, a game for senior pupils they were in together.
And only having completed their training course at international networking camp in Kharkiv with more experienced leaders from other countries, they started to show more adult behavior and saw how easily they could get along even when speaking non-native language and how much they had in common with progressive leaders from other countries.
Having been directly involved into in a vast number of events as organizers they were very excited to help the little ones with exercises and games. It was evident how responsible and thrilled they were to be a part of such a great festivity. They took pride in bringing joy to the kids who desperately needed it.
Kharkiv region has a vast experience in youth leadership within OFFS project. About 10 young volunteers were raised with OFFS where they ingrained their vocation or chose their future profession.
Among them is Yuriy Zhylin who plays for “Utkiv” Football Club and coaches junior football team being their patron too.
By taking part in this project ambitious youngsters get an opportunity to communicate with successful individuals, to grow professionally at coaching that result in shifting priorities for better towards healthy lifestyle. The story of Rostyslav Gurin’s life exemplifies how much he grew as a person. By being actively involved in OFFS events organizing & staging over his school years he managed not only to get out of “bad” environment but become a successful coach of “Arsenal” junior football team where he led his IDP footballers to success.
Anastasia Shchokalo worked her interesting way through being a leader of pupil’s self-government and many times took an active part in preparations for project events by joining the Camp for Young Leaders within Project Program in Kharkiv. She was very determined in her career choice. Now she is a cadet at Kharkiv National University of Internal Affairs. She says this is no better practice for cadets willing to become staff members at juvenile prevention to wish for than taking part in OFFS and CSP events.
To demonstrate leadership skills is what youngsters are taught in the course of preparations and staging OFFS Festivals and other project events in Merefa Medical Lyceum, where experienced project volunteers work. Of all other long-term extracurricular projects senior pupils are offered to join in organizing OFFS Festival and related events. A pupil is free to choose this particular project and may work on it for 6 months within a team to present his/her final project at the actual festival in spring at the end of school year.
In Zaporizhzhia, many IDP children from temporarily occupied territories were involved with the project. Many families of those kids are low-income and conflictual. A large number of parents did not want to take part in those events nor be in the audience and were indifferent to their kids’ participation. Some of them allowed their kids to take part in it only because there was a giveaway.
However, parents were impressed too with OFFS Festival Football Festivity their kids were totally immersed into. When the Festival was drawing to a close, the attendance among that category of parents increased fourfold. And among them were parents who initiated the opening of the football club in a small town for IDP now welcoming children from neighbouring residential areas too.
After OFFS Festival in Vasylkiv district, initiative parents of girls participants submitted a proposal to set up a football club for girls to the local community. The Head of local district football association S. Dzhugan responded to the parents’ call. Nowadays, the district has its own young and ambitions team for girls football.
Following their participation in OFFS Festivals, there is a tendency for parents of young footballers to provide active assistance and great impact on football development in many districts in Kyiv region by means of organizing sporting festivities especially to “parents + children” scheme, refurbishing football grounds and giving a helping hand with providing transport services while travelling for football competitions.
After OFFS Festival in Lysychansk town, one of the parents organized a trip for children and their voluntary mentors to aqua park in Kharkiv.
At most, parents let their children take part in OFFS Festival and related events without hesitation. However, there were cases when parents did not share their child’s will to join the project, especially when it came to girls. Parents consider football to be inappropriate for them.
One should note a large number of parents who came in to support their children, and none of them regretted their child’s involvement in those activities. Through «word of parent’s mouth» it reached even the skeptics out.
OFFS activities were run in such a way for girls to play equally with boys, what girls were so excited about. They said that only boys were allowed to play football at ordinary sports lessons at school with no time left for girls to play. There were no winners no losers in these match games and everyone was equally encouraged.
The Festival changed parents’ attitude towards football activities for better. Many of them were fine with their kids keep practicing football.
When Ruslana started to practice football, her dad Viacheslav Levchenko also started to take an active part in his daughter’s sports life and her football club activities. He does his best not to miss a competition and aids sports school by putting it in contact with local authorities.
Mother of one of project participants from IDP family (Artsyz town):
«Last year my kid took part in OFFS Festival in Artsyz town. Our family enjoyed this great football festivity and related activities so much because children were so involved in sports by taking part in cheerful and interesting games, and all kids were treated equally, there was no need to define winners or for kids to have any special skills or level of physical training to be a part of those games.
