NWM Kharkiv – New Working Mission for Ukrainian locals

By | November 9, 2014 at 2:32 pm | Beyond AEGEE | Tags: , ,

Around 25 participants were expected to come to one of the most important statutory events of the region – Autumn Network Meeting 2014. The NWM in Kharkiv was supposed to be already organized in Spring 2014, but due to the instable situation in that part of Ukraine, it was moved to Lviv, where members of AEGEE-Kyiv, AEGEE-Dnipropetrovsk and AEGEE-Lviv took active part in sessions and activities. The situation got better in the East of Ukraine and although other locals applied for hosting the event this autumn, Kharkiv was again selected as the hosting city.

Great promotion and branding, a good program full of really important sessions that would be interesting not only to new members but experienced board members too (for whom coming to NWM is a must), an interesting city and a visit by the newly elected CD member Mayri Tiido – the beginning was promising. We were all motivated to come even despite the fact that the fee and ticket prices were quite high considering the extremely painful changes in the euro-gryvna exchange rate for the last half a year.

Our Network Commissioner, Natalia Ivleva (AEGEE-Voronezh), as well as local organizers assured everyone with a safe situation in the city but from the 25 expected participants there were only three who came from another local. Two more were members of AEGEE-Kharkiv. Should we describe our surprise and especially surprised face of Mayri, who came from Brussels to take part in the NWM?

Two possible participants from another country didn’t confirm their participation and in the end didn’t show up, saying that they had personal problems. And it happened right after the Ukrainian crowd toppled the biggest statue of Lenin in the city. We cannot blame members from Russian locals for not coming as they might be too afraid to be stopped at the border or by the myths told by the majority of Russian TV channels (and some Ukrainian, too). We just hoped that in the country where there are six alive locals (AEGEE-Dnipropetrovsk, AEGEE- Ivano-Frankivsk, AEGEE-Lviv, AEGEE-Kharkiv, AEGEE-Odesa and AEGEE-Sevastopol) more members of each of them would be interested to come.

Getting over the sadness in the first minutes of the event we had to face the fact that we live in a really difficult period of time where the values of young people have changed dramatically over the past half a year.  It seemed that after big historic event such as EuroMaidan, where youth was one of the key players, there wouldn’t be a problem to encourage people to travel to other cities and be active in the local level, gather to discuss and share the opinion, but the facts were saying the opposite.  It was always more interesting and easier to collect money and spend it on attendance of European events and meet with other Ukrainian friends there. Looking at Network Meetings in Poland with around 150 participants, famous Spanish event, Renove, that took place several weeks ago and for the fourth time gathered Spaniards from all over the country, we started to analyze the reasons of such a small percentage of members who attend events like Network Meeting in our region.

Let me be honest and maybe someone will blame me for that, but it is not  such a big secret. When the majority of Ukrainians hear about AEGEE, it is all about how to travel cheaper, get visa for free and find friends all over the Europe. That is not only what they hear while attending their first meetings  or presentation in university. Facts about AEGEE’s structure and opportunities are always told and  stories of active members at the European level are inspiring, but «Summer University» is what they usually remember. It is  always the best promotion and therefore fresh members usually come to take part in the project and after coming back they either become active on the local and European level or just become invisible members who only travel. But is it only the fault of wrong promotion?

The political situation, indeed, played a big role in the daily life of all locals. February was the most active time of the year, at least for AEGEE-Kyiv. We organized conferences and workshops aimed to show the power of Non-Formal education and the importance of being an active citizen. By that time, students, who were tired after the cold winter started to wake up, took active part both in the organization and participation. So until April we had +40% of new members who after their attendance at a two-day Local Training Course were ready to rock! This winter was the time where the whole country could think only about the situation in the centre of Kyiv. It was a decisive time as promoting fun and summer events would be considered as really bad taste and as board members we announced that no parties and big events would be organized until the situation got better. And while we were fighting for our future, rumors and bad news spread all over the world and Network as well. Never in our history we had so little applicants for our Summer University, never before we were denied to cooperate with another locals, who we won’t blame as we respect their decision. So another reason is the lack of European projects that were always better than a hundred words said in presentations at universities.

But the political situation and winter events are not the only reason. Ukrainian locals usually do not have any support from universities apart of giving rooms for free for some events. Unfortunately, no one is interested in just supporting, not even sponsoring an association like AEGEE because it is not connected to the studying process. Coming to my own faculty, where most of the professors remembered me as an active, traveling student who was always telling about other countries’ experiences and never failed at any exam, I had been told to pay money to the dean in order to get the room for presentation of AEGEE for students.

It all seemed like a vicious circle: new members hear mostly about the Summer University project as it is easier to organize for a local. Locals cannot have the needed support from government and universities to organize big events. Government and universities are not interested in supporting organizations that are focused on teaching not only students of their universities. Therefore locals have to attract members with the Summer University project.

It is always said that the more participants you have, the more difficult it is to organize an event. The organizers of AEGEE-Kharkiv together with Natalia and Mayri had an even more difficult task – to make an event for five members, to motivate them so that they would come back to their local with readiness to help not only the local to shine again, but the whole network of Ukrainian locals. Because only together it is possible to get what we need the most – support from the government, recognition and more active members who are ready not only to travel and take part in European events but work hard on the local level. It will take a lot of time to achieve the goals we set but one thing goes without any doubts – only united, we, Ukrainian locals, can create a powerful future for all our members and fight with bureaucratic process in order to have the needed support.
Written by Anna Pykhtina, AEGEE-Kyiv

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