Stand by Me: A special Award buddy programme for integration of young people from Ukraine

UNICEF Europe and Central Asia Regional Office and The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award partner to enable young people to support their peers as they flee war-torn Ukraine.

The Award in the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia are initiating the scheme and nationwide network to facilitate communication and mitigate the impact of the war in Ukraine on young people. They will help to integrate them into schools, communities and society. The project will be carried out under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports.

A ground-breaking new partnership has been launched this month, which sees The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award in the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia partner with UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, on a two-year project to provide vital support to young people who have been displaced or impacted by the war in Ukraine.  

The impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on children and young people has been extraordinary. According to the UN, more than 5 million people have already been displaced. More than 1.5 million of these refugees are children and young people: displaced, lost and vulnerable.

While other organisations lead on the humanitarian response – and in many areas Award participants and volunteers are already actively involved in supporting these efforts – the Award’s focus is on the medium to long-term disruption and dislocation to families and individual lives. To support children and young people to deal with the huge impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

Working in collaboration, we are working to implement a special programme that leverages the Award’s framework for non-formal education and learning as a tool for community integration and provide vital, structured educational support. We know from experience around the world that the Award’s focus on developing community service, peacebuilding, social action, improved physical and mental health and resilience is crucial for all young people and particularly refugee communities. We believe this model can be implemented in these three countries quickly and efficiently and has the potential to be hugely impactful.

The ambition is that every young Ukrainian aged 14-24 will be supported by a young Czech, Slovak and Romanian buddy during their stay in our countries, for at least the first 12 months after their arrival.

The aim is that each young Ukrainian will be supported to continue their studies and get prepared for work and for life, whether back in Ukraine, or in other countries. Our objective is to ensure that we mobilise sufficient resources, so nobody is left out.

Working in collaboration with UNICEF, the Stand By Me programme will leverage the Award’s framework for non-formal education and learning as a tool for community cohesion. It will enable displaced young Ukrainians to continue their studies and prepare for work and for life, whilst also offering crucial moral and peer support via a young Czech, Slovak or Romanian buddy over a two-year period. 

The partnership will align UNICEF’s operational expertise in humanitarian crises with the existing infrastructure and presence of the Award, allowing Stand By Me to be rolled out quickly and efficiently across the three countries. 

Through regular review and expert psychosocial support, as well as leveraging UNICEF’s models to measure the impact of conflict and displacement on young people, the project will continue to evolve, ensuring it can support as many young people and volunteers as possible.  

“UNICEF is pleased to work together with young people and build partnerships with the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award and other active youth organizations that are dedicated to empowering and mobilizing young people,” said Philippe Cory, Deputy Regional Director of the UNICEF Europe and Central Asia Regional Office. “Working together with international, national and municipal partners and with young Ukrainians and host communities in Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic the “Stand by Me” programme will build the skills, competence and confidence of youth, as well as bridges of understanding and solidarity among young people across Europe.” 

The organisations have a strong presence and unique infrastructure in all three countries and are currently active in more than 600 schools (300 schools and youth organisations in the Czech Republic), with more than 10,000 participants and 2,900 volunteers (1,200 in the Czech Republic). They will provide their network of schools, adult volunteers and young people to scale to support the displaced children and young people from Ukraine. They will facilitate communication and mitigate the impact of the war in Ukraine on young people and will help to integrate them to schools, communities, and society.

Stand By You Ident and social post

Stand by Me project

Young people´s volunteering activities (short/mid-term perspective)

Volunteering is one of the key principles of the Award programme and therefore they allow participants to turn their current volunteering activities to those activities that will help young Ukrainians in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania where necessary. Last year, Award participants in the Czech Republic and Slovakia carried out about 80,000 volunteering service hours.

Volunteering in the Award programme

A bank of ideas, topics and opportunities where young people in the DofE programme will be able to help within a volunteering section will be created.

A change of volunteering activities will be allowed and broadly communicated among more than 10,000 children and young people who are currently doing the Award programme.

Examples of volunteering activities:

  • material and financial fundraising activities,
  • help at borders,
  • help with translation and interpretation,
  • help with babysitting
  • help with activities for children,
  • providing English lessons
  • active communication about the current war situation

Stand with Me: Mid-term buddy guidance programme

A mid-term buddy guidance programme for children and young people from Ukraine within a volunteering section.

  • They will create a concept where young people from the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania will be able to support their peers and schoolmates from Ukraine and facilitate their initial integration. There will be at least 8 peer to peer sessions in the first phase of the project.
  • Together with other cooperating NGOs (NNOs) they will create 10 key recommendations and activities for facilitating this phase of integration.
  • A special handbook will be released based on our tried and tested methodology in youth work so that adult volunteers, teachers and youth workers could support young people in various activities within the buddy guidance programme.

Stand by Me project: long-term integration of young people from Ukraine to schools, society and communities

A special integration buddy peer to peer programme for young people which will use tried and tested principles, tools and methodology of the Award scheme. This programme is designed as highly scalable.

The programme will be based on a long-term support and cooperation between Czech/Slovak/Romanian student and their Ukrainian peers. A young person will become a guide and patron of one or two Ukrainian peers. Together they will carry out development activities within the Award scheme. They will set up concrete goals in physical recreation, volunteering, skills and experience adventurous journeys in Czech, Slovak or Romanian wild nature where long friendship and teamwork can be built.

The Award scheme provide all the methodology, network of certified schools and centres, trained and experienced leaders, teachers and mentors. We will change our digital platform and prepare special workshops and training of teachers, leaders and youth workers. The whole programme will be transferable to any schools, youth centres or institutions that are not currently aligned with the Award scheme.

How we’re already helping

  • 48% Award participants actively helping now within a volunteering section
  • 91% are interested to contribute actively in the near future
  • 38% are interested to become buddy for their Ukrainian peers
  • During one charitable fundraising organised by Award participants at Bohumil Hrabal Secondary School in Nymburk an amount of 3,600 euros was received in one day
  • Large number of Award participants changing their volunteering activities to help Ukrainians