The Festival offered unique opportunity for kids with certain communication problems with their peers and issues with making new friends to decide for themselves that sport can be an interesting interaction with other cheerful boys and girls. My son’s friends remained at the occupied territories, some of them moved out to other places so that’s why it was so important for him. This Project helped my son to meet new boys and girls who are involved into football, and had a great fun time with them.
This project was not limited only to staging football events. Volunteers keep helping out families to deal with social adaptation issues and tackle issues with their children’s behavior by doing sport.
I am very glad that my child had an opportunity to be a part of this project that helped him to get interested in sports and football in particular and become more active in children’s environment and at school and also way more open to learn new things».
It is very difficult to stage a OFFS Festival without any support from parental community. Parents’ involvement brings special atmosphere of unity and partnership to the Festival. When parents join the Festival as photographers, medical staff, provide water & ice-cream supply it helps children to gain extra self-confidence and understand that football festivity is a family holiday.
The story of Serhiy and Iryna D. and their son Rodion is very interesting. At first, they attended the Festival by mere coincidence as spectators and couldn’t believe there were volunteers working with kids on the pitch.
But later on their first-grade schoolboy Rodion rushed into the house with good news that his new school sports teacher was the man with the football just like the one used to play with kids at the football festival. Next day his dad Serhiy arrived to school to offer his help with running project events. That’s how their friendship began. Parents even took part in activities alongside their kids. It was the Festival where their son made friends with an orphan girl who was a refugee from Russian Federation. And it was during the Festival when Serhiy and Iryna made a decision to adopt the girl. Now Rodian and his sister are involved in activities together.
When OFFS Festival was over, the community at Orikhiv district took a decision that Orikhiv town could not stay without regular football. Following the decision taken by local authorities, football school was opened in the district, salary rate for a football coach was approved, and the decision to renovate the stadium was taken.
As said by the local deputy and project volunteer Roman Vyskrebentsev, the stadium was in a very poor condition then but could be seen fully renovated the next year.
Following the participation in OFFS project, the second mini-pitch was installed in Mykhailivska community hosting regular activities within OFFS project.
Both communities by their own means arrange free shuttle services for kids from long-distance villages within their community to take them to regular football activities.
The community should be noted as a benchmark in terms of OFFS Festival organization & staging in May 2019 in rural town of Stavysche owing it to great level of activity and people’s enthusiasm.
The community invited to the Festival not only sports clubs but also arts groups, dance studios and other clubs from the district that together turned the event into great festivity. It is so rewarding to mention that community pre-school facilities (childcare, kindergartens) were invited to the Festival too.
Community of Artsyz district also underwent changes for better in terms of building positive attitude towards sports and grassroots sport for children in particular. Before taking part in the Festival the majority in the community sincerely believed that stadium was a venue for a football match where the strongest team won.
But having attended OFFS Festival as spectators, community members saw how kids with good sporting background and children who were just making their first steps at sports grounds could easily play together shoulder to shoulder. They do everything together regardless of their abilities in sports or level of physical development.
Having seen project activities, parents stopped to perceive sport as an activity only for selected ones, for those with respective capability. It can be said that project inspired community not only to support existing sports clubs and groups, in particular in Artsyz town, but also to open new ones. And now a demand to join such sports clubs is at least three times higher.
«Bad» area at Hastello Street in Merefa town has always attracted gatherings of troubled adolescents who were heavily drinking there followed by development of anti-social behaviors that often threatens well-being of community dwellers.
OFFS project volunteers from Merefa Regional Community together with CSP team set a goal to redirect teenagers’ energy into sports. It was decided to use this spot for sports ground installment. Project volunteers and young leaders teamed up to clean and prepare ground surface as well as attract community’s attention to that place that resulted in funds allocation. Adolescents kept gathering at that spot as a matter of habit, but as the days went by they witnessed how their abandoned wasteland was undergoing drastic changes turning into a state-of-the-art sports ground this community district had never seen before. More importantly, they saw how their peers and senior youngsters were transforming it with their own hands. Ultimately, they started to help them with manual labour one by one and step by step.
Nowadays, by virtue of project volunteers and Merefa community initiative, basketball and volleyball courts were constructed at that spot, and likewise basketball courts were installed in Merefa town centre too.
Volunteers have a new task now, i.e. to start running not only spontaneous but organized sports activities at the courts.