Founded in 2000, Advance, works with socially disadvantaged children in the Ukrainian region of Transcarpathia. The organisation is working with very vulnerable children and cooperating closely with local authorities.
The project is offering after-school activities combined with psychological and social support to 80 children. The children are given a safe space to be themselves, to experience and learn new things (computer skills, photography, drawing, sports and cooking), and to improve interaction with other children and do homework.
The war in eastern Ukraine has aggravated the dire financial crisis. In Transcarpathia, marginalized children have low attendance rates in school, poor grades and poor reading ability, and live in homes suffering from extreme poverty, alcoholism and drug abuse. The situation in many households is abusive and as a result, the children spend most of their time away from home. Already during the first year of the pilot project, the participating schools reported that the children attending the project are showing better scholastic results, less aggressive behaviour and increased social integration. Psychologists, social workers and teachers continue to report increased self-worth and self-expression among the children.
The cooking classes have always been the most popular of all the activities offered, sadly in part because the children are hungry. Teaching the children how to cook is not only an opportunity to tell them about the importance of nutrition and how it affects development, but it is also a way for the children to learn how to interact, cooperate, share and encourage each other. The cooking classes also help the children learn how to plan a budget, how to shop for groceries, how to cook with seasonal produce and how to save money. The children are seeing how cooking and baking can be a joyful experience in addition to filling an empty stomach.