Young Czechs, Romanians and Slovaks to lead the way in supporting displaced Ukrainian youth 

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.

A ground-breaking new partnership has been launched this month, which sees The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award in Romania, Slovakia and Czech Republic 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 partnership launches in the Czech Republic with a press conference in Prague, also attended by the Ministry of Education. 

Since the beginging of war, over 7.2 million refugees – the vast majority of them children and women – have fled across Europe. Facing immediate challenges accessing basic services, refugee children and young people will also experience the long-term impacts of the war as they start to rebuild their lives and recover from the suffering they endured.  

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.” 

John May, Secretary General of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation said: “We are extremely proud to have forged this important partnership with UNICEF, alongside our Award colleagues in Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, to support displaced Ukrainian young people as they face one of the biggest challenges in generations. This is a unique partnership that combines the power of the Award framework with the unparalleled experience of UNICEF, to not only support young Ukrainians now, but also enable them to continue learning and building essential skills for the future.” 

Tomas Vokac, CEO of The Duke of Edinburgh´s International Award Czech Republic said: “Apart from young Ukrainian people, Stand by Me programme will be focusing on helping any marginalised youth from any social background in all three countries. This will be an unique opportunity to bring a buddy programme to school environment and benefit from the huge impact of non-formal education and learning and from the Award methodology. For the very first time the cooperation between formal and non-formal education will be broadly established.” 

In the longer term, the partnership aims to replicate Stand By Me in other countries and territories, allowing more displaced young people to access the Award’s proven framework for non-formal education and learning as a vehicle for community development, when it is needed most. 

For more information about The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, visit 



Marianna Davis, The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation: [email protected] 



About the Stand by Me project 

The Stand by Me project consists of two levels:  

Level 1: Award participants volunteer as peer support for displaced children and young people  

This is a short/medium-term (6-12 months) solution that enables Czech, Slovak and Romanian Award participants to volunteer to support immediate needs, including peer-to-peer workshops and safe spaces for young people to come together at Award Centres in schools and community organisations. 

Level 2: Inclusion of children and young people from Ukraine in schools, society and communities 

The Award framework will be used to ‘buddy’ Czech, Slovak and Romanian students and their Ukrainian peers. Existing Award participants will be paired with one or two Ukrainian peers to foster reciprocal development, shared experiences and confidence building.  

Together, using the Award framework they will set goals to regularly get active, volunteer in their community, develop skills and plan and undertake an adventurous journey in the Czech, Slovak or Romanian countryside. Through regular activity, the young participants will see increased mental and physical wellbeing, confidence, problem solving and teamwork, where lifelong friendships can be built. The initiative will foster cohesion and inclusion between communities and provide critical opportunities to build resilience, peacebuilding, social action, confidence and interpersonal skills.



About The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award  

The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award is a global, non-formal education and learning framework which challenges young people to develop new skills, get physically active, learn about teamwork and leadership through Adventurous Journey and volunteer within their community. 

It was founded by HRH The Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh in 1956, in conjunction with German educationalist Kurt Hahn.  

It is known by different names worldwide – including The President’s Award in Kenya, DofE in the UK, The International Award for Young People in India and Mednarodno priznanje za mlade (MEPI) in Slovenia. 

There are currently more than a million young people completing their own unique Award programme, via hundreds of thousands of youth-focused partners and operators, including schools, youth organisations, examination boards and youth offenders’ institutions. 

From running as an established programme in a blind boys’ academy in India, to the introduction into youth organisations in Israel; the Award’s framework can support and thrive in a multitude of different environments. 

Since its launch over 60 years ago, millions of young people have participated and received Awards, with millions more benefitting from its impact in communities around the world.  

The Award in Czech Republic belongs to 18 officially accredited non-governmental organisations licenced by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, who support the Czech Award as a leader of non-formal education and learning within the Czech educational system.

The Award in Romania is under the patronage of Her Majesty Margareta, Custodian of the Romanian Crown and is delivered by government and independent high schools, student associations and universities, and a wide range of non-profit organizations, sports clubs, employers, re-educational centres and other institutions working with young people.  

The Award in Slovakia is delivered across all eight regional governments via ‘SK8’, which is responsible for developing young people and active teachers through state-driven secondary, and higher education in Slovakia.